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Member-based organizations often settle for antiquated management software that’s inefficient and doesn’t encourage member engagement. Failure to make a change may be due to lack of resources or budgetary support from their board which can prevent organizations from taking advantage of newer technologies. Either way, there’s often an unwillingness to upset the status quo because the process of selecting and migrating to new software can seem overwhelming and risky. To ensure success, do a little bit of homework.

Where to Begin?

Start by identifying key internal stakeholders and ask them to provide input on their needs. This will be a guide post moving forward and should be factored into overall system requirements. Doing so before talking to any vendor ensures an organization doesn’t get derailed on priority and importance of its needs.

AMS Vendors are Business Partners

When considering different vendors, evaluate how they interact during the sales process, as these interactions often provide clues to what an organization will experience as a customer. Ask these questions:

  • Are they committed to solving the organization’s problems?
  •  Do they follow up promptly and provide clear answers to questions?
  • Are they providing the organization with learning opportunities?
  • Will they be able to respond to needs now and in the future?

System Considerations (Beyond Functionality)

Keep these points in mind when evaluating different systems:

  • The AMS should connect seamlessly to other key systems such as the CMS, LMS and accounting system.
  • Ensure the system can scale to meet ongoing needs and will solve problems several years from now.
  • Determine the flexibility of the system. Is it possible to add custom fields? Can system changes be made without having to pay developers? Is the data model flexible? These are important considerations when evaluating the long-term financial viability of a system.
  • Finally, ensure your vendor looks for ways to make data more actionable. This allows an association and its staff to make better decisions – both for the organization and its membership.

Constituent Engagement

We live in a world of instant gratification and social engagement, and if an organization isn’t keeping up, it runs the risk of becoming obsolete. An association’s constituents are constantly

online, so it’s important to have a strategy to communicate with them in a way that resonates. When evaluating a new system, consider whether it has features that allow engagement with members on their terms. For example, consider the member portal:

  • Can it be accessed via any mobile device?
  • Does it offer easy access? (e.g. login with social credentials)
  • Is the interface intuitive and easy to navigate?
  • Can it deliver content to members that is timely, relevant and personalized?
  • Can members manage their own information, register for events and renew their memberships? This is convenient for members and helps to reduce staff workload.

Financial Management

Association staff often feel as though they have no control over their financial processes. Moving to a new AMS is an opportunity to implement more efficient financial processes that provide improved insight for staffs’ pertinent revenue streams and greater financial control:

  • Organizational efficiency can be improved by automating day-to-day accounting activities such as sending invoices and verifying receivables.
  • A modern financial system can provide event coordinators or member managers with budget responsibility through timely updates on how their revenues and expenditures are tracking versus planned.

Reporting Capability

Reporting plays an important function in monitoring the health of an association, and the right AMS can assist by:

  • Allowing organizations to create searches across multiple tables and queries.
  • Outputting data in multiple formats.
  • Automating the process for communicating overdue invoice reminders.

By conducting a thorough evaluation of stakeholder needs, choosing a vendor that’s a true business partner, ensuring that the system facilitates constituent engagement and offers the functionality to address existing pains, organizations can alleviate the disruption of migrating to a new AMS and set itself up for success – all while wondering why it waited so long to do so in the first place.

Shaun is vice president of marketing at MemberSuite, an innovator in cloud-based association management software (AMS) and business intelligence solutions for member-based organizations of all sizes. Prior to joining MemberSuite in 2018, Shaun spent more than 20 years in senior marketing positions for technology companies in several industries including cyber security and IT expense management.

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