Why you need Association Management Software + our top AMS picks!

Along with a slew of other business-related acronyms, you’ve probably heard AMS thrown around more and more these days. But, aside from knowing that it stands for Association Management Software, what else do you know about AMS? What is it, who should use it, and what can it do for your association and your community

Sure, you can manage members through project management tools like Asana and spreadsheets, but that doesn’t really cut it when you’re looking for a single source of truth to fully understand your members. 

Enter association management software. 

What is AMS? The ins and outs of association management software.

If you’ve been wondering what you can do (or use, in this case) to decrease the amount of time you spend taking care of daily administrative tasks, and increase the time you spend engaging your community members, it’s time to turn your gaze towards association management software. While we’ll get to our top AMS picks later on in this article, we’re going to start by getting to know the ins and outs of AMS.

Used by professional associations to manage membership functions online (and save a whole lot of time in the process), AMS is an all-in-one tool that helps streamline a wide variety of necessary but time-consuming tasks. Some of the things you can accomplish with association management software, much more efficiently and in far less time, include:

  • Instantly processing online payments, fees, and donations.
  • Setting up new member and event registration pages online. 
  • Improving member communication through automated invoices, emails, newsletters, and reminders.
  • Creating member-only access to resources such as white papers and educational courses.
  • Building a professional-looking website (complete with member directories, event calendars, a blog, and more).
  • Creating a consistent look and feel for all association chapters.
  • Managing a full contact database that’s easy to search, filter, and update.
  • Accessing financial reports, analytics, and membership summaries in seconds.

Source: Wild Apricot

If you were packing for an excursion into the wild, would you bring 19 different tools or a single multitool? Well, it’s no different navigating the wilds of running an association—you’ll get the most out of a multitool, nearly every time. As a comprehensive, all-in-one platform, association management software is like a multitool. It eliminates the need for multiple software programs (Google Sheets, Mailchimp, Eventbrite, etc.), and gives you the ability to manage everything through one organized hub.

What’s the difference between AMS and a CRM (customer relationship management) system?

OK, there’s AMS and then there are CRM systems. What’s the difference? 

Many people use the two terms interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Both systems collect and store data, but the main difference lies in the kinds of data they each collect and why.

CRM systems are all about, you guessed it, customer relationships. A CRM system stores the kind of data you can use to create stronger customer relationships and, as a result, increase revenue and grow your business or organization. AMS, on the other hand, stores the kind of data that enables you to run an association. AMS helps you tackle the day-to-day functions of your staff and tend to the needs of your members (see the list above for a quick reminder of all the things you can accomplish with association management software).

How Association Management Software helps you understand every member in your community 

Word on the street is that AMS makes it possible for you to get the full picture of each member in your community. But how?

In addition to helping you process online payments, set up a professional-looking website, set up and manage job boards, integrate social media, manage events, and so much more, AMS also supports you through member cultivation and relationship development. Below are some of the ways a good AMS product helps you better understand every member in your community.

  • Find the exact users you’re looking for with sophisticated user search.
  • Easily update user info through an admin interface, import tool, or API.
  • Track online user actions and email interactions automatically—right down to clicked links—and easily import offline actions.
  • Create unlimited custom user fields in order to keep track of external IDs, groups, and data.
  • Boost user engagement with surveys, welcome series, and personalized outreach.

Source: ActionKit

What to look for in an AMS

When shopping around for the best association management software (in general, and for your association’s specific needs), you’ll want to keep a few things in mind. Regardless of whether or not your association would benefit from an AMS with a built-in learning management system (LMS), some of the must-haves are going to include payment portals, member management tools, easy integration with other tools (ahem, like a robust community platform), access to data, and the ability to retrieve your data in order to get a more holistic view of your membership across all tools.

According to association management software company AMO, some of the top things to consider when choosing an AMS are:

  1. The kind of features you need. Which features will help improve your organization, and which are not necessary? It’s important to choose an AMS that will both solve your problems and help you run your organization more efficiently.
  2. The size of your organization. Some software is better suited for smaller associations while others can handle more members and data. Additionally, some AMS platforms have multiple tiers to support different levels. Choose what works best for you, not everyone else.
  3. Your budget. Find the best AMS for your budget!

Why your community platform should integrate seamlessly with your AMS

In choosing the best association management software for your organization, it’s essential to go with one that integrates seamlessly with your community platform. Not only will this seamless integration help make the initial AMS setup easier on you and your team, but it will also ensure a more streamlined management of your members and give them the content and communications they want. As a result, it will also increase your ROI—all because of usable data and shared communications between your AMS and community platform!

In other words, your integrated AMS-community will yield an abundance of robust data. Using this data, you can get into a deeper understanding of what’s working (and not working) for your community and your membership strategy.

Employing the best AMS for your community also means being able to build your content strategy based on a collection of information from your AMS and community analytics. The more useful data you have, the more relevant content you can deliver to your members. The more relevant the content, the more engagement (and better communications as a result of hyper-segmentation). See where we’re going with this?

When your systems are all talking with one another—your AMS, your community platform, and your marketing automation platform—it’s much less work (and far less time-consuming) for you to improve upon your membership strategy. Less work and less time translate to improved ROI. Additionally, an easily integrated AMS will help improve your outreach thanks to improved targeting.

Drumroll, please… our top association management software picks!

And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for—our top association management software picks! After having done integrations with the majority of these AMS platforms, we know them intimately and can honestly say they’re the bees knees. So, without further ado, the best AMS platforms (according to us).

ActionKit – In their own words: used by progressive organizations, large and small and all over the world, ActionKit helps make a difference on issues from climate change to gun control to disaster relief to social justice and more. 

GrowthZone – You’ve built your community. GrowthZone association management software helps you keep it by growing your membership faster, and keeping your members engaged (and longer).

NetForum – As an industry-leading member management software built specifically for associations and nonprofits, NetForum helps both reach and exceed their community membership and ROI goals. 

iMIS – Built to face the challenge of engagement across association and nonprofit communities, iMIS has been delivering 360 views of members for more than 25 years. Since 1991, iMIS has helped organizations focus on their mission, not their technology, and achieve greatness along the way. 

MemberClicks – As a cloud-based membership management software, MemberClicks helps associations, chambers of commerce, and other member-based organizations automate tasks, boost engagement, and generate revenue.

Novi – Use QuickBooks for your organization? Novi is built by associations, for associations, and offers association management software for organizations that use QuickBooks. 

Thanks for joining us on this AMS journey! Have questions about how Mobilize integrates with association management software? Send us a note, we’d be happy to answer them. 

Work with experts who build successful communities

Mobilize is made up of community experts who have launched communities for the likes of the National Restaurant Association, United Nations’ SDSN, Dermalogica, and more. We work with you to align your business goals with a tailored community strategy to ensure its success.

Whether you’re just getting started or are looking to improve outcomes with your existing community — we have strategies and industry-tailored programs to help you get things done. Schedule a demo for a personalized walk-through of our technology and learn about our expert-led strategy services.