Gone are the days of using multiple spreadsheets and email lists to manage member associations. Today, association management software improves efficiency and offers many useful features for groups worldwide.
But what is association management software and how can it help you run your membership group or professional association? In this article, we delve into what this type of software offers, its typical features, and how it can make membership management easier for you.
Association Management Software (AMS) has become one of the most useful tools for people who run membership organizations or trade associations. This type of software allows you to create and maintain a centralized database of member information, including contact details, membership data, and preferences.
The main purpose of association management solutions is to act as a place to store all your data. This means you’re no longer reliant on having numerous spreadsheets or lists for contact details. Instead, you can bring your data into one place — making it easier to manage.
Most membership management software tools offer a similar suite of tools and features. Recognizing how important it is to maintain accurate records and run your organization smoothly, most of these center around data management and efficiency.
While some products introduce features designed with a specific group in mind, such as nonprofit organizations or health clubs, you’ll find a standard set of elements across the board.
At the heart of any great association management software is the contact database, also known as a member database. It’s here that you can create records and store information about your members and their relationship with you.
Your member management database will contain all the necessary data about your members. This includes their name and contact details, along with information about their organization or connection to your group. You’ll also be able to enter or assign information about their membership — for example, their membership level, join date, renewal date, and whether or not they’re part of a committee.
The database within your AMS often acts as a source of data for other elements in the software suite, meaning you only need to upload or edit data in one place. This makes it easy to send marketing emails or run a report based on membership types right from your dashboard, without having to make any changes.
Staying in touch with members helps strengthen your relationship with them and allows you to provide them with valuable information, support, and content. With association management software, you can do this quickly and easily with built-in communication tools.
The most common way to keep members informed regularly is by email, which is why you’ll see email marketing features built into association management platforms. Here you’ll be able to send both mass and personalized emails to targeted groups and lists based on the criteria you set.
As such, you can run strategic email campaigns and send tailored messages to your members. Some software also gives you the chance to set up an online community, or it comes with a mobile app version, which is excellent for member engagement.
Once you’ve sent a campaign, you can reflect on its success using built-in reporting features. This information can help you plan future marketing campaigns or membership drives so that you can optimize your time and budget based on factors like member engagement.
Lots of membership organizations and clubs rely on events to bring people together, raise funds, and support their members. Event planning can be a challenging task, but with the right software, it can be simplified.
While you could opt for a third-party tool to help manage events, it makes sense to use one that’s part of your association management system. With many suites, you’ll be able to effectively plan, manage, and analyze events and conferences all in one place. And if you do need to stick with a tool like Eventbrite, you can usually find an integration that lets you do this seamlessly.
Event planning modules often include tools for event calendars, scheduling, checklists, event registration for attendees, ticketing, and post-event surveys. With all you need to plan and run your event in one place, you can focus on making the event itself a success.
Running a membership organization means there are a lot of financial transactions to process. This can get complicated if you operate multiple membership levels, offer both annual and monthly memberships, and process payments for events and conferences. Luckily, association management tools built into AMS solutions give you the necessary tools to manage this in one place.
The financial management and accounting modules in this type of software make it easier to handle the billing and payment processing for memberships. This includes invoices for membership fees, sending receipts, issuing reminders, and accounting for income and expenditure for your organization. It’s a much more streamlined way of working compared to spreadsheets.
If you want to automate as much of the membership billing process as possible, this software can help. Members can choose membership options through your system and enter their payment details with automated invoices, online payments, receipts, and built-in renewal reminders. This saves you time and helps reduce any errors that can come with manual transaction management.
One of the major advantages of having your data and activity in one place is the ability to easily review past actions and evaluate their performance. You can review email marketing campaigns, monitor membership drives, and explore the popularity of different membership options within one system.
Reporting capabilities are built into your software in a way that allows you to analyze data from different points across your system. This means you’ll be able to create and run customized reports and auto-generated reports based on set criteria. Without software, you’d have to do this manually, which would likely take you more time.
While it’s not the primary goal of this type of software, AMS often features content libraries and systems that allow you to upload and share content with your members. This is a great way to offer added value to members and help them spread the word about your organization or group to non-members.
With a built-in content management system (CMS), you can create a place for members to find and share vital documents. This could include flyers to promote an upcoming event or an image they can feature on their email signatures. Making this type of content available makes it easier for members to promote your organization while ensuring the materials feature the right logos and colors.
Content libraries can also act as a useful place to share helpful information with members. White papers, industry research, and articles could all find a place in a central content library. Not only does this offer additional benefits to your members, but it can prove a useful selling point to attract new members to your association.
It’s easy to see why the features and modules within AMS make it an attractive option for people running membership organizations or groups. This type of software has everything you need to stay organized, manage memberships, and run your association.
Alongside the practical benefits of different tools and features, association management software also introduces opportunities to help you work smarter and take advantage of your data. Here are some of the top benefits that a software suite like this can bring you.
The right AMS can help you streamline your activities and save time. You’ll no longer need to look up data in different places or log in to multiple software tools to send emails and manage payments. With everything in one place, you can find the information you need quickly.
A central membership database gives you one place to store your data, meaning it’s always as accurate and up-to-date as possible. You’re no longer relying on legacy spreadsheets with multiple versions. Instead, you always have access to the most relevant information available, especially if the software allows members to update their details.
Most membership software suites include email marketing and communication tools so you can stay in touch with members. Combined with the reporting and analysis features, you can be more proactive with your communication and use it more strategically. Evaluate which emails have the highest open rates, experiment with frequency and find the balance that works best for your members and your goals.
The best AMSs allow your members to take control of their data through a simple member portal or self-service member directory. Members can update contact details and fill in fields like their social media accounts, website, and a personal bio.
They can also update payment details and set up automated payment plans for membership dues, which reduces some of your administrative burdens. Being able to update details and customize their experience gives members a reason to feel more involved, all while making sure you have the most accurate data.
With so many organizations and member groups worldwide, there are hundreds of software solutions available. As such, it can be tricky to build a shortlist and find the perfect product.
To help make it easier, here are some top tips on how to choose the right membership management solution for you.
Before you jump into a decision, make sure you’re clear about what you need your new software to do.
Consider the features that are most important to you and which ones you’re likely to use. Think about whether they fully cover everything you need or whether you’d need to explore add-ons.
Make a list of all your requirements, such as how many users will need access and whether it needs to integrate with other systems you already use. This will give you a good starting point when comparing software.
While the aesthetics of the software is important, a good user experience is essential. Review screenshots and demo videos to get a feel for how the system operates and how intuitive it is. Ask for a walkthrough or explore a free trial with your team and get their feedback.
There’s an AMS out there for every budget, which means you should have no trouble finding a solution that works for you. Setting a budget can pare down your choices, so it’s a good idea to have a monthly or annual figure in mind. Make sure this is affordable for you now and going into the future. Weigh the monthly or annual fees against cost and time savings for your administrative team.
Most software providers will let you try their product for free for a limited time, usually 30 days. This allows you to get some hands-on experience with the software and discover whether it’s right for you.
Use this time to explore different features as if you were actually using it for your organization. After some time with the software, you’ll get a feel for whether or not it’s a good fit. If it is, you can upgrade and build on the progress you’ve already made. If it’s not, move on to other alternatives.
Now that you’ve examined the benefits of member association software, why not jump in and explore it in more detail?
Read through user reviews online, watch informational videos, and think about what you want in your management software solutions. Take advantage of a free trial to see whether it’s right for you and how it could help you run your membership association in a more streamlined, efficient way.
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