How many times do you think the staff and board members of associations ask themselves, "What is the best association management software?"
The best association management sofware is the one you use to drive value for your members, increase revenue for your association and stengthen the community of businesses you serve.
It may be the one you have now, or it may be a new system you haven't started using.
Before you can find the best association management software for your organization, you need to idenfify several key factors.
Impact on organizational culture - Think about how your current system impacts your staff and your members on a daily basis. Can your staff get the information they need so they can spend time engaging your members? Can your system help you document, track and communicate value to your members? Can your members access the information they need to help their business grow? Change to a new system is hard for most organization, but can bring great opportunity. You'll need several champions of change to help your staff stayed focus on the benefits of a new system. Consider how you'll need to employ change management to drive success for your organization's change to a new system.
Software as a solution (Sass) - Forbes reports that 40% of CRMs (customer relationship management) sold are SaaS-based and the trend is growing. Associations today don't want to invest a huge upfront amount of money on a system they will need to pay to maintain and update as well. Like other businesses, associations realize the value in having an association management system that is continually updated, supported and hosted in a secure environment. Utilizing a SaaS system can save your association money and give you great peace of mind. And, since the rest of the business world is moving to SaaS, you'll be in good company when seeking advice or recruiting new employees to use your system.
Direct database-website connection - Today, we use the internet for everything. Like it or not, we are "connected" for most of our day and that won't change any time soon. If your association management software is web-based, it's very easy to have a real-time connection to your website. Membership directories, events calendars, news articles, job postings, coupons and more are stored in a single location and instantly update on your website when changed in your database. And, being able to access your database from more than your office is key in today's mobile-driven business world.
Robust reporting features - Having summary information is great for quick reads and KPIs (key performance indicators). But, to truly understand your members and your business you need the ability to dig deeper into your association management software data. Can you segment your members, non-members and prospects using multiple criteria to understand which groups may be worth more to your organization? Can you create your own reports and exports to quickly get data you can build on for additional analysis? Do you find yourself answering "I don't know" to questions about your data? If so, you may need an AMS with more advanced reporting options.
Strong financial integration - You may be a non-profit organization, but that doesn't mean you should have a poor financial system. None of the effort your association makes to serve your members will matter if you can't get reliable financial information. Association management software should tightly integrate with your general ledger program such as Quickbooks or Microsoft Great Plains Dynamics so you can avoid double entry of data and gain more accurate financial reporting. It sounds obvious, but we talk with associations every day who lack any integration between their database and their financial software.
Ability to grow - Make sure the association management software you use has the ability to grow as your associations grows. Some AMS systems have limits on the number of profiles you can manage or the number of users you can add. Other systems have limited functionality around billing for dues and non-dues items. Some have only a few custom fields or groups available. What kinds of programs and service are you likely to create in the future? Will you be able to create custom fields, groups, lists, content and reporting to track and manage those new programs?
The intangibles - What other features would be valuable for your organization that can save you time or help you create more value for your members? Features such as email system integrations, social media posting options and integrated website content management can improve your association's engagement with members. Does the system allow you to store your member's social media profiles? Can you easily relate individuals to multiple companies or other individuals to give you true customer relationship management?
There is no one single perfect association management software. Each one will have pros and cons when viewed against another systems. By carefully understanding the needs of your staff and your members, you can determine what the best association management sofware will be for your association.
Looking for more resources? Check out WebLink President DJ Muller's thoughts on the Future of Association Management Software.