Six Features to Look for in an Association Management System

Choosing an AMS May 8, 2019 By: Shaun O'Reilly

Choosing a new association management system doesn’t have to be painful. Think about how members interact and engage with your organization, and consider technology factors like scalability, automation, and reliable data analytics.

When a member-based organization operates on an antiquated association management system, the effects are felt by both staff and members. An outdated system limits the organization’s ability to communicate in a relevant and timely way with its members, which in turn can negatively affect engagement opportunities.

While switching to a new AMS is challenging, requiring the support and dedication of an organization’s entire leadership team, the effort can produce valuable benefits for both staff and members.

Before selecting a new AMS, it’s important to understand what your organization wants—and, most importantly, requires—from the system. Conversations with leaders and functional stakeholders can determine a list of primary requirements. In addition to identifying your specific needs, be sure to consider the following six factors when evaluating a new AMS and the vendor that would help you implement and support it:

  1. System scalability and flexibility. An AMS should meet your current needs and scale to address your organization’s future growth. It should be able to create custom fields, collect unlimited data sets, and give your staff access to a suite of configuration tools. By future-proofing the AMS, you can minimize the expense of making future system alterations or customizations.

  2. Customer service. Think of your AMS vendor as a trusted business partner. Before engaging one, research its customer service history and ask important questions: Is there a limit on the number of support tickets and calls we can make? Can any association staffer reach out and receive support? When a problem arises, does the company always have someone on call? Is customer support free or are there additional fees?

  3. An AMS should meet your current needs and scale to address your organization’s future growth.
  4. Reliable reporting. Having access to reliable data helps association leaders make sense of members’ behaviors online. All staff should be able to use and make informed decisions using the new AMS. Look for system features like the ability to generate custom reports or conduct easy searches across multiple tables and fields. The new system has to operate reliably and help staff identify data trends in near real time.

  5. Support for system integration. The AMS should be compatible with other core systems, such as your content management system, learning management system, customer relationship management tool, and financial system. Confirm with a vendor upfront and that its AMS is capable of these system integrations. Otherwise, you’ll create a siloed work environment where data is isolated in different places and difficult to analyze and transform into business intelligence.

  6. Automation. The availability of process automation within an AMS helps to reduce repetitive or redundant work for staff and frees up valuable resources. Ask the vendor to explain what automation processes are built into its AMS. At a minimum, your new system should be able to execute mundane but necessary financial tasks, such as verifying accounts receivable and sending invoices and dues reminders.

  7. Member experience. Finally, look for an AMS that supports flawless digital interactions with your members, who are now conditioned to expect exceptional online user experiences (UX). A good AMS vendor will apply UX design to give members the freedom to control their own digital experience, regardless of the device they prefer to use when interacting with you. This includes the ability to “self-serve” with intuitive navigation when a user is performing common activities, such as editing personal profile and contact information, paying dues, registering for events and conferences, and utilizing member resources and benefits.

With the right AMS, an organization will lead as an innovative and relevant authority in its space, and current and prospective members will take notice.

Shaun O'Reilly

Shaun O’Reilly is vice president of marketing at MemberSuite in Atlanta.