Selecting an association management software solution for your membership association is a big responsibility and time-consuming task. After all, the decision you make will have longterm consequences and can significantly affect the growth and overall health of your association. We understand that this task can seem daunting. That’s why we put together these tips for finding a AMS that’s a perfect fit for your association.
Form a Search Team
Before you even begin researching AMS solutions, determine the stakeholders and form a team. Make sure you choose individuals with unique perspectives and backgrounds. A well-rounded committee may include financial, communications, events and administrative roles. If you choose a team with only a financial interest, you may end up missing the mark in other areas.
Appoint a Leader
Select one person to lead the team. Not three, not two, only one. There’s nothing more paralyzing that “too many cooks in the kitchen” when you’re trying to make a decision. Enlisting a single point of contact will also make sure that your requirements are clear and you’re comparing vendors fairly. Choose a leader who is organized and can clearly communicate to the rest of the team.
Consider Your Needs
Now that you’ve formed your team and have your leader in place, determine your requirements for a system. Most association management software systems are chock-full of features and regularly adding new functionality. While this may sound great, it can make your decision even more difficult because there’s more to review. Start by determining what features are a high priority for your association. Decide what the system needs to do really well. For example, if your association is driven by events, look for an AMS where managing your events is easy. Check out this article to learn what’s typically included in an AMS.
If your association is really large you may want to survey your members to find out what is important to them.
List Your Requirements
Separate your requirements from features that would be “nice to have in a system.” Bottom line, determine what AMS features will help your association grow membership, engage and retain current members and be easy for your administrators to use. Be descriptive in your needs to help vendors quickly qualify you. There’s nothing worse than getting a third of the way into the project to then realize the AMS is missing a key component. With that being said, make sure what you’re asking for is realistic in your budget. You may have to budge on a few items to get a low price or be willing to configure some settings in a different way.
Identify Potential Vendors
After determining your requirements, it’s time to compile a list of potential vendors. Identifying requirements will allow you to quickly weed out software systems that won’t be a good fit. Once your list is down to five or fewer, schedule demos.
Preparation for Demos
Demos are a great way for you to see first-hand what you’d be working with day-to-day as an administrator. Be sure to come prepared with any questions you have and a clear outline of what you’d like to see. Most demos will give you a general outline of the software but remember that you’re in the driver’s seat – let them know from the start what you’d like to see and questions you’d like to address to most efficiently evaluate their services.
Evaluate the Vendors
Once you’ve demoed software, look at other important considerations. Ask questions such as:
What type of training does the AMS offer?
Is there a steep learning curve?
What kind of support do they offer?
Is the AMS adding new features and are they actively making the product better?
Will they be around tomorrow?
Is the price competitive?
Is it a good value?
Make sure you have all the important questions answered before signing on. If you’re unsure about a few, hash them out with your team. What needs are of highest priority and what can you live without?
Selecting an association management software solution doesn’t have to be time-consuming chore. Putting in a little bit of work in on the front end will help you make an educated decision about what AMS is right for you.