What is an AMS? And 5 Solutions.

AMS System: What is it? & 5 Solutions

The day-to-day tasks of modern association leaders are filled with emailing members about upcoming renewal dates, planning exciting events, and coming up with valuable opportunities for members to enjoy.

Juggling so many different balls isn’t easy—that’s where association management software (AMS) comes in.

You might already have tools you depend on, but not every association management solution is equal. As more associations begin offering virtual programs and online events, using a reliable and comprehensive AMS to keep your members connected is essential. Whether it’s your first time looking for a solution or you’re thinking of an upgrade, you’ve come to the right place.

This guide will walk through the following topics to prepare your team to find the right AMS for your association:

Ready to invest in an AMS that fosters a strong membership community and provides them with unforgettable programming and events? Then start your search here! 

This is an overview of what an association management system looks like.

Association Management Software: An Overview

In simplest terms, association management software (AMS) systems are comprehensive solutions aimed to help automate and digitize many of your recurring tasks. From communicating with members to managing and planning events, your AMS should do it all.

Using these capabilities, your AMS also gathers and organizes important member information. This not only ensures you create valuable courses, events, and other programming, but it also optimizes your communications, marketing, and reporting process.

1. What is association management?

Association management is a rather unique field because members pay dues in exchange for being part of the community. For those seeking guidance from colleagues in the same professional field, associations provide far-reaching networking opportunities to help further their careers and increase knowledge-sharing for community building.

Associations are usually governed through a board or an elected team to help oversee and handle all of the event planning, registration processes, and member details. As your membership increases and your association grows, management becomes an arduous process.

However, with specialized association management software, you can find solutions to help save time and let your team focus on big-picture goals, like increasing member engagement and retention.

2. What AMS System Features Should You Look For?

The features that you require in your AMS will differ depending on your association’s unique needs. If you often host online webinars, an AMS with a learning management system (LMS) integration is a no-brainer, whereas another association might not find this unnecessary.

These are the essential features of an association management system.
[These are the essential features of an association management system.]

While every association has different priorities, on matter what, your AMS should have these essential features

  • Membership management —  One of your most important jobs is managing your members. This not only involves member registration but what you do with their valuable member data. Gathering and storing accurate member information can impact almost all aspects of association management, so having a solution catered to this is essential.
  • Member portal — Not only can your AMS provide you with tools to oversee member information, but the best ones should also offer a member portal. This is where members can browse through a navigable directory and learn more about other members in the association, helping them get familiar with one another. Members can even self-edit their profiles!
  • Event management – Along with managing members, you also have to provide them with exciting opportunities and valuable experiences through association events. The right software solution makes it easy for attendees to register and participate in your programming, whether the event is a large conference or a small class or presentation. You should be able to register members, offer automatic discounts, and tiered registrations.
  • Financial management — Processing event registrations, membership registrations, and dues payments, require a financial management and payment tool. Make sure your AMS’s payment processor is secure and integrated with your other tools. Also, check that it can facilitate recurring payments to make dues payments easier.
  • Communication management – For both member and event management, you’ll need a capable communication tool, specifically one with automation features. Automated communication keeps your members in the loop and saves your team time drafting and sending each message. This way, you focus on your outreach’s contents rather than when you’ll deliver it.
  • Reporting tools – Your AMS is the perfect tool for compiling data, so make sure yours comes with robust reporting features. Your AMS should offer both customizable and pre-built reports to help you learn from past data. The best reports present data in a visually intuitive format, making it easy for anyone to understand and take action.

3. What Are The Benefits Of Association Management Systems?

Benefits of an AMS for your staff

Your staff is working hard to plan content, education, conferences, and other events for your members. Without the right AMS system, your team also has to deal with the day-to-day operations of fact-checking member profiles and keeping track of due payments. The best AMS system will streamline and add efficiencies to these tasks, providing your association with:

  • Efficient and secure flow — When your staff and team are planning your next engagement strategy, an AMS solution can make it easier to transfer and view data from multiple databases. For example, to get a full view of your members, you might need to pull data from your event management tool as well as your membership management tool. Make sure your AMS has reliable integration capabilities to make this possible— or even better, invest in a platform solution.
  • Increased security — Consolidating your association’s information in your AMS database is more secure than having it loose in an offline Excel spreadsheet. Association database management is more accessible to your staff when it is housed in an online software solution.
  • Increased recruitment and retention — With an AMS optimizing your communications and ensuring you offer the best member experience, your association can not only recruit new prospects but retain current members. Plus, automatic dues payments and pre-scheduled dues reminders can also prevent members from lapsing. 
  • Decisions backed by data — With all the data collected from emails, events, and other online engagements, you can make more informed decisions about your association’s future. For instance, use data to help you figure out which marketing outreach strategy has the highest chance of success by observing past ones. Or, pick the next online webinar topic by looking through feedback from your other learning opportunities.

Benefits of an AMS for your members

Your AMS system isn’t just there to increase efficiency for behind-the-scenes operations. The member experience reflects in your membership retention numbers. The more intuitive and engaging your AMS system is, the more likely your members will continue to contribute to your community. With an upgraded AMS system, your members will have:

  • Consistent and improved experiences. With an AMS, your association can create beautiful websites with individual pages and forms that are simple yet effective, all completely branded to your association.
  • Access to a wide variety of relevant resources. Your association members are there to connect with others like them and learn from the experiences your association curates. Make sure your members have the resources they need. Your AMS can even create a members-only portal to provide white papers, informational guides, and educational courses.
  • Community building opportunities — In addition to advancing in their career and participating in valuable learning opportunities, individuals join your association to meet other like-minded people and be a part of a community. Your AMS can promote this with online discussion boards, engaging event ideas, and more. 
Explore these association management systems.

Explore These 5 AMS Systems

As mentioned earlier, no AMS solution is built the same. Some are more comprehensive, whereas others are created to meet industry-specific needs. In order to help you find the AMS that’s best for your association and its members, we’ll walk through these different solutions:

  1. Fonteva
  2. MemberClicks
  3. MemberLeaps
  4. NoviAMS
  5. iMIS

Fonteva: All-in-One AMS System

This is a screenshot of Fonteva's association management system website.
[This is a screenshot of Fonteva’s association management system website. ]

Fonteva Membership is a dedicated association management system solution built for associations looking to streamline processes and make the day-to-day tasks of management more effective. As a true-cloud AMS, Fonteva users have the benefit of accessing updated data in real-time, no matter where they are.

With over a decade of experience partnering with associations, Fonteva knows exactly what leaders like you need to succeed when taking their associations online. Fonteva’s tools are flexible and built to grow with your association. 

And, as a Salesforce-native software solution, Fonteva has access to every app on the Salesforce AppsExchange, letting you pick and choose which capabilities to add as your association expands.

Why This Association Management Solution Stands Out

Fonteva’s AMS has functionalities to aid with any of your managerial tasks. In particular, Fonteva users can:

  • Connect members to valuable opportunities with direct access to a member directory, event calendar and sign-ups, and continuing education classes.
  • Plan and host events (both in-person and virtual), making it easy for members to sign up and engage with others in meaningful ways. 
  • Automate membership dues with its integrated payment processor. It can also apply discounts to certain members if they’re eligible when registering for an event or purchasing something from your e-commerce store. 
  • Easily create reports using compiled data to make key insights about how your association is currently performing and note areas for improvements. Fonteva offers both pre-built and customized reports that you can use. 
  • Access any of the apps on the Salesforce AppExchange as well as integrate with existing Salesforce tools with ease, something only a truly native Salesforce app can provide.

MemberClicks: AMS System Overview

This is a screenshot of MemberClicks' association management system website.
[This is a screenshot of MemberClicks’ association management system website. ]

MemberClicks is an AMS that serves all types of associations, chambers, and universities. With MemberClicks, you can simplify the way your association engages with members, while also providing them with a platform of integrated tools to take their experience to the next level. 

Why This Association Management Solution Stands Out

MemberClicks offers these capabilities: 

  • Integrated learning management system to provide members with exciting opportunities.
  • Dues management tool to make payment and reporting easy.
  • Association website building tools to stay connected with members online.

MemberLeap: AMS System Overview

This is a screenshot of MemberLeap's association management system website.
[This is a screenshot of MemberLeap’s association management system website.]

MemberLeap offers affordable and easy-to-use software that helps any association streamline its basic member-based administrative duties. Because of its flexible build, associations and organizations of all sizes can leverage MemberLeap’s platform with ease.

Why This Association Management Solution Stands Out

Check out these top features from MemberLeap:

  • Member database so that you can easily manage members, cross reference data points, and search for key metrics.
  • A mobile app that allows members to have quick and easy access to various MemberLeap tools.
  • Email tools that can set up drip campaigns, organize message boards, create and send out newsletters, and more.

NoviAMS: AMS System Overview

This is a screenshot of NoviAMS association management system website.
[This is a screenshot of NoviAMS association management system website.]

Novi AMS is an AMS solution that is both designed by and for association professionals. Specifically, they tend to cater to trade associations, aiming to help their members develop professionally and make valuable connections with each other. Additionally, NoviAMS makes it easy for your association to keep track of important accounting information through its integration with QuickBooks.

Why This Association Management Solution Stands Out

Here are some of the top features of NoviAMS:

  • 2-way, 24/7 integration with QuickBooks, making it easy to track invoices, online payments, and other important financial data.
  • Web building tools to help trade association professionals create a beautiful and engaging website without the necessary coding experience. 
  • Flexible member types, allowing associations to organize members by whether they’re company-based, individual, or a hybrid combination.

iMIS: AMS System Overview

This is a screenshot of iMIS association management system website.
[This is a screenshot of iMIS association management system website.]

iMIS association management software is a system created by ASI, Advanced Solutions International. It aims to help associations streamline member engagement and encourage growth within their membership base. 

Why This AMS Solution Stands Out

With iMIS, you have access to these features:

  • A library of features and add-on apps that you can enable/disable for a customized experience.
  • A visual dashboard that helps you turn hard data and metrics into actionable insights.
  • A modern, cloud-based solution, allowing staff members access even from their mobile phones.

From recruitment to retention, your association management system is the most efficient tool in your association’s toolbox. Engaging your members in a strong member community starts with forethought and the best software available! When it comes time to start comparing various association management software solutions, prioritize the features discussed above.

For more about association software, check out these additional resources:

Download our guide to association management software!

4 Best Practices for Engaging Your Members with Direct Mail

4 Best Practices for Engaging Your Members with Direct Mail

What is membership engagement and how does it affect your organization? When your members respond to your emails, attend your events, or donate their time and money to your cause, they’re engaging, and that engagement keeps your organization running

Dedicated members want to participate, some are on the fence, and others aren’t aware that you have engagement opportunities. To get the word out, your organization needs to get in touch with supporters in a way that will result in interaction and not silence. 

At GivingMail, we specialize in helping nonprofit organizations make the most out of direct mail communication. Our experiences boosting engagement have taught us four key lessons for how to improve response rates and use direct mail as a solution to fill communication gaps your organization might have with its members. In this article, we’ll explore how to:

  1. Personalize each appeal
  2. Incorporate strategic audience segmentation
  3. Invest in top member management software
  4. Work with a direct mail platform

These strategies aim to help your organization understand your members on a personal level and create the appeals that will resonate with them the most. Let’s get started. 

1. Personalize each appeal

Building relationships with members leads to further engagement, which in turn can lead to increased support. Personalized appeals create connections between members and your organization as customized messages show supporters that your organization took the time to acknowledge their individual contributions. 

Of course, writing unique messages to every member isn’t practical. However, your CRM and other supporter engagement software can help you automate your message creation. This guide goes over a few best practices for using technology to help your organization decide when, how, and what to communicate to supporters. 

For example, you should continually collect information about your members and keep a record of their interactions with your organization. Using this data, create profiles for each supporter that has:

  • Their basic personal information. Basic demographic information such as name, age, and location will help your organization communicate with individual members and understand your members as a whole. Your members’ names are key to keep track of for personalized appeals as it always is more meaningful to be addressed as a person and not a “Valued Member.”
  • Their contact information. Contact information includes obvious data such as their email and phone number. If your members give you a variety of communication channels, keep track of which ones they are the most responsive to, or ask what their preferred contact method is.
  • Their history with your organization. Along with their name, personalized appeals should acknowledge how members have engaged with your organization in the past. For example, mentioning events a member attended or a campaign they recently donated to shows supporters that your organization is aware of and appreciates their efforts. 

Your CRM or member management software should have templates (or the ability to create templates) that can be populated with personalized information, giving every member an email, letter, or another form of communication tailored to them.

2. Incorporate strategic audience segmentation

In addition to personalization, segmentation helps you create outreach content based on your members’ past activity and interests. Segmentation involves separating your supporters based on shared characteristics and designing different messages based on those details for each group. 

Segmentation can also be combined with personalization to create appeals focused on shared traits of a group that also reference personal information such as the member’s name and specific donations. 

But be sure to segment your supporters purposefully. For example, you could divide your supporters based on a demographic characteristic like gender. However, segmenting supporters this way doesn’t align with many organizations’ goals, nor is it clear how dividing supporters along gender lines would lead to more engaging messages. 

By contrast, segmenting supporters based on how long they’ve been a member can be linked to obvious benefits. In this case, your organization could target new members with welcome messages to introduce your organization. For members who have been with your organization for years, you could send messages reflecting their long-term involvement such as a retrospective documenting how your organization has grown with their help. 

Segmentation requires more templates than broad personalization as different campaigns, events, and other engagement practices will require different base messages.

Luckily, Fundraising Letters’ guide to letter writing can help supplement your organization’s fundraising outreach tools and additional research can find similar websites for other message types such as newsletters, post-event thank you letters, and more. 

3. Invest in top membership management software

As mentioned in the previous tips, member/donor management software can help you personalize and segment your audience to create more valuable messages for your members. However, not all member management software has the same features, so be sure to do your research before making a big purchase. 

GivingMail’s guide to donor management software offers practical advice for how to assess potential CRMs before making a purchase and compares and contrasts a few top choices. In particular, it emphasizes the following features and capabilities in member management software:

  • Donor profile creation and management. Each donor should receive their own profile in your system that tracks basic personal and contact information. Look for additional features as well, such as analysis of giving behavior, which can help you identify potential major donors. 
  • Reporting capabilities. Member management software is useful because it stores important details about your members that allow you to analyze behavior trends and segment supporters. For example, your member management software should allow you to sort and filter by member type so you can identify and tailor communication for new members. 
  • Integration. All of your software needs to work together. As the main hub of information about your supporters, your member management software needs to integrate with other software tools such as your email service provider or direct mail platform with minimal hiccups. Take the time to review integration practices and plan how you will align your new and old software. 
  • Price. Your member management software is one of your organization’s most important tools, but it is possible to find one with all the features you need without overspending. Member management software usually comes with base features and add-ons that can be purchased later, so make a list of must-have and optional features as you research your options. 

Ask questions and apply for demos before making a purchase to ensure you are choosing the software that meets your organization’s needs. Doing research ahead of time and keeping a running list of options will also help if you later decide you need to upgrade your software

4. Work with a direct mail platform

After you use your CRM to track information about your members to create personalized messages based on segmentation strategies, you’ll need to choose a medium to get your method out there. At GivingMail, we recommend using a direct mail for nonprofits service provider as traditional mail communication continues to be the single greatest source of donations for nonprofits in the U.S.

Direct mail tends to be especially effective with older supporters, who also tend to donate more. Direct mail also encourages engagement by virtue of delivering physical objects to members, which can’t be scrolled past in an inbox or on a social media feed. Interacting with physical objects reinforces your organization’s presence for your members, which can lead to continued or new involvement once your organization begins a campaign or event. 

Like with any communication channel, learning best practices to encourage member engagement takes experimentation and investment of time and money. Working with a direct mail platform gives your organization an experienced partner to turn to for advice on how to better your outreach campaigns. 

Fostering engagement requires letting your supporters know you know who they are, appreciate them, and want to continue connecting with them. These relationships can be built through personalized and memorable outreach strategies such as a targeted direct mail campaign. As you look into increasing your engagement rates, consider getting creative with direct mail to send cards, postcards, or even calendars to keep your organization in your members’ minds all year long. 

Grant Cobb

Grant Cobb is a fundraising specialist with over 6 years of experience in the nonprofit space. Currently the head of marketing and analytics at GivingMail, he is a huge proponent of data-driven decision making and the push to bring high-level analytics and fundraising to all.