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Membership Directories | Complete Guide & Best Practices

Check out this comprehensive guide to association membership directories.


Regardless of the size or type of membership program that your organization offers, every association can greatly benefit from the implementation of a membership directory. In fact, thousands of organizations have already begun leveraging the power of directories to engage both members and the general public. 

For example, the American Psychological Association relies on its online membership directory to host the profiles of over 122,000 different educators, scientists, and researchers, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has a dedicated member directory to manage its 3 million business members.

However, your membership program does not have to be from a national or international association with millions of members to enjoy the advantages of a membership directory. Associations as large as the Chamber of Commerce and as small as local ministries can optimize their operations with this versatile digital resource. 

Like association management systems, these databases are quickly becoming essential tools for every membership organization. They are major hubs of activity for engagement and enrichment of the member experience, and soon enough it will be common practice for all membership programs to provide at least a basic directory system. 

If you’ve just discovered membership directories, need guidance in your search for the right directory, or are simply eager to learn more, this comprehensive guide was made with you in mind.

This educational resource will tick through all the essential information about membership directories, including a brief overview of the software and all the benefits and critical features to remember when selecting your own membership directory system. Finally, we will top things off with our own top pick for the best membership directory solution:

  • What is an online membership directory?
  • Why is an online membership directory important?
  • What are the essential components of an association member directory?
  • How can Fonteva’s membership software help?

In just a few moments, you should be confident in your ability to navigate member directories and select the perfect directory software for your own organization. Ready to take your membership experience to the next level? Let’s get started. 

To learn more about future-ready AMS platforms, connect with Fonteva to get a demo.

What Is An Online Membership Directory?

Membership directories are databases that contain key information and profiles for each member of an association. Data such as names, contact information, photos, and more are compiled here, stored in one centralized location for easy access. 

Beyond that, there is a certain level of customization available for members to advertise what they’d like about themselves, both personally and professionally. It’s as simple as that, but what each organization chooses to offer with its membership directory can vary. 

The primary function of member directories is to keep track of association members, organize them into searchable groups, host membership information, and provide opportunities for members to more meaningfully connect with your organization and each other. 

You can almost think of them as a part-catalog, part-social media service for your members. They’re meant to record a member’s activity and status with the membership program, and can be used to initiate a host of other engagement activities within your association program and between members.

These comprehensive lists can be public or private, but typically all directories are searchable even with some soft restrictions. That way, other members or the general public can take a look, see who belongs to your organization, and peruse relevant details in any member’s profile.

Why Is An Online Membership Directory Important?

When some organizations first learn about membership directories, they make the mistake of thinking of these systems like storage lockers for member data. 

While these databases do store member data, their function and importance to your association’s operations go far beyond just holding your member’s names and personal information in a virtual vault. 

Here are just a few of the fundamental ways in which a member directory can add essential value to any membership organization:

  • Legitimacy and professionalism. An online directory gives you the chance to tout your lengthy list of members. With a public directory, you can also take the opportunity to highlight or feature prominent members and their achievements. This further promotes the prestige of your organization and its ability to foster the professional development of potential members.
  • Member networking. Member directories also allow your members to network and get to know each other without having to meet in person. This extra point of connection encourages relationship-building far beyond what could be achieved during the span of a typical event, creating long-lasting connections that boost both member engagement and retention. During a time when physically connecting with one another is such a challenge, this has become an especially important feature.
  • Streamlined internal operations. This technology can also benefit your staff and association leaders in their day-to-day tasks. Routine operations such as segmenting member groups, tracking membership status, and sending targeted communications are made simpler and more efficient with these dedicated member databases. 

No matter if you’re the leader of a professional society or a trade association, increased member acquisition, member engagement, and member retention are three of the primary drivers of any membership organization; and a membership directory can help you reach your goals with regard to all three objectives.

This technology can be used simultaneously as a tool for promotion, engagement, and internal management, all with fairly minimal oversight on the part of your organization.

What Are The Essential Components Of An Association Member Directory?

Each membership program has its own unique needs, services, and goals. As such, each membership directory will be used in different ways, with some pieces of member data holding more weight than others depending on which organization is using the software.  

Yet while every membership directory looks a little different, each listing should include some common information and data fields: 

  • Name
  • Phone number(s)
  • Email address(es)
  • Photo
  • Location
  • Social media handle(s)
  • Join date

These member profile essentials achieve a number of different things. For one thing, they lay the groundwork for the most fundamental information to identify members. Beyond that, they give curious searchers and fellow members a snapshot of your constituents, the ability to contact them for deeper engagements, and the opportunity to explore their online presence. 

On top of these basics, you should also consider including association information that is specific to your industry or mission, such as: 

  • Certifications. This is especially important for members who have earned professional or educational certifications through your association or a partner organization. 
  • Online learning achievements. Incentivize members to participate in your events, lecture series, and custom e-learning programs with pinnable digital badges. 
  • Employment level. A member’s chosen field and how far they are in their career are important factors for member-to-member networking. On top of that, this data will help you to send personalized event, skill-building, and learning opportunities to the relevant members. 
  • Membership level. If your organization includes different tiers of membership, be sure to include this on your member profiles. This will advertise your higher levels of membership to the public, as well as to lower-tier members who could be motivated to increase their dues for greater content access and exclusive opportunities.
  • Other affiliated organizations. Including information about members’ employers, volunteer activities, charity involvement, and other interests will allow members to showcase their activities and connect with those who have similar interests. Plus, your organization can better understand the interests of your members to help you determine the types of benefits and events you should offer. 
  • Event participation. Increase the exposure and visibility of your events by allowing members to advertise what events they’ve participated in and in what capacity (for example, as a featured presenter or speaker).

When looking for your own membership platform solution, be sure to keep an eye out for these fundamental features. Regardless of the services your membership program offers, these critical components will help your association achieve greater member acquisition, engagement, and retention. 

How Can Fonteva’s Membership Software Help?

Membership database software is the technology through which membership organizations administer their programs. These systems lay the foundation of all membership programs with a wide range of powerful capabilities. 

For example, a robust membership software can store important member data, facilitate communications, plan events, support eCommerce and digital fundraising, and more. 

Fonteva’s software not only supports these various functions, but optimizes them and provides sophisticated solutions to improve your organization’s campaigns and backend operations. 

If that wasn’t enough, the Fonteva membership’s software solution can also run and enhance your online membership directory.

Here are just a few of the features that Fonteva’s system offers to leverage the full potential of your directory: 

  • Comprehensive Member Profiles and Membership Levels. Maximize the immersion experience of your membership directory with comprehensive profiles. These customizable widgets encourage members to create more comprehensive and active online profiles in your directory and further connect with your program. Additionally, implementing membership levels and including these levels on member profiles will generate promotion for these higher-paying tiers. 
  • Member Communities. Take your membership directory’s networking capabilities to the next level with dedicated member communities. These special-interest groups and committees allow members to organize themselves by important classifiers and even create group-wide events, activities, and discussions around those interests. This not only engages members but also allows your organization to further personalize your communications and events. 
  • Intuitive Dashboards. Customizable dashboards help increase productivity and task management across your organization’s different departments. Each separate team and individual staff member can track their specific goals, projects in progress, membership statistics, and financial data. Leverage the power of this tool to increase efficiency across your entire organization. 
  • Event Management System. Considering how radically the COVID-19 pandemic has rocked our engagement landscape, it’s more important than ever to invest in a software solution that can optimize your in-person, virtual, and hybrid event management. Fonteva’s event management system integrates directly with your membership management system to create a more personalized, engaging event experience for your members. 
  • Revenue Accounting. Stop relying on riskier, less secure third-party servers to complete your annual accounting. Fonteva’s membership software integrates with your membership profiles to easily track fees, card transactions and refunds, and registration.This will enable you to simply, quickly, and securely complete your financial reporting.
  • Reporting and Analytics. While many membership solutions have basic reporting, Fonteva’s association management system includes extensive data reporting features. With data segmentation and customization for different departments, advanced file exporting options, and reporting for any KPI in your member database, your association can create informed data-driven strategies to optimize your operations. 

To learn more about association membership software and how the Fonteva solution can streamline your association’s success, check out our essential guide to membership software.

Additional Resources

If you want to ensure that your members remain engaged and involved in your association for the long run, membership directories are an essential tool that you may be overlooking. These versatile databases don’t just benefit your staff as you catalog and track member data, but they also give your members a chance to drive their own engagements and form long-lasting relationships within your organization. 

No matter how engaging your association may be in offering its members different events, services, and engagement opportunities, there is no replacement for the connections that can be created through a membership directory solution. 

For information on other critical services for your membership program and more tips on how to streamline your operations, check out these other top resources:

Reach out to Fonteva to learn more about our all-in-one AMS platform that can truly do it all.
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