Out of all the management tools available today to nonprofit organizations, association management software is the most attractive because it encompasses many tools, with features ranging from member management solutions to email marketing.
However, there are so many options in the market, choosing one is daunting if you don’t have much experience: Will you require a membership management solution? Definitely. Payment processing? Possibly. A mobile app? It depends.
One Size Does Not Fit All
One of the biggest factors that should educate your choice of an AMS is the size of your organization - there are Starter, Midsize, and Enterprise level options out there, and you don’t want one that cannot support your size and needs, but you also don’t want to pay more for features you don’t need.
Is It a Popularity Contest?
A survey by Lehman Associates interviewed associations in the USA and abroad, all with budget sizes of $1 million or more, to find out about their technology use and satisfaction levels.
The results were overwhelming, with iMIS a runaway favorite of mid-size and large associations. It is used more than three times as much as the next solution, and the results also showed its users were the most satisfied.
According to this independent study, iMIS is the most widely used association software in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia.
If you’re one of those who like tried and tested solutions that are proven to work, this could be an option for you.
You Can Have It All... But You Don’t Have To
Association management software can have a host of options, features, and potential integrations, the better to suit your specific needs. Here is a rather long list of features an AMS may have (and it is probably not exhaustive, as they keep adding features all the time).
You could go for an AMS that does every single one of these things… but you don’t have to. Think carefully about your association goals and what you expect from an AMS, and then make three lists:
Nice to Have
Not a Priority
This way it will be easier for you to assess whether any particular AMS fulfills your must-have requirements before giving it further consideration, instead of getting distracted by shiny bells and whistles only to realize your AMS is missing a vital function.
The larger your organization is, the harder it is to keep track of member engagements. Yet this is a vital metric to know how involved and active your members are. Customer relationship management software is usually at the core of most AMS, because of its vital role in managing an association.
Make sure that you are also managing your online communities and social media, since they are very important places for member engagement.
If your membership skews young, they will definitely enjoy a mobile app for your association, where they can get news, invites and reminders, as well as interact with other members. But this is not a must for every association - in many cases, a membership website will suffice.
Digital Membership Cards
Again, this is a fun feature that will appeal to a young crowd. Instead of an environmentally-unconscious hard plastic card, your AMS can issue a virtual membership card that can be scanned at events,
Community & Member Databases
Management of member data is a core function of any association management software. You want your member information to be secure, organized, and easy for members to self-service. An extra perk your members might like is the option of public member profiles, so they can get to know each other - in this case, it is vital to control exactly what information is shared and displayed.
Some AMS have specific modules designed to manage email campaigns in an easy and intuitive way. You may be familiar with standalone solutions such as MailChimp, but there’s something to be said for having all your solutions integrated into one single system.
Automated Membership Reminders
If you don’t have an AMS, you probably dread reminder time, when membership registers must be cross-checked in order to send out lots of reminders. It’s even more complicated if there are several membership tiers, or if renewals occur at different times. Imagine never having to do this again because the software manages it for you! Easy, seamless, and error-free. This feature should be a must for every AMS.
The more you can automate event planning and management, the more time your staff has to add value to your events. Even during the current crisis and social distancing measures, webinars and online events can still help you raise funds and increase engagement, and a good AMS can simplify event registration and help you manage events much more efficiently.
One of our success stories involves an association that used to hire extra staff and engage interns to process registrations and payments during high season. Now members can self-register online and pay with a credit card on a web-based phone app. Not all associations will benefit from this, but depending on your working model, an AMS that can process payments can be a great help.
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. From membership growth and levels of engagement to retention rates and event success, you need metrics to know what is working, what is not working, and what needs your attention. Agency management software analytics gives you a level of visibility you only dreamed of before. This feature should be a priority for any association seeking to grow, and it is included in most AMS.
You probably already use some kind of financial management software, but you might want to consider an AMS that includes one or that offers integration options with the one you use. Don’t underestimate the convenience of integrated solutions, not to mention the savings when you’re paying for one fewer software license.
If your association sells goods (as most do), consider an online store as a way to massively amplify your sales opportunities. While store times are limited to when staff can be there, an online store will sell merchandise for you 24/7, anywhere where there is Internet access. More hours, more potential clients, less overhead - this is definitely a winning proposal.