Association Management Software [The Ultimate Guide]

Find everything you need to know about selecting the best software to manage your association.

WebLink_jack_icon

Associations come in all shapes and sizes. There’s Chambers, Hospitality Associations, Healthcare, Builders, Finance – you name it. The point is – no matter which industry you are in, your association shares a common set of problems.

association management software ultimate guide

Those problems might include things like:

  • Managing members, especially as your association grows
  • Managing prospects
  • Marketing your association
  • Automating and tracking your financials
  • Planning, promoting and executing events
  • Deploying and managing a quality website for your association

In this Ultimate Guide to Association Management Software, we’ll help you make an informed decision for selecting the management software that’s right for your association.

This is a long guide packed with information, but we’ve made it as easy as possible to find the information you are looking for.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the following topics which we have broken up into chapters:

Chapter 1: What is Association Management Software?
Chapter 2: What is the Best Association Management Software?
Chapter 3: Top Challenges Associations Face With Management Software
Chapter 4: Association Management Software Pricing
Chapter 5: Compare Association Management Software
Chapter 6: Managing & Retaining Your Association’s Members
Chapter 7: The Best Association Management Software Tools
Chapter 8: 5 Key Questions to Ask Before Selecting Your AMS
Chapter 9: Free Association Management Software Demo

Tip:
Don’t have time to read the guide?
Schedule a Quick Demo

Chapter 1: What is Association Management Software?

Chapter 1 - What is an Association Mangement Software
Basically stated, association management software is a computer or cloud-based software that provides associations and other membership organizations with the functionality they need to provide specific services to their members and to streamline internal processes.

An AMS Helps You Acquire, Engage & Retain Members

More specifically, an Association Management Software (AMS) should help membership organizations acquire, engage and retain members.

It does this by providing a centralized way to view and manage every facet of your organization – from marketing and events to profile management and financials.

A good AMS will eliminate data silos and be adopted by all staff members.

Bottom line, the membership software for your association should better connect people, processes and data. Whether your association is large and established, a small association or you’re just starting out, association management software ensures optimum efficiencies, improves member engagement and provides additional value to your members.

Finding the best association management software with all of the right features, though, can be tough.

Keep reading and we’ll guide you through everything you need to know to provide the best management software for your association.

Chapter 2: What is the Best Association Management Software?

Chapter 2 - The best association management software
The best association management software is … drumroll … whichever one gives your members the most value and increases revenue for your association.

Glad we could clear that up for you.

In all seriousness, the best AMS really is the one that best meets your specific needs. So the question really to ask is, “How do I identify which association management software is best for our organization?”

Let’s break this down into these key factors:

  • Impact on organizational culture
  • Type of software
  • Direct database-website connection
  • Robust reporting
  • Strong financial integration
  • Ability to grow with your organization

Think about the impact on your organization’s culture

Your organization should be able to spend their time focusing on important tasks such as engaging your members. Your staff should be able to access information they need quickly and effortlessly. The system should help your organization document, track and communicate with its members.

TYPE OF SOFTWARE

While some AMS systems still require installations and large upfront costs, the trend has definitely shifted to a SaaS model. According to Forbes, 47% of all CRM solutions are SaaS based which is up 13% from the year prior.

It’s anticipated that growth will continue over the years to come.

What it means to have a SaaS solution is that the application is hosted over the web. In other words, it’s not a program that you download to your computer – it’s accessible anywhere that has internet access.

By using a SaaS solution, your AMS is continually updated and does not require you to redownload or patch an application on your computer. It’s also more easily supported and hosted on a secure environment. SaaS saves you money and improves your security – so it most likely makes sense to seek out a SaaS solution.

Direct connection between your membership management database and your website

If you’re looking for the best association management software, you’ll want to find one that offers a web-based solution with real-time connection to your website.

For one, this makes for easy integration of your membership directories, events, calendars, news updates, job postings, etc. and pushes that information right onto your website so you aren’t managing it in two places.

And then when you change information, add events, or update members, that information will update on your website in real-time as well.

Robust membership reporting

This is an area where many fall short. Almost all membership management solutions offer reporting. It’s the level of reporting that makes the difference.

Sure, basic insights and KPIs are great to have. But what about when you want to deep dive into your analytics? You’ll need an AMS that can segment members, non-members and prospects using multiple criteria. You’ll need to create custom reports, automated reports and exports.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Make sure you ask for samples of reporting before signing up.

Association financial integration

Just because you might be a non-profit organization, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a strong financial system in place. The best association management software solution will have tight integration with Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics, or whatever your general ledger program may be.

You might be surprised to learn how many associations do not have an integration between their database and financial software which is a huge problem.

The AMS Should Grow With You as Your Association Grows

Another obvious but commonly overlooked attribute; some AMS systems have limits on the number of profiles or users that you can have. Some limit custom fields, groups, lists and more.

Make sure you are thinking about your association down the road. Will the solution you pick today still be applicable to your potentially larger association years from now?

Would you rather talk to someone? Send us a quick email using this form!

There is no one single best association management software. Each one will have pros and cons when viewed against another systems. Below, we’ll talk more about some challenges and questions to ask.

Chapter 3: Top Challenges Associations Face with Management Software

If you play a critical role in growing your association or organization, you likely have asked yourself at least one of these questions at one time or another:

“How can I effectively attract new members?”
“What events are going to be the most successful this year?”
“How can I increase annual conference attendance?”
“What new programs and initiatives would help improve member retention?”

The short answer is: good processes and good data.

If you have those two things in place, you’ll be able to run pretty smoothly. Most associations use technology to provide a solution to these questions.

We all love technology solutions in every aspect of our lives. But let’s be honest – with technology comes challenges.

And that’s no different with associations.

We reached out to hundreds of associations and asked what their biggest challenge was when it came to using their AMS.

Check out this infographic to see the top challenges associations are facing:

Chapter 3 - Top Challenges Associations Face Management Software Infographic

Have someone call me

Chapter 4: Association Management Software Pricing

Chapter 4 - Association Management Software Pricing

Pricing is always a tough question to answer since it can be all over the board with different AMS providers.

But one thing to keep in mind is that technology shouldn’t be simply a line item in your annual budget. Rather, it should be an investment that allows you to do more by saving time and resources, all while providing more value to your members.

Pricing should also not be a one-size-fits-all solution. Every association is unique and the AMS should be tailored to fit your specific needs.

Although we do recommend a customized pricing solution, we have put together this pricing guide to help you get started.

Download Pricing Guide

Chapter 5: Compare Association Management Software

There are many association management software options in the market today. So how do they compare?

The best place to start is to identify what is most important to your association and then compare the options against those key areas.

Some high level questions you might ask are:

  • Does the AMS include features that align with our organization’s goals?
  • How easily does it integrate with existing systems and processes?
  • Does the best Association Management Software for my needs understand our association?
  • Does the AMS stand alone or does it require additional integration, subscriptions or systems?

Consider the features offered

This seems obvious but really think about asking the tough question. The software should offer all of the primary features that your association needs to be successful. It should be flexible and configurable, and it should pay for itself. A good AMS will ultimately add to your bottom line; so ask your vendor if they help you get a return on your investment.

Do you plan to do invoicing and accounting with the software? Most likely you are – look for a system that will help you automate invoicing, handle financial tracking and natively integrate with accounting software.

Further, the AMS you choose needs to offer features that help you grow your membership and retain existing members. But the questions shouldn’t stop there. Ask if the system allows for varying member levels, dues structures and the ability to relate profiles.

Tip:
We put together a detailed checklist to help you identify and ask the right questions when shopping for an association management software. Enter your email below and we’ll send it to you!

Questions to ask the company

The software and its features are of course very important. But what about the company? If this AMS is going to be a long-term solution for your organization, make sure the vendor has been in business for at least 5 years. Ask them about their customer retention rate – maybe even ask to speak to some clients or do a search online for reviews.

One of the bigger mistakes we’ve seen is the association allowing the AMS provider to own and control your data. Make sure that you are not signing up for a solution that owns your information and makes it hard for you to cancel if things don’t work out.

A company that has been in business for a while will also be able to offer you more partnerships and integrations. Integrations give your organization more possibilities to expand efficiencies and benefits for your members. Even if you don’t necessarily need them today – you may in the future. You should work with a company that has those relationships and integrations already available.

Think about add-on costs and future support

While we don’t think price is the biggest consideration since the AMS should provide a return on your investment, being aware of any future costs up-front is going to be important.

Will updates to the software cost you? What about feature integrations?

Is support available and what is the cost? Are they local?

These are all extremely important questions to ask that you may not think of up front.

If you haven’t already, download our free checklist which may identify some questions you didn’t think about asking but will be crucial to your decision-making.

 

Grab the free checklist here

Chapter 6: Managing & Retaining Your Association’s Members

Your association management software has many jobs to do. One of those is to simplify your membership management.

Your software solution should function as more than just a database. It should provide tools that help you acquire, engage and retain more members.

Whether you are a homeowners association, trade association, healthcare association, hospitality association, chamber of commerce – you name it – your association management software needs to provide an easy way to engage and better serve the members within your organization. That means feature-rich and intuitive interfaces, the ability to search, sort, and track members, real-time reporting and seamless integration.

Often times, associations make the mistake of only using their management software to track existing memberships. This, of course, is an extremely important part of your business generating revenue.

But that sometimes means that we are overlooking the value of engaging and retaining our current members.

Member Retention vs. Member Acquisition

Chapter 6 - Association Member Retention vs Acquisition

Studies by Bain & Company, along with Harvard Business school, have measured that even a 5% increase in customer retention can lead to an increase in profits somewhere between 25-95%.

Why is that?

Well, for one, current members are more willing to spend more in non-dues revenue. Secondly, you already have the ear of your current members so they are more likely to truly listen to what you have to offer.

The probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70% according to studies by Invesp. But the probability of selling to a new prospect is just 5-20%.

Maybe best of all, many current members will advocate for your association.

When you have current members endorsing you, it makes your life a whole lot easier when trying to grow memberships.

A good association management software will allow you to not just manage your members or sell to new members, but also to retain your members at a much higher rate.

3 Ways to Increase Member Engagement

Passive members are much less likely to renew their membership. So making a little effort to engage with your members and turning some of those inactive members into involved members can have a nice impact on your bottom line, while also relieving some stress on the sales side of the organization.

  1. Segment Your Messaging. Rarely does a one-size-fits-all solution work anywhere in business. And the same is true for your association. People become members for different reasons. People interact with your association in different ways and have different needs. So your communication to the entire group can’t be the same. When you segment your messaging to fit the individual member rather than the entire database, you’ll see much more engagement which will lead to higher rates of retention.
  2. Engage on Social Media. Social media is a huge opportunity to engage with your members, and one where many organizations and businesses fall short for a common reason. If your association is on social media, don’t use this tool to only talk about yourself and broadcast messages. Talk to your members. Post on their business pages or share their posts to your page. Use this platform to provide value, not just a sales message, and you’ll see the value come back in return.
  3. Use Your Association Website to Demonstrate Value. Members or prospective members want to know what they’re paying for, right? It may seem overly basic but a well-designed website that looks nice, is easy to navigate, works well on mobile devices and shares great content will help you drive more value to your members. Sometimes, the exposure that your members receive on your association’s website is value enough to keep them on board.

Fuel Member Engagement, Onboarding & Retention

In this webinar, qualitative research expert, Amanda Kaiser, shares why you should turn your renewal process upside down.

Your members think about joining, engaging and renewing their association membership quite differently than you do. By changing your way of thinking, you can quickly increase your engagement. In this webinar, you’ll see how some highly successful associations are engaging new members within 3 days of joining and how critical that is for setting the tone of the membership – which ultimately leads to more renewals.

Chapter 7: The Best Association Management Software Tools

Association Management Software is a really fun asset to have. You can quickly access all of your membership data, view your event registrations, and so much more. Really, it should be a solution for all of your association’s managing, engaging and retaining needs all in one place.

With that said, some great features can often get overlooked. We asked one of our trainers to weigh in on some of these more underestimated pieces of the AMS.

The Best Association Management Software Tools

For one, any time you have a conversation with a member or prospect, you should be recording that in your AMS. Some people will simply use notes fields, but if you enter a “Contact”, you are able to track this much more specifically by adding dates, a contact person, and category of communication so that you can search and refer to it at a later date.

This plays in well with retention as you can have informed conversations with members based on previous discussions even if they took place a great deal of time in the past. Members will appreciate your ability to recall those conversations.

Additionally, by adding custom referral types, you’ll be able to show your members how you are providing value to them in the form of referrals to their business from your website. But it goes beyond just a logo or link on your website. Have you ever held events at your member’s business? Do you allow them to place flyers in your office? All of these things are important to record as records of referral sources.

Lastly, a robust reporting tool will be an important piece of your association management software. Sure, you’ll need to pull custom reports from time to time, but how flexible are those reports? Your exporting and/or reporting tool should allow you to choose from different data groups, pick the fields to display and then filter the data. The WebLink Connect™ platform offers all of these great features inside of the AMS that our members love.

Chapter 8: 5 Key Questions to Ask Before Selecting Your AMS

Whether you are looking for your first ever association management software or potentially looking to switch providers, you need to know the right questions to ask so that you can make an informed decision.

For that reason, we’ve put together these 5 important questions you should ask your new AMS vendor before signing up.

  1. What is your philosophy for ongoing/future developments including upgrades, enhancements and new features as it relates to timeframe, customer input and additional fees?  If it’s a situation where “you get what you get, as is” but nothing is added in the future is included in the package, you may not be dealing with a true SaaS-model system.  This is critical for the seamless growth of your organization. You want to do business with a technology company who is on top of the latest trends, and who listens to their customers to help design a roadmap for the future development of the product. A company that is committed to watching their customers thrive and grow right alongside it will not nickel and dime you every time they have something new to dangle in front of you.
  2. We have a unique scenario where _____.  How would your software handle this?  Be specific about your needs, and don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions up-front when it comes to something that you may do differently than your peers, or something you’re not currently able to do, but would like to in the new platform.
  3. What type of client do you consider in your “sweet spot?” Chances are, if you are a lot different than the other clients they are serving, you’ll likely have needs that are outside of the box – and that could potentially create surprise costs down the road.  Best to find out in advance by having these types of conversations ahead of time. You may also want to put together a request for proposal (RFP) ahead of time, so that your specific needs are clear to the vendor. Make sure to check our blog post – The Association Management Software RFP – How to Be Successful – for tips on creating this document.
  4. What’s your story?  This could include asking questions such as, “How many years have you specifically been providing AMS services?” “How many current clients do you serve?” “What are your customer satisfaction and retention rates?” Even inquiring about employee satisfaction or company turnover can help to paint the overall satisfaction with that company, from the inside out. And, don’t you want to work with happy employees moving forward?
  5. What is my expected ROI?  Based on what your goals are, a software company should be able to help determine what you can expect to get out of your investment. Whether you have a focus on membership and want to know about expected member acquisition, satisfaction and retention, or if it’s more of a financial focus where you’d like to know about potential for non-dues revenue, ease of online payment processing or financial reporting, they should be able to paint a clear picture of how you’ll benefit from their solution.

Chapter 9: Free Association Management Software Demo

We hope that you have enjoyed this Ultimate Guide to Association Management Software. We’d love to chat with you to answer any questions you may have or even talk about our product, WebLink Connect.

WebLink Connect integrates all of your processes and data – members, sales, marketing, financials, events and website – to help your association save time, improve member experiences and expand on non-dues revenue opportunities.

Chapter 9 - Free Association Management Software Demo

Whether you are a small organization looking to drive organizational efficiency, or a large association looking for all the bells and whistles in an AMS that you’ll never outgrow, WebLink offers multiple platform packages, with the ability configure the solution to meet your association’s specific needs.

Watch this great Demo

Back to Top