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Could you Go Cardless to improve member payments?

Case study: Glossop SC's move to monthly memberships

In August's newsletter we featured a case study of Sandwell Valley SC's move to WebCollect’s club membership and payment software to manage bookings for all of its taster sessions and RYA courses. 

Sandwell Valley had been delighted with the how the system had helped them centralise this information online and reduced the amount of manual paperwork, showcasing how even the smallest sailing clubs can apply innovative online solutions to try to make things easier for themselves.

But what if the cash, cheque and BACs payments required for WebCollect transactions could be moved to Direct Debits, and that opened the door for your club to introduce automated renewal monthly membership?

That's exactly what Glossop SC have done, and having launched this new membership at the start of September, half of the people who have chosen to buy membership have already chosen to pay monthly.

How have they done this? A WebCollect partner company called GoCardless.

Jasper Kidger, Glossop SC Treasurer explains: "We had been using WebCollect for several years and had been so pleased with it that we have even moved selling our club merchandise and club event tickets through it, in addition to membership. It became the interactive commerce backbone for the club.

"But, because it still required a manual transaction to be completed in terms of the buyer making a cash, cheque or bank transfer payment, a lot of work was still involved in keeping track of how much people had paid for what or if they had even paid at all.   

"For example, some people paying for their membership in the 10 instalments would not set the Standing Order up correctly or pay the right amount, or an amount would hit our bank account from an individual and it wouldn't be clear what was being paid for; Is it membership? Are they paying for an extra berth? Have they ordered a club hoodie? And people don't remember themselves what they've done, which is challenge for Treasurers."

Enter GoCardless.

To automate the payment systems through WebCollect, Glossop explored a few options but quickly ruled out direct credit card payments as being unviable and credit card intermediaries, such as PayPal, as having fees that were too high.

However, Jasper discovered that WebCollect itself had a partner company called GoCardless that would allow people to pay for repeat business, such as membership, by Direct Debit.

He set up an account in less than half an hour in May and come the start of the membership year in September, the club and its members had been convinced enough of its benefits that 50 people had moved over to monthly memberships or had paid their annual membership through GoCardless' Direct Debit method.

Jasper continues: "People are generally more relaxed about paying for things by Direct Debit than handing over their card details and they are used to the guarantees that come with Direct Debit. Now when they pay for anything via WebCollect, because their bank account details are already saved, they can opt to pay by GoCardless and the payment is completed and there is no issue of expired cards.

"The real beauty for us as a club is that now many of the payment tracking issues we were experiencing have gone away. Sure, people do still make mistakes, although much fewer than before, but now there is a clear audit trail so I as Treasurer can debug the problem much more quickly and easily. 

"In terms of membership renewals, it simply rolls on if people choose to have a monthly membership. The difference that makes to our cashflow management and ability to budget is huge.

"People have generally been very, very accepting of it, especially those who are new to the club who know no different. While it might be a bit harder to get people who have paid for membership annually by cheque for over 30 years to change over, the fact there are fewer people doing that means the admin is less anyway." 

Even though Glossop have only been using GoCardless for a few months, Jasper projects at least half, possibly up to two-thirds, of gross income in the current financial year will come through GoCardless payments.

Meanwhile, ticket sales for this year's annual dinner are already up at least 40% on the same stage last year because of the ease of being able to hit the 'buy now' button and the transaction being completed.

The club pays an overhead per transaction of 1.5% - 1% to Go Cardless and 0.5% to WebCollect - meaning that for every £100 spent, the club receives £98.50. But Jasper says the club believes that is a small price to pay for the reduction in volunteer time, effort and resource required to resolve many of the issues traditionally associated with payments and membership renewals.  

He added: "Not only has my book-keeping process become much more streamlined, but all the feedback we've had from members is they couldn't believe how easy it was to set up from their side either. 

"People are used to paying for things in this way, whether it's Netflix or their gym membership. The reception has been very positive and so far we've been very, very pleased with it." 

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