As an association leader at a small-staff organization, perhaps you’ve been managing your professional association, trade association or chamber of commerce with a series of spreadsheets or disconnected systems. Like many other association leaders before you, as your organization grows, you may start to notice that these disparate platforms just aren’t working anymore. Maybe you’re thinking about an AMS system.
In your role, you’re intimately familiar with the daily tasks and necessary responsibilities that keep your organization running smoothly. To accomplish those tasks, you’ll benefit from an association management system (AMS).
The Value of an AMS
From managing your members to creating valuable events and educational experiences for them, your organization has grown with the help of your small staff. An AMS, or association management system, might just be the tool you need to maximize your use of technology to save your staff members time and provide more value for your members.
In this guide, we’ll review everything you need to know about association management systems, from top benefits to the best solution on the market. In this blog, we’ll cover the following questions:
- What is an AMS system?
- What is AMS software?
- What are the benefits of AMS systems for associations?
- What is the best AMS system?
- What features should you look for in an AMS system?
Here at MemberClicks, we understand the importance of having access to an all-in-one software solution tailored to your organization’s needs. We equip associations and chambers of commerce with the membership management solutions they need to run their organizations more efficiently. Through this work, we’ve seen firsthand the benefits that a dedicated AMS system can provide for your organization. Let’s get started!
What is an AMS system?
An AMS system is a collection of tech tools that all help you management memberships and your association tasks. Your AMS system could include your association management software, Job Board, LMS, event tech and reporting tools.
What is Association Management Software?
Association management software is technology used to manage association needs, tasks, data, and communications. It could be a membership database, an online member engagement community, event management software, eCommerce software, marketing software, and more.
The goal of this software should be to help you streamline and simplify your tasks as an association professional. Your tech must empower your staff to manage your organization while also giving your members a valuable experience to engage with your organization.
How does an AMS system differ from AMS software?
An AMS system is the all-in-one technology package that combines multiple Association Management Software tools into one comprehensive system. This means your membership platform combines with your:
- Integrated website
- Content management system (CMS)
- Online member engagement community
- Online transaction management
- Any other necessary platforms for an integrated system.
Combined solutions allow organizations to trade in their series of disconnected systems for one connected solution.
Think of your AMS system as the pie and all your AMS software and other membership tools as the ingredients.
The system is great for associations because it means that all your tools speak to each other and work seamlessly together. It eliminates the need for your team to use multiple logins while juggling multiple platforms. Finally, instead of budgeting for multiple systems, you can simplify your outgoing payments into just one bill.
Benefits of AMS systems for associations
Your staff members are critical contributors to your organization’s success, and they need to have access to the best tools available to help them complete their duties. As far as benefits for your staff, an AMS system:
Avoid having to jump back and forth between systems to complete tasks and instead complete everything under one roof. Plus, the interconnectedness of this system also means many functions overlap. For example, since your email marketing platform integrates with your membership database, you can automate email messages to the existing audiences in your database. Talk about a time-saver!
Offers increased data security.
AMS systems are tailored to fit the specific needs of membership organizations. This means these solutions offer the data safety measures that associations need to reassure their members that their information is completely secure. These measures include payment card industry (PCI) compliance, firewall protection, data encryption, password protection, and data privacy.
Provides a full view of member engagement efforts.
Your software system can provide you with a bird’s eye view of your entire membership base. You can maintain data regarding member engagement, such as event signups or continuing education credits, to assess how members are interacting with what you have to offer. This allows you to adjust your strategies moving forward for even greater success.
Gives your association a helping hand.
Your tech provider can offer ongoing support and training on industry best practices to help your team make the most of your software solution. This is especially helpful for small-staff organizations with limited resources. Once staff members are completely familiar with the software system, they can be more effective and efficient in their daily work.
How does an AMS benefit your members?
Your members make up the heart and soul of your organization, so it’s important to offer them valuable experiences that help develop their careers and encourage them to maintain their membership. An AMS can bring all member engagement efforts under one umbrella to give members exactly what they need to thrive. A comprehensive solution offers these member benefits:
Provides members a personalized experience.
Since an AMS offers features and capabilities, you can offer your members a more personalized experience that wouldn’t be possible with a manual system. For example, you can pull specific data from your AMS such as their preferred names or membership type. By including this information in your email communications, you can make the messages much more relevant. Plus, your AMS can pre-populate form fields with members’ information, simplifying the process and making it more likely that they’ll complete the form.
Gives members a place to connect.
Social communication features like messaging capabilities, online forums, and a member directory allow members to interact and network to develop personal and professional relationships. This allows members to get more from their membership and may even lead to new career opportunities for them.
Adds convenience to membership.
Members receive all the information and materials provided by your organization in just one online location rather than having to log into multiple systems. Plus, with features like automated dues renewal reminder emails, member profiles, and pre-populated form fields, members can update their membership status and profile information much more easily.
What is the best AMS system?
A quick Google search reveals that there are a ton of AMS systems available, but one option tends to stand out above the rest. Personify community experience platform is built to provide associations with the full system of tools they need to build, grow and thrive with their members. MemberClicks is an Association Management Software within the Personify family that works with Classroom LMS, Job Board, CommUnity and our event planning tools.
This software is the only one out there built for associations to do everything they’ve dreamed of – all from one system.
MemberClicks offers two membership management solutions depending on your organization’s needs: MC Professional and MC Trade.
MC Professional – Best AMS for professional associations
With MC Professional you get:
- A membership database to store and track member data
- An online payment system with dues automation features
- An event registration platform to improve attendee experience
- Communication features to help you send emails and automate messages
- A beautiful website builder and management system to easily build a new site or integrate your existing site with member database tools
- Community building resources to increase member engagement through messaging, discussion forums and blogs.
- Reporting and analytics features to collect data you can actually use
Our top 3 features include:
- Automation to save you time
- System integration so you can use all your tools in one place
- Cloud-based software you can use anywhere on any device.
MC Trade – Best AMS for chambers and trade associations
MC Trade is great for:
- Understand who your members are with member-specific data tracking
- Planning, promoting and running events that members will love
- Financial management tools that are built to work with your current accounting system so you can manage your bookkeeping and accounting from one place
- Custom reporting features to help you make data-driven decisions
- Customizing member emails with audience segmentation
- Building a beautiful website to grow your brand credibility
MC trade is great for you if you want to:
- Build deeper, more meaningful relationships
- Make data-driven decisions and track insights based on your goals
- Use one platform to manage all aspects of your organization
WildApricot – Best AMS for growing associations and nonprofits
If you’re ready to do away with spreadsheets and make-shift software, WildApricot can help you with:
- Online payment processing for membership dues, donations and event registration
- Creating a beautiful organization website your members will love
- Build custom forms to collect member applications, event registration data and more
- Gather all member data into one place to track engagement, contact information and more
- Use member data to send texts, make phone calls, email outreach and more
WildApricot is great for you if you:
- Are looking for a first-time membership management tool
- Are run by volunteers and need less support
- Have small member numbers and are ready to streamline processes
What features should you seek in association management software?
While each AMS system will look different, you should ensure the solution you choose contains these necessary elements:
- Membership database
- Website builder
- Dues payment and application collection
- Membership directories
- Email marketing
- Event support
- Online community
Read on to explore these in detail or jump to our other resources.
Your membership database allows you to store and track all member and prospect information. This feature lets you get to know your members more while also:
- Streamlining a lot of administrative processes
- Tracking member engagement to help you make data-driven decisions
- Empowering your team to recognize member patterns and build processes
Many AMS systems will host your organization’s website, but some actually let you build your website and update information. This means that all your data collection, updating pages, posting blogs etc can all be done in the same tool. It’s a BIG time saver for associations.
Building your website in house:
- Gives you more power over your brand than relying on a third-party
- Save time when updating pages or adding new info to your website
- Let’s you give your members exactly what you want by building something specifically for them
Dues payment and application collection
A great AMS will streamline the entire dues-renewal process with automation tools and online payment features. Dues collection and renewals can take a lot of your staffs’ time. This feature is a big time saver. If you want more info on this, check our our blog: Why You Need Association Management Software to Collect Member Dues
Directories are a great networking tool, and networking is often a BIG member benefit for associations and chambers. A great AMs will help you build directories for your members and set them to be private for members-only or public for everyone to search. You can learn more about directories here.
Marketing is a critical part of growing and retaining your membership base. Emails include dues reminders, renewals, newsletters, event announcements and more.
Many AMS systems come with a powerful marketing tool to help you do this — an email marketing platform. When comparing these features in AMS’ look for;
- Personalized and automated emails: Personalized emails go a long way toward engaging and retaining members. Automated email processes let you scheduling emails and organized triggered renewal reminders so you can spend your time doing more for your members.
- List segmentation: Being able to segment members based on shared characteristics lets you target specific groups for specific messaging. It’s a BIG bonus to make sure you’re including the best people with info that is relevant to them.
Events are a major driver of non-dues revenue. They provide valuable educational and networking experiences for your members, too.
A comprehensive AMS that includes conference and event management software makes this process simple. With this tool, you should be able to:
- Use your membership database to create pre-populated form fields for those who’ve historically interacted with your organization (making registration super easy for your most engaged members!)
- Use secure payment processing
- Send email reminders to event registrants to help build up the hype
- Track attendance to measure the success of your event
Another element of fostering community among your members is providing opportunities for them to regularly connect and chat with one another. Providing a more relaxed forum for networking drives member loyalty and creates valuable members-only experiences.
Therefore, you’ll want to find an AMS system that offers an online community feature. Your member community should include the following features:
- Discussion boards to share ideas and spark learning opportunities.
- Multimedia support for members to share images, videos and more
- Special interest group so members can talk about specific topics
- Search function for members to explore your directories and network
- Member-to-member messaging to foster more networking opportunities.
- Gamification elements, including online badges, points-tracking, surveys, and leaderboards, to increase participation and reward engagement.
Everyone loves data-driven decisions (especially boards). Having data you can collect, read and understand is key. Look for an AMS that has built-in reporting tools that give you the data you actually want and can use.
Look for an AMS system that generates reports like:
- Membership changes over time including lapsed members, renewal rates and new members
- Event reports with registration data, actual attendance data and earnings to gauge the success of each event
- Form reports for things like surveys or elections to review supporter feedback or votes
- Financial reports to dissect info on sales, payments and refunds for an accurate picture of your organization’s fiscal situation
Accurate reports you can trust and use provide the direction you need to make accurate, data-driven decisions about your organization’s strategy and future activities.
Other AMS Resources
An AMS system is one of the most effective investments you can make for your organization’s future. As you continue your research, you might decide it’s time for your association or chamber of commerce to invest in a new solution to streamline your organization’s management processes. Check out these additional resources to help you in this search:
- The Buyer’s Guide to Association Management Software. Use this free step-by-step guide to find the right membership management solution for your organization.
- 20+ Stand-Out Association Management Software Options. Check out this resource for a list of top association management software providers to see your top options.
- How to Get Your Board on Board When Shopping for an AMS. One of the greatest challenges associations face in the AMS shopping process is getting board members on board with the new investment. Discover top tips for securing their support with this free guide.