Running an association can be an incredibly rewarding experience. From providing membership programs to offering educational courses to hosting unforgettable events, your team works hard to bring people together over a common cause— whether they are colleagues in a particular field or volunteers working together to achieve a shared goal.
Without the right capabilities in your association management software, it can be very difficult for your team members to navigate your association’s wealth of data in order to make the best possible strategic decisions.
If you tend to add different software solutions to your toolkit on an as-needed basis in order to keep up with your association’s growing needs, you already know that this approach can quickly become unmanageable. Instead, investing in a centralized AMS platform will be the smarter move.
While software solutions address specific needs and will typically require individualized solutions for connecting them into your broader system, an AMS platform is the broader system that comes preconfigured with the tools you’ll need and can be easily expanded to include more.
Upgrading to a robust, centralized AMS platform can be a particularly smart move for more established associations with a large membership.
If you think an association platform might be the right tech decision for your team and want to learn more, then you came to the right place. After this guide, you’ll be able to answer these questions:
- What is an AMS platform?
- What is the difference between an AMS platform and association software?
- What are the benefits of using an AMS platform?
- What AMS platform should you choose?
Making tech upgrades can be a daunting task for associations, but taking it on an entirely solution-by-solution basis can easily over-complicate things. Don’t miss out on all the features and benefits that a more holistic solution like an AMS platform can bring your team.
1. What is an AMS platform?
An association management software platform is a centralized solution for your organization to handle member registration, events, marketing, and more. An AMS platform should also have capabilities to build upon its codebase and connect to other software to grow as your association does.
The terms “software” and “platform” were previously used more interchangeably, but as technology keeps advancing, their capabilities do as well.
With association software, the ability to integrate each separate solution is crucial if you want the perfect, streamlined toolkit for your needs. Whether you want a specific CRM system or need a customized form builder, software integrations can take your overall tech strategies to the next level but will require potentially complicated steps in between.
But with an association management platform, these tools can all be available— without the integration process. A comprehensive platform will contain (or easily add) the essential tools and serve as a foundation to continue growing your toolkit. You can expand your platform to include:
- Member registration capabilities
- Cloud-based member database
- Website builder
- Email marketing options
- Online store
- Online event registration
- Online payment and donation processing
You may already be using various association software solutions to address these functions separately, so why should you make the complicated switch to a whole new platform? Let’s take a closer look at the difference between software and centralized platforms.
2. What is the difference between an AMS platform and association software?
Platforms are constructed to allow other software functionality to be built on it within the same technical framework. Software solutions have more focused capabilities and are constructed to accomplish a more specific and limited set of tasks.
Let’s give a common example. Like platforms, today’s smartphones have their own operating systems and core sets of built-in functions. But they also have the ability to be built out and expanded with additional apps that are built especially for your smartphone’s code.
Platforms give you the ability to more easily do things that were not originally included in the original version of the platform— and that’s what’s so useful about them.
On the other hand, a simple software solution’s code, customizations, and functionalities are completely separate from your other tools. While you maybe can customize your association software to fit your needs or even integrate them with other management tools, you need to also be aware of each tool’s differences to gain a comprehensive look at your association.
Association software usually has some sort of membership management functionality, but will probably need an outside CRM with integration capabilities. Using a constituent relationship management system is important for keeping all your data on your members in one organized place. Once you integrate your CRM and your association software, you can use that data to do things like create member profiles and track their engagement.
Rather than complete separate integration and customization projects with other membership software, you can choose an AMS platform that is fully native to your specific CRM system (like Salesforce). This way:
- Your data is consolidated.
- Both your CRM and association software run on the same code.
- Member profiles are well-rounded and have a single, accurate information source.
Events allow association members to come together, whether it’s through an educational course to get a certification or with a conference to provide networking opportunities. When you manage events, your association software should be able to support essential functions from registration to post-event data analytics. However, without integrations with your CRM, it’s hard to conjure a full report on how well your event did and how your members engaged with your event.
On the other hand, AMS platforms are configured from the beginning to provide built-in connections across all of your essential tools and features. With an association platform, your event management tool and member management tool are both based in the same place. This allows you to more easily look at trends over a wide time period, drawing data from all different sectors of your operations without ever having to leave the core of the platform.
Payment and Accounting
Whether it is for membership dues or for generous donations, associations rely on revenue raised from their supporters to create more engaging and valuable programming. Your association software toolkit probably includes some sort of payment processor and accounting tools, but the financial data that your software is collecting isn’t being fully utilized if it’s not positioned within a broader scope.
However, imagine the informed decisions your association can make when you have all your financial data, event data, and membership data, centralized in one location.
An AMS platform will have a full profile on each of your members, providing you with not only robust member profiles but also give insights to help you identify and pursue membership goals, like improving your member renewal rates.
Association Software vs. AMS Platform
To recap, the main differences between association software solutions and AMS platforms are that:
- Platforms are solutions that are made to extend their original design with additional built-in tools to perform functions that weren’t originally included.
- An AMS platform is the foundation for a broader management system. Building on your foundation, a comprehensive ecosystem can flourish.
- Association software is much more specific and typically needs special capabilities to integrate with other tools, like your CRM or event management software.
Making the transition to a platform can certainly be an important investment for your association. The whole process might involve updating your data architecture or rewriting some of your website’s code.
However, if you seem to be constantly adding and integrating new pieces of software to support your growing association, a centralized AMS platform will grow with you. In the end, the switch will help to save your association time and money.
3. What are the benefits of using an AMS platform?
If your association decides to upgrade to an AMS platform for your management needs, you’ll ensure that all your tools speak the same language and share data more freely. This doesn’t just save time and energy for your association’s staff, but also makes your members’ lives easier.
Benefits for your association’s staff
If you want your association’s staff to be spending more time on engaging your members and planning events, your association should switch to a platform solution. An AMS platform will provide your association with all these perks:
- Easier data migration. The best benefit of a platform solution is that all your data will be truly centralized in a database. This way you can easily access and refer to data across your different tools, whether it is for generating a financial report, creating new marketing content, or performing member research.
- Data-driven decisions. Your association deserves to make future decisions based on accurate, real-time, and reliable data. When you invest in a platform, you have access to data from all software streams. Since your data is within the same platform, you know you are pulling information from the right source.
- 360-view of member engagement. When your association relies on an AMS platform, you have access to a 360-degree view of your members. The best platforms are able to give you a comprehensive view of your members and let you easily locate member engagement metrics like event attendance. Using data trends pulled from your platform, you can better refine your engagement strategies for different segments of your member base.
Benefits for your association’s membership
Moving to an AMS platform solution doesn’t just make your life and your staff’s lives easier. A platform solution offers a smoother experience for your association’s members with:
- Improved use of all association features. With an AMS platform, your members can register for courses and access association details in an effortless process. All of your operations and tools will be more closely connected, so the overall functionality of your association management system will be improved.
- Easier access to association resources. Since all of your resources are in one place, and every feature is based on your single platform, your members will be able to access any information that they’re looking for. Make their lives easier by having readily available pages with event listings and a member directory. You can even configure a members-only portal to increase your resources’ authority.
- Less duplicate field-filling. Because all your data is centralized on your platform, there is less risk for duplicated field-filling or inaccurate information. Sometimes your members will fill out forms for events and then forms for donations with their personal details being submitted twice. A platform solution will intuitively compile their personal details and create member profiles by pulling data from different streams.
4. What AMS Platform should you choose?
If you’re ready to start thinking about switching to an association software platform, start by exploring Fonteva.
Here at Fonteva, we know that platform-based solutions are the future for associations and other complex organizations. Why is Fonteva the AMS platform your association should choose?
Fonteva is built on Salesforce, one of the most popular, flexible, and effective CRM systems available today. This means that from the start, Fonteva’s association and membership management tools are seamlessly built into your underlying database. Other solutions boast about their CRM integration options, but Fonteva was genuinely made for Salesforce.
With Fonteva, you can configure your platform solution to your association from the very beginning and simplify your activities. Investing in Fonteva will help your association:
- Not waste time with customization. Because your platform has been configured from the start, you don’t have to tweak any tools to fit your association.
- Eliminate data silos, point solutions, and costly integrations. You don’t have to worry about having any inactive duplicated member profiles floating around.
- Have access to a community of coders and developers who are familiar with Fonteva. As Salesforce experts, Fonteva’s team will be able to help your association with any questions you have.
Don’t miss out on Fonteva’s association management platform. Start increasing member engagement today!
Looking for more information on association management platforms and how to make your members’ lives easier? Check out the following additional resources for more guidance:
- 5 Association Management Database Features to Know. Learn more about the different ins and outs of your association’s database features.
- Association Management: Best Practices for Your Organization. If you’re wondering how you can better manage your data and engage your members, check out these best practices.
- Top Salesforce Apps for Nonprofits and Associations. If Salesforce is the CRM your association uses, read about other top apps you can use to elevate your AMS platform.