Membership renewals


This page describes how membership renewals (for financial members) are carried out.

Renewal periods

The CAN membership renewals process is based around the timing of when the Chainlinks magazine is emailed out, so that renewal notices can be sent out around the same time as the Chainlinks mailout. The year is divided into renewal periods, the middle of each renewal period coinciding (more or less) with a Chainlinks mailout. The idea is that when Chainlinks is sent out, any member who is due to renew not long before or after the mailout will get a renewal notice.  The timing of Chainlinks mailouts varies a bit from year to year, so the dates of the renewal periods are not fixed. It's sent three times a year, so the renewal periods are about 4 months long.

Renewal reminders and final reminders

Members whose membership is ending in the current renewal period are sent a renewal reminder. In addition, members whose membership ended in the last renewal period, and who have not yet renewed, are sent a final reminder letter/ email.

Renewals process

Cancelling self-administered group memberships

First, cancel memberships for members who joined up via CAN to a self-administered local group that doesn't use CiviCRM. Until 2018 there was one such group, Bike Auckland. However recently people who already have Bike Auckland membership have been wanting to join CAN separately. Hence, these memberships are now considered independent, and Bike Auckland people wanting to have CAN membership are managed effectively the same way as those in other groups. (What are the implications of this for levies?)

So currently there is nothing to do for this. Previous instructions for these kinds of groups:

"These memberships will have been transferred to the local group and we don't need to send renewals for them.

Search in CiviCRM (using Search -> Contacts Advanced Search) for contacts with the Bike Auckland tag, with Current, Grace or Expired membership and membership End Date in the current renewal period. If there are any, edit their memberships and update status to 'Transferred'."

Cancelling lapsed memberships

Next, check for members who have already had a final reminder at last mailout, but haven't renewed. These need to be removed from the groups that are open only to CAN members.

Search for contacts in the Final Reminders Individual and Organisation groups (see below), before you update their start and end dates, to identify lapsed members.

If there are any, it's a good idea to create a new group for them, so you know who you've taken off the CAN members-only groups (so you can put them back on if you've made a mistake). You can call it something like 'Lapsed individual Nov 2015'.

Remove any such contacts from Chainlinks mailouts by setting their Post Chainlinks record to zero. This can be done by selecting all the contacts found and using the Update multiple contacts feature, and the Update Chainlinks profile. If there are any supporting organisations who haven't renewed, they also should be taken off the list of supporting organisations on the website.

Also remove them from the e.CAN, e-Chainlinks Link, e-Chainlinks PDF and CAN Network groups. This can be done by selecting all the contacts found and using the "Group - remove contacts" feature. (Remove them from CAN Network last, as this is the group used to detect whether they're still on all these groups.)

Final reminders

Check for members who need to be sent a final reminder in the upcoming mailout. Search for contacts with Current, Grace or Expired membership with End Date in the last renewal period.  (See below for which groups to use for finding these contacts.) Send them final reminder notices by email and PDF letter (if they get hard copy Chainlinks).

Renewal reminders

Check for members who need to be sent a renewal reminder in the upcoming mailout. Search for contacts with Current, Grace or Expired membership with End Date in the current renewal period. (See below for which groups to use for finding these contacts.) Send them a renewal notice by email and PDF letter (if they get hard copy Chainlinks).

CiviCRM groups to use for reminders

There are eight smart groups set up in CiviCRM for the last two steps above: renewals individual, Chainlinks renewals individual, renewals organisation and Chainlinks renewals organisation, plus similar groups for 'final reminders'.

These smart groups have the search criteria above- all that needs to be changed is the Start Date and End Date criteria for the previous and current renewal periods. In fact, you only need to do this for the 'renewals individual', 'renewals organisation', 'final reminders individual' and 'final reminders organisation' groups- the ones for Chainlinks are based on these four.  Once the dates have been updated, select 'Update Smart Group' from the 'actions' drop-down box to save the new criteria.

Each of these smart groups is also limited to contacts in the 'Non-self administered groups' group. This is to exclude contacts in self-administered local groups like Cycle Aware Wellington, who handle their own membership renewals.

Note: Sometimes when you change the dates on one of these groups (particularly a small one like 'final reminders organisation') there may be no contacts left in it. In that case, CiviCRM doesn't allow you to 'Update Smart Group'. However, it's important that the group is updated, otherwise if there had been any contacts still in it from the last renewal process, they will appear in, for example, the 'reminders hard copy' group, which is built on these lower-level smart groups.

One way to work around this is to temporarily edit the membership end date on a 'test' contact (e.g. Adrian Test-Croucher for individuals, or Test Organisation for organisations) so that they appear in the group when you change the start and end dates on it. Then you can choose 'Update Smart Group' and edit the membership end date on the test contact back to what it was.

Email reminder notices

Create a CiviMail mailing for each of the four groups: final reminders individual and organisation, and renewals individual and organisation. Use the appropriate smart group in each case as the recipient group in the mailing. For the individual mailings, it's a good idea also to exclude the group 'Auto-payment membership' (these are people who pay their membership fees as part of an automatic payment, so they don't need reminders).

There are mailing templates for each of these groups as well, e.g. 'Final reminders email individual'. They usually just need the date altered for the appropriate year.

Hard copy reminder notices

Create a PDF with hard copy renewal or final reminder notices to be printed and posted, for each of the four groups. The groups in this case are 'Renewals individual hard copy' etc. (i.e. people who need to be sent a renewal notice, and have provided a postal address).

From the Search menu, find all the contacts in each group and select 'Print/merge document' from the actions menu.  Then select the appropriate template in the drop-down box.  Edit the date on the letter and the title line if necessary (usually it is!).  Click 'Download document' to create a PDF with all the letters in it.

Note: if you have trouble creating PDF letters for very large numbers of contacts, try breaking them up into smaller groups.

You also need to create mailing labels for the mailout.  From the Search menu, select Find Contacts and search for contacts in the 'Reminders hard copy' group.  (This should contain everyone in the four groups you used above to generate the letters.) Click Search, select all the contacts that come up, and choose 'Mailing labels' from the drop-down box.

Choose the mailing label type (we usually use L7160). Click 'Make Mailing Labels' and save the resulting PDF file. It's a good idea to look through the PDF to make sure all addresses have come out sensibly- if any look weird, check them back in CiviCRM.

Email the PDFs (letters and mailing labels) to the mailouts coordinator for printing and posting out.

Renewing memberships

If a member renews via the website, then most or all of the renewal process is handled automatically by CiviCRM.  If they pay via credit card, there should be nothing you need to do (though it's not a bad idea to check their contact record anyway, just in case they've done something odd while renewing).  If they use the 'Pay Later' option, you just need to edit the contribution when their payment comes in (by direct credit, cheque or cash).  Once it's completed, the associated membership will be renewed automatically.

If they don't renew via the website, you need to renew the membership manually.  Locate their existing membership (on the Memberships tab of their contact record) and click the 'more' link to the right of it.  Under that, there's a link to 'renew'.  Clicking that will allow you to renew the membership and enter contribution details, in much the same way as you do when creating a new membership.

If they have changed membership type (e.g. from Unwaged to Waged), we used to create a new membership with the new type (setting the End Date of the new membership to the same date their old membership would have expired on if they had renewed it) and cancel the old one (by clicking the 'Edit' link next to it, then checking the 'Status override' box in the membership, and setting 'Membership Status' to 'Cancelled'). Now CiviCRM has an option to 'change membership type' when you click the 'renew' link on a membership, which saves having to create a new one (though you don't get to see the history of their membership changes).

Note on membership status: If it is necessary to override membership status for cancelled memberships, it's now best to use the status 'Previous' rather than 'Cancelled'. This is because of a bug in CiviCRM at present (Jan 2016) affecting contacts with multiple memberships. If e.g. they have a current Family membership and a cancelled Waged one, if they renew membership via the website it can sometimes result in an error, because CiviCRM may think they are trying to renew the old cancelled membership instead of the current one. Renewing a cancelled membership is considered an admin-only operation so it won't let them do it. I created the 'Previous' membership status for this reason as a workaround.