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What is an Association Management System (AMS) and What Can It Do (and not do) For My Association?

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

An association management system (AMS) is more than just a membership database. Today, AMSs come in many shapes and sizes. Turnkey options, as well as multi-layered custom systems, have never been as affordable as they are right now. Choosing the right AMS for your association begins with understanding what an AMS is and what it does and does not do.

An AMS streamlines membership processes such as member onboarding, renewals, and communication. It allows you to easily manage your membership database, track member activity, and automate routine tasks. What it does not do is replace a trained and properly resourced membership department. Membership recruitment and retention planning, as well as customized marketing for different membership segments, cannot be replaced by an AMS. An AMS merely makes delivering these tools easier.

By using an AMS, you can provide a better experience for your members by giving them self-service options such as updating their contact information and registering for events. It also allows you to tailor your communications to specific member segments, increasing engagement and satisfaction. However, an AMS cannot replace the human interaction necessary to ensure members receive the customer service that is integral to the member experience. While AMSs can automate many processes, nothing replaces personal contact when it comes to membership recruitment and retention.

Financial Management: An AMS can help you manage your finances by automating membership billing and tracking payments. It can also provide reporting on financial data such as revenue, expenses, and member dues. What an AMS will not do is replace financial staff or software such as QuickBooks that manage the entire association financial system. By combining the AMS with the association’s financial software, your organization can better track membership revenue and spot trends that can help you identify trouble or take advantage of emerging opportunities.

Event Management: An AMS can help you manage events such as conferences, webinars, and workshops. It allows you to automate event registration, manage event logistics, and provide attendees with event-related information. A robust and flexible event management module inside of an AMS might be one of the single most powerful tools your association can invest in. It is also the aspect of AMS that is most overlooked. Be sure to know exactly the types of events, ticketing, communications, credentialing, and payment options you need before you commit to an AMS whether it comes as part of the system or as an added module.

Data Management: An AMS provides you with a centralized database for all your membership data. This enables you to access member data easily and efficiently. You can also use the data to analyze member behavior and improve your engagement strategies. An AMS can show you the numbers, but as of the writing of this article, none are capable of analyzing that data the same way trained and experienced membership staff can. Your “dashboard”, as it is often referred to in the association world, is the metrics that you’ll use to spot trends, determine emerging or dying segments, and address both positive and negative trends in a timely manner. But “garbage in is garbage out”. Be sure the data that you transfer into your new AMS is scrubbed for duplicates and erroneous accounts, and that the data fields in your data match the fields that are available to populate in the AMS.

Overall, an AMS helps you streamline your membership management processes, improve member engagement and satisfaction, and optimize your operations. It is a valuable tool for any organization that values efficiency, effectiveness, and member experience. What it isn’t is a replacement for robust and well-trained staff that are able to create a membership experience for each segment while constantly scanning the data and AMS provides to determine opportunities and risks.

The association professionals at KORE Association Services have extensive experience matching nonprofits and trade associations to the right AMS solution. We can help your organization migrate from your outdated or non-existent AMS to a new one without fuss or hassle. Ask anyone who has done an AMS migration and they will tell you that it is important to have an experienced partner with you during the process. Reach out to KORE today to learn how we can help you with all of your AMS needs!


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