Improving Membership Payment Plans in CiviCRM

We’re excited to be announcing a few fantastic new features today!

Our team has been working hard over the past few months to continue to improve our comprehensive Memberships Extras extension. Read on for the detail on features you can expect to see coming soon…

The Need for Change

With ever changing needs and expectations of organisations using CiviCRM to manage memberships, we wanted to continue the momentum across this area of the system that our previous work on Membership Extras brought. Taking on board comments from clients across the board, we were particularly looking to iterate further on the experience of setting up payment plans. 

One of the primary issues was that, when setting up a membership, the payments interface was not as intuitive as we would like. Creating payment plans was not always simple and administrators had to do a lot of the calculations around instalments and pricing themselves. This was particularly present when it came to pro-rata calculations, which weren’t flexible enough to accommodate different organisational needs. There were also areas for improvement around direct debit, with a lack of options around when initial payments were taken.

 

Screenshot showing the payment plan tab under 'Contributions & Payment Plan' heading on the 'Add Membership' screen on MAE v4
The previous interface

Improved Scheduling

One of the major goals we set for ourselves was to build a dynamic UI that would better visualise payments and, importantly, allow the system to perform more of the calculations for you. This would save users substantial time and be much more immediately comprehensible to those that might be new to the system. We added ‘yearly’, ‘quarterly’ and ‘annual’ schedule options from which the system will then automatically calculate payment intervals and dates, displaying these clearly in a table. This dynamic table will update as schedule options are changed. You can see the results in the picture below.

 

Screenshot showing the payment plan tab under 'Contributions & Payment Plan' heading on the 'Add Membership' screen for rolling memberships on MAE v5
Schedules are now easy to visualise

Detailed information on individual payments was previously tricky to come by beyond the first payment, but it’s now easier than ever to check up on payment status. Full dates and any sales tax is shown along with the status for each installment, ensuring greater clarity and transparency. You can also expand each individual payment to inspect more closely the individual line items that make up a single payment.

Fixed Membership and Pro-Rata Calculations

We also added a small change to the above UI to provide a further helping hand if your organisatoin operates a fixed membership period (i.e. if all your members start their membership each year on the same date). For fixed memberships, the system can now calculate the pro-rated amount due when a member starts after the fixed period start date.

With this new functionality, after selecting a ‘fixed’ type of membership, the system will calculate the remaining months in the year for you. Then it will calculate pro-rata payments against the total yearly cost of membership. Now that you can even choose whether the system pro-rates membership payments 'by day' or 'by month', gone are the days of having to perform complicated manual pro-rata calculations!

Screenshot showing the payment plan tab under 'Contributions & Payment Plan' heading on the 'Add Membership' screen for fixed memberships on MAE v5
Fixed membership payment plans

Without diving into too much of the maths, the difference is that a daily pro-rata will look at the remaining days in the year whereas a monthly will only look at the months. So if there are 168 days left of a £120 yearly membership that would be £55.23 that the member would owe. Whereas, looking at it from a monthly perspective, it would be £60 due to this period accounting for six months. There are reasons you might want to use either logic, and you will now have the choice.

Direct Debit Improvements

Setting up direct debits can sometimes be a bit of a headache and produce unexpected results. As such, we wanted to make it more predictable and configurable. 

Let’s start with a common scenario: a member joins late in the month, after your instructions and collection dates. That means that their first payment will actually come out of their account the following month. That might well be standard, but the potential issue is that it can cause membership and payments dates to poorly align. Under this model, the member will make their final payment the month after their membership has finished. While for many organisations this is fine and expected, others may prefer more options which is why we’ve added configurability around the second payment date. 

As well as the default option for payments to be taken monthly, we’ve added a global setting that lets you choose to take the first and second installments together on the second membership month in this scenario. This might mean your new member is charged twice in their second month, but their membership payment dates would then end in sync with their signup dates which is preferable for some organisations. Once past the second installment, the system will then always take payments one month after the previous one.

 

Default behaviour - second installment 1 month after the first
Default behaviour - second installment 1 month after the first

 

New behaviour - second installment in the second month of membership
New behaviour - second installment in the second month of membership

Both these options are worth considering as both have their advantages and drawbacks. 

Most importantly, make sure you communicate how payment will work with your members. Making sure they understand that 2 payments could come at once or that they might have to pay a month after their end date is vital. It will improve their satisfaction due to transparency and reduce the amount of queries you have to field.

A Small Note on Auto-Renew

A quick note for those of you more familiar with the current system. In this new version of Membership Extras, we’ve removed the existing checkbox that allowed you to set memberships to auto-renew offline. 


Removed - an unnecessary option

We noticed too many cases where the box had been unintentionally overlooked, causing a headache when renewals came around. With this version of Membership Extras, auto-renew has been enabled by default when setting up a membership with a payment plan and the new functionality has superseded the need for this option.

Conclusion

We’re really pleased to finally be able to share these exciting new features. 

If you’re already a Compucorp client then get in touch with your project manager who can arrange a demo to discuss how the functionality could best serve your needs and when it will become available on your site.

If we don’t directly work with your organisation, all these features will soon be available in the public git repository for Membership Extras where you can download and install them yourself. Keep an eye on our social media channels for the official release. In the meantime, if you think you might need any help with the implementation, please let us know.