Since taking on the job of webmaster last Spring, one of my goals has been to modernize the club’s online presence. Our existing site is built upon software that is outmoded, relatively inflexible, and awkward to use. In addition, the technological and socio-cultural millieu in which the club operates continues to evolve, and there is a sense that we need to keep up in order to remain relevant to younger recruits, and indeed, to many of our longstanding members.
In talking with representatives from other clubs at the Mountain Travel Symposium and Blue Ridge Ski Council gatherings, it became apparent that many of them have adopted comprehensive club management packages for their operations. These online systems provide not only a web site presence, but also a host of integrated features for streamlining the operations of membership-based organizations.
With the concurrence and assistance of the Communications Committee and Board of Directors, we decided to investigate the use of club management software in our own operations. The initial step was to survey the available offerings, then develop a list of desired functionality. Next, we evaluated three of the most-widely used packages (ClubRunner, Wild Apricot, and ClubExpress) against our requirements and concluded that ClubExpress was the best fit in terms of capabilities and value. For the past couple of months, I have been taking a deeper dive into ClubExpress, using its free trial period to explore the features in more detail. Board members also had the opportunity to exercise the trial site, and in early January the Board approved ClubExpress as our new web hosting platform.
ClubExpress provides far more than just a web site; it includes features for managing membership sign-ups and renewals, trip and event registrations and scheduling, news, blogs, photo albums, discussion forums, member profiles, financial transactions, and more. It also provides better support for mobile devices (smart phones and tablets) and better integration with social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) than our existing service. Deciding how to use all of these features to best advantage will take some time, but our intention is to gradually transition from the old web site to the new one over the coming weeks and months, with the goal of shutting down our old web site no later than May 1, and preferably sooner.
From our members’ standpoint, one of the biggest changes will be how you gain access to the full content and features of the site. On our existing web site, almost all of the content is public, meaning anybody with an Internet connection can access it. ClubExpress provides better control over what we make available to the world and what we make visible just to our members, and individual members will also be better able to control what personal information they choose to share. This will improve privacy and security, but it also means that members will have to login to the site to access all of its features. As we proceed, each member will be issued a unique username and temporary password which will provide initial access to the site. You will be required to change your password the first time you login, and you may optionally change your username as well.
I will provide much more information about this process as we proceed, but there are a couple of things you need to do now to help ensure a smooth transition. ClubExpress relies heavily on email for communicating with members, so first and foremost you need to make sure that the email address you provided with your most recent membership form is still current and functioning properly. If you need to update this, please send your current info to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next, make sure that your spam and junk mail filters are set up to allow email from any address originating from peninsulaskiclub.com, pscva.clubexpress.com, or clubexpress.com. This has been a problem for some of our Board members during the trial period, and we have noticed that some email services are prone to flagging perfectly legitimate email from the club as spam. Depending on your settings, that might mean you will never receive important notifications, so be sure to check on this, both on your personal email client and on your service provider’s site.
Finally, while our new ClubExpress web site is still under development and is far from complete, you can take a peek by pointing your web browser at https://pscva.clubexpress.com. If you have comments, suggestions, or questions about the new web site or its capabilities, please direct them to email@example.com. I’ll keep you posted as things progress, so be on the lookout in your email and in the newsletter.
For more info about ClubExpress, see http://www.clubexpress.com. Complete documentation is available under the “Contact ClubExpress” submenu.