What the heck is Association Membership Software?

We discuss what an AMS or Membership Software for nonprofits is all about here.

Quite frankly, we all fall victim of “assuming” that everyone in our particular universe knows the acronyms which we use. As a result, in this article I wanted to take a step back and simply provide an outline of the who, what, where, why and when of Association Membership Software for those “new” to the terminology.

Association Membership Software

To put it simply, an AMS stands for Association Management Software. An AMS is a software program designed to help membership nonprofit organizations keep track of items such as members, donors, memberships, collect dues, and register members for events. It’s a record management and engagement system for nonprofit membership organizations. These programs often come with additional features such as: dedicated association websites, government relations advocacy, Social communities, e-commerce, Financials, & payment processing.

Who needs AMS software?

Organizations both big and small make use of Association Membership Systems. Often, these associations start out by managing their member information and other statistics manually, either on a spreadsheet or using another offline database program such as MS Access or Excel. In time, associations grow and expand, gaining new members, adding more tasks, collecting dues, planning more events, and forming larger and more complex leadership structures. Of course, this growth means the necessity for organization becomes more urgent than ever to keep everything running smoothly. Add in a few more items such as recruitment and e-mail newsletters, and the processes that once were relatively quick and simple for association executives to handle manually have become a tremendous undertaking, consuming vast amounts of time. This is the reason Association Membership Systems software was created.

What basic functions do most offer?

AMS software can vary widely depending on what specific needs they were created to handle. Here are three examples of the most commonly seen functions from AMS providers:

Membership Relationship Management –

Membership management is a way to keep the organization’s members organized. It aids them by keeping their member information and membership status filed in the appropriate areas. Using this function, your members can automatically update their profile information, pay membership dues, and update their current membership status without requiring the hassle of someone picking out the individual file and changing it manually when these things need to be edited or updated. What is unique here is that membership management is loosely used to describe all aspects of basic demographic management to the financial accounting needed to handle all that is unique about an Association.

e Commerce with Integrated Website Management –

An AMS can host many online e Commerce functions including event registration to streamline the process for your members, in turn increasing revenue. If you have ever purchased event tickets online, you know how much easier online hosted registration is compared to manually filling out a form and mailing in a check. Additionally, there is an integrated payment system which will allow members to easily pay their dues or buy products online via credit card. The seamless integration here is important, because at any given time you will potentially be juggling separate vendors (the AMS software,  Payment processors, & Website) Having them work together effortlessly will save you a lot of stress and headaches.

Engagement, Participation, and Community-

At the core of an Association is community. Besides being a record keeping system, an AMS systems needs to help foster participation. Most AMS software will often give members-only access to a forum dedicated to photo sharing, discussions, and other topics related to the association. Just imagine how easy it would be for a planning committee to organize an event if they were able to share files and notes over one centralized system. AMS solutions can also safeguard private or sensitive information on the organization’s website with the use of a secure login. You will be in control of the visibility permissions and can easily alter them at any time.

Of course, each AMS is unique in what features they offer, but these areas are key tenants of what most AMS solution providers offer. You will need to decide what you require from an integrated AMS. Now, let’s dig into other areas.

Where Can I Purchase The Software?

Like many things, the process to purchase the software can start with a simple internet search. However, I believe that this may be a futile approach for many new to this industry. You may find value in speaking with a sales representative at an appropriate trade show or event. But, ultimately you will purchase (rent the software) from either a value added reseller or the software provider directly.

When will I know an AMS is needed?

In my opinion, Nonprofit membership based organizations in all stages of function can benefit from AMS software. That being said, most don’t realize they need it until the sheer amount of information needing to be processed becomes overwhelming. They have outgrown the current database.

What will Membership Software for nonprofits cost?

Membership systems costs vary widely depending on what solution your organization plans to implement. There can often be start-up costs, monthly fees, and other such payments. We provide many specifics of costs in the various software product reports we provide.

Why Do I Need Association Membership Manager Software?

Those in charge of keeping their association or organization running smoothly have enough on their plates. Trying manually to juggle member and event information with outdated systems will inevitably become too much to handle by one’s self. You should consider saving yourself time, money, and sanity by implementing an AMS before it gets to that point, it will just make things that much easier further down the road.

There are vast numbers of choices of AMS software available, but luckily you don’t have to wade through them alone. At SmartThoughts, we can help you decide on the software that will be just the right fit for your unique situation.

Additionally, feel free to contact us directly with any questions you may have.

Association Membership Manager Software  defined and explained in this article.

Membership Management Software 101: Features For ROI

The ROI 101 lesson on Membership Software

Return on Investment (ROI), in the most basic sense, is the benefit to the investor resulting from an investment of some resource. For software, it’s important to know before you buy, what your return on investment benefits may be in the short and long-term. In this article, I am going to dig into the features and benefits of membership management software to assist in realizing the potential of ROI.

The ROI of Membership Management Software

How we define an investment and the impact of its performance depends on the situation. Some investments allow us to do things we couldn’t before. For example, take a simple plastic bag manufacturer. An investment in a new machine like a printing press will enable the company to print logos and marketing messages on the bags they make, bringing in additional revenues and a new market.

How about the purchase of new membership management software? It certainly helps if your staff is able to have the right software tools to enable them to work smarter and be more efficient in data entry and reporting. But a good association management software should provide functionality which is capable of selling the value which your organization delivers as well. Below you will find some functional aspects to consider when reviewing the ROI merits of membership software:

  • The Integrated Website:

    The job of a membership organization is to provide value to its members. A brilliant and connected website in membership software is paramount for associations today. It is a must have requirement because it is likely the first chance you will have to influence a members decision to join or not join more than anything else. New membership applications, dues payments, event registrations etc. should all be available online and connected to the back office in real-time to support your effort to communicate that your organization is a smart career decision to join. Further, an integrated website, will free up staff time and reduce work for them to support this effort long-term. 

  • Membership Directory:

    A member Directory can provide reliable and up to date information to connect with members. Further, this is very valuable for “attracting” vendor partners as well which may improve non-dues revenue. If you can, save money on an outdated process of sending out your membership directory via the mail and place it online for self-service by your members. 

  • Knowledge Management:

    eBooks, WhitePapers, & legislative data can be available on a members only basis or to lure non members to join. Some of your insights may even increase bookstore revenues if marketed well with the email communication tools of a strong membership management solution. Your association should be viewed as “The source” for knowledge. Your membership software should be able to “lock out” or “Gate” content based on personalization and access rights. Don’t give it away! It should be viewed as a valuable member feature and benefit.  

  • Networking in Membership Software:

    Many of the association membership software tools offer social networking features today integrated with the membership database software. And, many solutions like HigherLogic & Socious  shine in this area. 

  • Marketing Automation with Membership Software:

    Built in email communication software features are critical to produce and manage marketing campaigns to help market conferences, continuing education classes, & get out legislative updates which are available to members. If you need to go beyond the built-in features, there are email marketing service providers such as Informz  which can extend your reach to members as well. 

  • Continuing Education:

    Tracking continuing education professional units and certifications of members is critical for trade organizations. The continuing education process can be facilitated with Learning Management software or even be found in the core association membership software. Learning Management Software when integrated to an AMS can help increase the capacity to provide better education to your members. 

  • Engagement:

    Engagement is a big buzz for all companies these days. With Membership Software you should be able to track membership inquiries, event activity history and participation through the core of the software. Capturing unique member data inside the membership management system is important. From there, the proper use of the data to make decisions about how to market to non-members or existing members will be critical in competing in the market. Using the data as a tool to discern the correlation is what membership software should provide. BTW, check out this calculator on one of the Membership Software vendors, Aptify if interested in scoring now.

  • Gamification:

    Gamification is the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage member users in solving problems and increase users’ self contributions. While this is not commonly found in Association software today, there are a few software tools which can integrate to help increase participation and activity of members. For example, one membership software provider, YourMembership.com, has features which allows you to assign value to activities (and create levels acknowledging achievement). Upon completion of these actions, members receive points. Points accumulate driving your members toward leveling up within your community.

Today, associations are competing with many things. And, Google may the biggest competitor for many. Giving members the services they want and need adds up to membership retention. However, communicating and facilitating the value of membership must be done through ongoing campaigns to state the ROI of participating. Your systems must support your strategy!

The right online membership software should help your staff attract, retain, and nurture your membership. Moving beyond just a static website, finding the best membership software tool which has all the functional pieces required to support your ability to be successful is key.

We are committed to finding the perfect software for your organization. If you are thinking about evaluating a new membership management software, contact us.

Our AMS Smart Checklist may help you in your membership software project!