By Rory Beall, Membership Management Executive
Has your association experienced recent growth? Do you have goals to grow in the future? With growth comes the need to upgrade the way you run your organization. Many of the tools and processes used in the past simply won't be enough to handle an influx of members.
Association Management Software can range in price from nearly nothing, to six or seven figures. So what should your association spend? The key is to look at more than just price when evaluating a solution.
When looking for new membership software, data integrity and hosting are extremely important factors. If your organization has been around for any length of time, then you will already have some sort of database with records on your current, past and prospective members. When evaluating new software solutions, make sure you review these questions on the data conversion process.
- Will the new vendor import all of my data, from all of my data sources?
- Will I have to compromise data organization?
- Are there limits to the amount of profiles or data my new solution will store?
- Who is doing most of the heavy lifting during the conversion process, the vendor or me?
If you are hesitant on any of these questions with a given vendor, then you may need to reconsider. The loss of data or possible errors can become very costly – both in terms of time and revenue.
When evaluating available tools, looking for solutions that decrease the time to complete tasks, remove the need for multiple entries, and increase automated processes are important. When a single business tool seamlessly integrates crucial operating and marketing interfaces, such as your website, email and written communications, events, finance, and social media promotions, your organization saves valuable time and money. Without the use of a single tool, inefficiencies are created due to the need for duplicate entry, often leading to inconsistent data or even errors.
Also, when examining different software options, keep in mind that the definition of “integration” can vary between vendors. Make sure the solution is integrated as much as possible and in the ways you need most. Then, make sure to evaluate the cost savings of streamlining your data into one place, such as discontinuing the use of external tools or vendors.
If reporting is important to your membership organization (as it is for most), then evaluating the types of reports you’ll get with your new solution is paramount. Critically examine the standard reports to determine if they meet your current needs. Also, consider not just what reports are provided, but what their value is to you. Is the information insightful enough to help you make proactive decisions or see new opportunities? Will the reports help you determine the activities you should be doing to drive your organization? By asking these tough questions now, you will be poised for greater success after a new solution is implemented.
Training & Support
Training and support are two important parts to any new membership software decision. After assessing your team’s internal knowledge, make sure you review these questions before making a purchase.
- Will you receive training on the system? Will it be self-serve or tailored to your needs?
- Will any onsite training be provided or even an option?
- If you have questions or issues down the road, who will be there to help? Will you be able to reach someone when needed?
- What will the cost be to your organization if you have days where the system is down?
An association management software solution is useless if you don’t know how to use it or have issues using the system. Be sure you’re covered with training and support so you receive optimum value from your investment.
With low cost membership software, or a solution that has a limited set of features, it is important to think about the direction of your association one, three, and even five years down the line. What are your plans to expand? Do you have a steep growth goal? With more members comes more data, new challenges, and diversified marketing activities. If you choose a basic solution now, you will constantly wonder, if we outgrow our solution, what is the cost of moving software solutions again?
Also, consider the additional value-add services the software provider has to offer. For example, are there additional features or services that may be helpful to your team if membership increased thirty percent? Does the vendor create integrated websites, designed to drive traffic and referrals to members? Do they offer programs to generate non-dues revenue? Are they on the edge of technology, offering features like iPad apps and responsive websites? Although these may not all be relevant to you right now, these questions may become vital elements a few years down the line.
Make sure to consider these different questions when selecting new membership software and contact WebLink to learn more about finding a membership software solution that works for you.