The Strauss Blog

Association Membership Management Systems: Is it Time for a Change?

Thinking of switching membership management systems for your association? Here are a few things to consider before making the change.

There are a variety of Association Management Systems (AMS) available. These systems are used for many association services, including membership signup, membership renewal, event registration, sales, and marketing. They range from being able to manage small/simple associations, where all you do is enter in memberships and process fees, to the more complex associations that use the system as their website, have an online store, member forums, etc.

Having the right system for your association is very important as it is the main hub for your members. It’s not uncommon for an association to ask itself whether it’s getting everything it needs out of its current AMS, or if it should cut ties and purchase a new system. Changing systems can be very challenging and take a lot of time and energy, which is why it is important to consider why you are making the change.

Why Make the Change?

Your association may have many good reasons to switch to a new AMS: the current system may not be cost effective, it might not be maximizing efficiency, or it may not be very user-friendly.  Before you jump on the “out with old, in with the new” bandwagon, you need to take some time asking yourself some important questions. By doing so you can avoid some serious administrative hurdles.

Why are you considering changing systems? This is the first question that needs to be considered. What are the reasons for the changeover? Is the current system not working anymore for your association’s needs? Is your database too large or too small for your current AMS?

How long has it been since you purchased a new AMS? Technology changes constantly. If it has been several years since you have purchased your AMS it may be time to look at other options available.

Have you upgraded to the latest version of your current AMS? This question goes along with the last question. Many systems release several updates throughout the year, and if the updates are manual it is important to stay on top of them to make sure you are getting the most out of the system. Falling behind on theses updates could be a costly error.

Are you using the system to its full potential? Nowadays there are so many options and customizations available for AMS’s that many associations are simply not using, for example, the system as the member website, which can ease workloads and save you money in the long run. If you don’t know the capabilities of your current system, talk to the creators of the product, or seek out other expert advice. Either way, this is a question that needs to be asked and researched before making that final decision.

Benefits of Staying with your Current System

There are many benefits to staying with your current AMS. Below are just a few of the reasons:

  • Staff are already knowledgeable of the system and how it works
  • You have an established partnership with the AMS contact and support team
  • You can save time and resources
  • Members do not have to change passwords or learn a new system. Happy members = happy staff!

Still Considering Switching to a New AMS?

If after asking yourself the above questions and reviewing the benefits of staying with your current AMS, you are still thinking of changing to a new AMS, below are some helpful tips to help you with the AMS selection process.

  1. Identify your decision criteria
  2. Ensure your decision criteria reflect the association’s future goals and needs
  3. Take your time researching and reviewing the different management systems available
  4. Make sure the system is easy to use for staff and members
  5. Be prepared to invest time and money in training with the new system before making the official switch
  6. Take your time moving all member information over
  7. Test the system
  8. Make it clear to the membership why the change is happening
  9. Ensure that all staff members are using the new system in the same way to ensure consistent recording/financials

For further details on the above nine tips, you can visit one of the first blog articles I wrote here.

If your association is planning to switch to a new AMS it is integral to investigate what the current system you use offers and what other systems are out there before making that big change.