Working with Wild Apricot

The Santa Barbara County Psychological Association (SBCPA – www.sbcpa.org) is a client of mine in Santa Barbara. They were having problems with their previous developer and they hired me to, among other things, set up a membership subscription site utilizing Paypal.

Wordpress did not turn out to be a good match for them at the time so I opted instead for a membership platform called Wild Apricot. While it has its limitations, Wild Apricot is a very good membership system with individual member accounts, a simple an an advanced membership directory search, a very good accounts section that exports to Quickbooks, and a great overall value when compared to other systems requiring thousands of dollars annually. The monthly expense for using Wild Apricot runs about $25 for under 200 members.

Setting Up the Payment System

One of my tasks was to set up their Paypal account so members could pay online for membership fees, event registrations, and make donations. The model is similar to a subscription-based solution because there are recurring annual fees and different membership classes. From time to time they also host events where they invite a speaker to discuss a current topic of interest. Now they can set up an event on their web site, notify their members, and then enable them to register for the event in advance.

So after customizing their site with new graphics, I set up their Paypal account using the setting Paypal Express Checkout, which has no monthly recurring fees. It’s not rocket science, but it’s important to follow each step carefully so that payments get credited to their account. They already had a Paypal account linked to the organization’s checking account. And they had their 503c status current, which qualifies them for a lower non-profit rate.

The essential steps included entering their existing account information, enabling the API permissions and credentials, and then configuring their Payment settings to work with Paypal Express Checkout. If they had a different payment preference, I would have had to follow a different procedure. For example, they might have asked me to implement Google Wallet instead.

Before, they were waiting for checks to arrive in the mail or in person. Now, when it comes time to renew, members can take care of it themselves and the money gets deposited into their PayPal account. Now most of it is handled online. If they ever outgrow PayPal (the percentages tend to be a bit higher than authorize.net), then they’ll call me and ask me to switch to the new system.

Wild Apricot has a very responsive technical support team and they periodically update the software on the backend. During one update, my theme overrides got a little whacked, but they recognized they forgot to adjust the permissions on their servers and then it worked fine. Theme overrides, an experimental feature, enable developers to customize the look and certain features utilizing JavaScript and jQuery.

Some of the Drawbacks

But like most hosted solutions, Wild Apricot does not allow you to access the root directory of your account. While you can customize a lot of things through the admin panel, you can only access the theme files in your resources folder, which is a subfolder in your account. So for example you can’t upload an XML sitemap to the root directory and then submit it to the search engines.

We’ve also run into this problem when trying to change the layout of the directory results page. While you can select which fields can show up, the layout is row oriented rather with no option for a grid layout. We did figure out a solution to this problem utilizing their API key, but be forewarned: if you use the API key for certain function calls, the key will be exposed when someone tries to view your source code. All they have to do is copy your API key and learn the API reference to begin accessing your membership data. There is a way to conceal it, however, by creating a web service in PHP that incorporates javascript.

I’m really looking forward to seeing the changes that are coming with release 5.0 of Wild Apricot. You may just want to try the free trial to see if it meets your needs. It’s worth effort.

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