Migrating your membership organization to a new payment provider

When I took over YNPN-NYC earlier this month as Board Chair, I immediately hit the ground running with a new recurring payment provider, Recurly.

At some point in 2015, I became a client of a SaaS company using Recurly to manage their billing. I was getting a discount from them, which made my experience with the platform all the more interesting.

In the past, YNPN-NYC managed recurring membership dues with PayPal. After a site redesign, a new member was processed via SquareSpace purchase with a Mailchimp auto-subscribe. It was a seamless transition and kept you on the site. To be honest, I wasn’t involved back when PayPal was the primary payment solution.

So, here we are at the end of 2015 with members in low triple digits recurring annually on PayPal and a few hundred with SquareSpace purchased memberships.

With this great divide, I knew I would need something that would be self-managing, with a low barrier to entry. It also had to be elegant by today's standards. I didn’t know a ton about Recurly, but I knew I had to test it.

What sold me on Recurly was the ecommerce-like nature of it. Customers come, checkout, and then are processed annually. It’s blatantly simple.

Another huge sell was the twice daily sync of active subscriptions with Mailchimp. I wouldn’t have to manually export. Even if this integration wasn’t built in, I could have used Zapier. The icing on the cake is that if someone cancels their membership, it removes them from the list.


I recently launched a new CRM for Stupid Cancer. With the CRM, I took the approach of “today is the first-day” type of mentality. I knew I may be disrupting things for legacy members, but that new leads would be unaffected. My hunch was correct.

Once our Recurly account was set up (About a 15–30 minute process of fully customizing and setting up payment processor), I pulled down the old membership form.

After I was confident it was set up correct, I waited for the new members to show up. Luckily, a launch in January meant that I could leverage people's resolutions with clever marketing.

Once the process was set and I saw how the Mailchimp sync worked, I compiled all of the active legacy members with their name, email, and anniversary date. I uploaded them into this new “active member” list.

Migrating Legacy Members

One important note about Recurly is that it adds two private fields to Mailchimp. Since we offer one plan, these fields are always populated with the same info. With a quick sort on MC, I can see who is a new 2016 member and who isn’t.

Using Mailchimp segmentation, I can email the people whose Recurly fields are blank with an anniversary before the date of that communication. This is how I figure out which members are expired within the new configuration. I haven’t decided how many times legacy/non-Recurly members will receive a renewal prompt before I migrate them to the non-member list.

Obviously, it’s in my interest recapture as many of these legacy members as possible. For some, they may not even realize their membership has lapsed. Using coupon codes, I can spice it up a little bit and play around with how much of a discount it takes to have people come back aboard as a member. Since people move or transition careers, it’s no surprise that we won’t have 100% return. That’s not a realistic goal, anyway.

Customer Service

The best part about Recurly is the self-managing nature of it. As a consumer, subscriber, member, human, I want to be in control of what’s going on, especially when it comes to paying for things. Why shouldn’t we grant the same to our members?

Recurly sends an email 7 days prior to a member's anniversary letting them know in one week they will be billed. A member then has the option to cancel, update billing, or sit back and let it happen. As I mentioned earlier, if they cancel, they will be removed from the Mailchimp list.

If their billing fails, magic within Recurly will try to resolve an issue such as a bad expiration date without automatically reaching out to the subscriber. If Recurly is unable to automatically sort it out, subscribers will receive a few nudges.

Moving Forward

Migrating an entire membership base can seem like a daunting experience. As with most things in my day-to-day life, I try to approach a problem and see if there is a modern solution for it.

While it is widely known that the cost of retaining an existing customer is far less than acquiring a new one, it can also be costly to spend time on the things that Recurly will handle for me.


The move to Recurly has been a really great one for the organization. We've had over 75 members sign up in the first 18 days.