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Robust member administration system indispensable for Dutch Coeliac Society

Organisation had to find a dedicated member administration system to support existing members, new members and countless volunteers

Until recently, the Dutch Coeliac Society (NCV) used an accounting system for member administration that was once recommended by its accountant, but it was a financial system at heart, so was not what was really required.

The NCV wanted a system that would keep membership records, but could also link to other systems, such as the organisation’s website and financial system.

“The accounting system did not really suffice, because in fact it was a financial system that accommodated members’ information,” said NCV managing director Floris van Overveld. “We wanted it to be the other way around – a system that put our members at the heart of it.”

The organisation wanted a system that enabled members to keep their own data up to date via the website. “Until recently, new members would sign up by email and we then had to enter that data manually into our system,” said Van Overveld. “You can imagine that this is not only time-consuming, but also extremely error-prone.”

The association, which is growing rapidly, according to Van Overveld, makes people’s lives with a gluten-free diet more pleasant and easier by sharing knowledge, licensing the Crossed Grain Trademark and organising various events. It also stimulates scientific research into coeliac and related diseases.

Van Overveld said coeliac disease can manifest itself very differently in different people. At its core, the immune system reacts in a hostile way to gluten, a protein from cereals, which affects the body. “Clinically, this can manifest itself in different ways, such as digestive complaints, people being overweight or underweight, and can also lead to fatigue and depression,” he said.

This diversity means the coeliac disease is not always diagnosed, or it takes a long time for a diagnosis to be made. “Nevertheless, there is an upward trend,” said Van Overveld. “More and more attention is being paid to the disease, we also know ever more about it, which means that general practitioners and other specialists are diagnosing coeliac disease more quickly.”

Specialised software

When Van Overveld became NCV director 18 months ago, there was already an offer on the table for a customer relationship management (CRM) software package, but it was expensive.

“Moreover, that was a standard package and not specifically aimed at associations,” he said. “That meant we would need customisation and that often results in extra hassle and costs.”

To help it make the right choice, the NCV engaged an external consultant, who carried out market research into the software packages available for membership administration.

Several systems were compared, and the NCV saw a demonstration of a specialised member administration system from Dutch software builder Procurios, which appealed to it, said Van Overveld.

“Of course it’s also a risk to choose only one system, because that makes you less flexible,” he said. “Yet it also offers a lot of convenience, because where other, less complete systems claim to integrate easily with other software, you often see that such integrations take blood, sweat and tears.”

Van Overveld contacted a number of reference customers of Procurios and found that the platform contained almost all the modules the NCV needed. “Perhaps not all of them are as specialised as separate point solutions, but in the end we thought seamless integration was more important than state-of-the-art components,” he said.

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The implementation had to be done relatively quickly because the the NCV’s licence for its previous system had expired, which put pressure on the organisation. Also, the NCV was working with an external designer on its renewed website.

During the first Covid-19 lockdown last year, the implementation process was virtual – “a difficult process”, said Van Overveld. “For all of us, it was the first time we had to do something like this virtually, and that’s different from sitting together in the office for a couple of days.”

For the NCV, it was also the first time it had done a project using a “scrum” framework. “It took some getting used to,” said Van Overveld, “but I really enjoyed having intensive contact and being able to determine with the team on a daily basis where our priorities were and how we were going to tackle them. We really built up a bond with the team, which was very nice. Because they specialise in member administration, the people at Procurios understood very well what we wanted.”

Initially, the NCV hoped to have the new membership administration system live just before the summer, but because some things still needed to be dealt with and tested at that time, it was postponed until after the summer.

“This meant that we did not have sprint weeks with Procurios during those summer months,” said Van Overveld. “That did make me a bit nervous, because there were still adjustments to be made from our tests. When we went live in mid-September, I found it really exciting, but Procurios had always said it would be fine. That felt like a leap in the dark for us, but after a very intensive week, it did indeed turn out well.”

The new membership administration system will save an enormous amount of time for the NCV’s office organisation, he said. “In terms of man-hours, I think it saves a whole day a week. At the moment, we are still discovering the system. In time, the NCV wants to expand the use of the new platform.”

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