TCA faces many challenges. One that has been on the agenda for several years was to find a new software system to manage the records of our thousands of members. Sounds simple, right?
Turns out it wasn't, and it involved confronting other needs for our National Business Office to be more efficient in an era of changing technology and limited resources.
To be sure, we knew that the old software package was woefully out of date, and its creator was no longer available to perform updates. We also knew that TCA had very special requirements for its membership system. But as we undertook the search for a new system, we became aware that it would be more cost-effective to join in to an existing Software as a Service program, where technical updates could be more assured, and where local computer management would be supplemented by Cloud storage and services. (That means that part of the critical membership management infrastructure would be housed in a large central data center, under tight security, where the system receives 24/7 attention. It also means that costs of system development and operating costs are spread over hundreds of clients, not all borne by TCA.)
Following a review of a number of such systems, seeing online demonstrations, and obtaining answers to a series of probing questions, TCA selected YourMembership.com (YM) as our new provider.
We also learned that to take advantage of the system's benefits, we would have to re-engineer some of TCA's web pages. Much of that is not visible to our members, but the changes were necessary to facilitate the ability of ALL members to access members-only services such as the TCA x-change and to meet technical considerations.
Then the real work began, as our consultants and staff undertook the task of performing the necessary design work within the YM system to meet TCA's needs. With over 70,000 records of current and previous members to be converted, and old -- often undocumented -- procedures and data formats to be translated, we had to not only convert, but clarify and clean up on-the-fly!
We are seeing that the power of this new system, once mastered, will allow TCA to perform better analysis of data and trends, and to undertake additional services from the new platform.
Questions and Answers for Members
We Need Your Current Email Address!
Much of this information was emailed to members, but many still don't have valid email addresses on file with TCA.
Increasingly, it will be to your and TCA's advantage to be in the electronic mail world!
We urge you to log in to your account and enter a valid email address! To submit it, log in with your username and password to traincollectors.org, and click on Manage Profile, then Edit Bio, and type your correct email address in twice as requested. Make any other changes whle you're there. Be sure to click on the orange Save Changes button down at the bottom!
We have received lots of questions from members, despite having sent out explanatory US mailings and several emails. Here are some frequent questions:
Do I Have to Log In?
No more than before. All public information on our sites remains available without logging in. However, if you want to access things like the members-only resources on tcamembers.org, or Buy-Sell, or maintain your member account online, you will need to log in. Once you have logged in on any TCA site requiring it, you will be logged in to the others.
I Don't Like My Password; Can I Change It? Yes you can. We had to make the initial passwords complex to protect your information, but you can log in on traincollectors.org, and then select Manage Profile on the left column, then Edit Bio, to change your username or your password. We encourage you to go there anyway, to check and update your information, so that TCA has the very latest.
Our system does require that a username be between 4 and 20 characters. It may even be your email address if you prefer that, although something different is better if you frequently use or change to different addresses. All passwords must be at least 8 digits, including at least one letter and one number.
I lost my password! We all lose a password from time to time, but the new system has an easy way for YOU to handle the problem. Just look on the left side of any page on traincollectors.org for the Sign-In box, and click on the Forgot your password link.
From there follow the instructions to reset your password. All you need is your username or email address. Remember, TCA does not keep your password on file. All current members were sent their new usernames and passwords, and all newly joining members have to create their own at the outset. As described above, members can change their sign-in information, and we can't see what your current password is.
This is the way vitually all websites manage passwords today, so please don't ask us unless you have tried, because it will take us longer!
I don't want my personal information to show on the Internet!
We appreciate member concerns over their privacy. The new Member Search system only lets other members see your information, after they have logged in, and not all of it even then! You can log into your Manage Profile page and mark many fields as Private, so even members can't see them. Fields such as your Birth Date are not visible regardless. Your email address is preset as Private, but you may opt to share it with other members (it is never visible to non-members).
How Do I Pay My Dues Online Now?
On traincollectors.org, check the main menu. In the dropdown under Member Services, select Pay Dues When Billed. If you aren't logged in, it will ask you to. Note that you can only pay your dues after an invoice has been issued, usually starting about 70 days before your expiration.
There, you will see an explanation, providing two online methods:
If you just want to pay the basic $50 dues, and have received an invoice, it will be listed at the bottom of the page. Click on its icon to make online payment, or you can print it out.
If you also want to pay for First Class Mailing, or order Family Member cards, you will see a link to a different system, which can accept that information and handle your payment.
I Didn't Get My Card Yet.
We have worked through a backlog of dues payments that came in during the transition, and your member cards should have arrived. We actually encourage you to print them online when you log in to traincollectors.org. Go to your Manage Profile, select Membership Card, and print it out in color!
Family Member cards are handled separately, and they may come a bit later.
Going to York and Need My Card.
Unless you were late in making payment, you should have your card in hand by the April 23 York start date. If not, the folks there will be able to verify your membership.
Can I Join TCA or Pay My Dues at York?
Yes you can! TCA staff will be on hand, but we encourage you to do this as soon as possible on the website.
Now that TCA has issued passwords to all members, does this mean I won't receive my publications by US Mail?
No! You will still receive National Headquarters News and
Train Collectors Quarterly in the mail as always. We do want you to be aware that the News is available for reading online sooner than the mailperson brings it, and that the Quarterly gets posted online a bit later, but all of its issues from day one are up on the website.
As members recognize the value of faster online receipt of publications, we do hope to cut back on printing and mailing costs, but for now US Mail is still being used for these publications.
I see my old user information in my account on TCA x-change.
Yes, you can still see your old information if you had a buysell account before the transition. However your old username and password don't work, having been replaced by the new ones we issued. Don't bother trying to change them on buysell, as that won't work. We're in process of removing nonfunctional entries there.
Note that within your buysell account, you can list any email address you want, but that is merely the address you choose to use for buysell transactions. It is not the address on file that TCA associates with your membership and is used to communicate with you, and changing it there does not change our TCA member record!
When will the next round of Dues Renewal Notices Come out?
We're working to complete the conversion catchup and maintain forward momentum, so here's the plan for issuing bills for members expiring on June 30:
April 3: Issue email invoices to all members who have email addresses on file with us. Watch your email!
April 8: Printed invoices to be US mailed to those members who don't have email addresses on file.
Later in April: Followup emails.
As always, while we encourage online payment, US mail payments are certainly welcome!
Special thanks are due to TCA's webmaster and IT advisor Jim Alexander, Val Aubrey from Main Street Software, Office Manager Tammy Hersh, and the hard-working staff in the National Business Office.