Association Management: Best Practices for Your Organization
Association management is the process of creating, planning, and facilitating opportunities for growth and development among members of professional, trade, and other types of associations. Most association members join because they or their employers view membership as a way to widen their professional networks and gain valuable knowledge and experience.
When you manage your association efficiently, you’ll be able to provide your members with more valuable opportunities and save your team time in the process.
At first glance, association management doesn’t look like an easy task. How do you keep track of all your members’ professional goals and interests? How do you incorporate this information into your planning process to develop programming that will engage them? How do you share your offerings with large numbers of members spread out all over the country and perhaps the world?
Luckily, you have a secret weapon on your side: your association management system (AMS)! This software solution is your association’s key to more efficient management practices. Let’s take a look at how you can make the most of the features offered by your AMS to follow a few key association management best practices, encourage participation in your programming, and increase both your visibility and your revenue.
We’ll answer some key questions, including:
To get started, the first step is to understand what types of activities fall under the category of association management. Then, your team can use your AMS to make each of these processes more efficient and effective.
1. What is association management?
Association management refers to the processes that your association uses to communicate with your members, gather and organize member information, and plan and create courses, events, and other programming. Your AMS and related software systems can help you delegate these responsibilities to different members of your team and carry them out more efficiently.
Associations of all types can benefit from reevaluating their association management processes and determining the ways that they can use both existing and new software systems more effectively. Whether you run a professional or trade association, a non-governmental organization (NGO), or a philanthropic organization, you’ll benefit from improved ways of managing:
Marketing. Whether you want to encourage non-members to join or motivate your current members to take part in more of your events and programming, marketing efforts are essential to helping your association spread its mission. Automated email communications and an updated website are two excellent ways to market different aspects of your association to members and those who aren’t members yet.
Communication. In addition to automated emails from your organization, members should be able to receive communications from one another via your AMS when they join committees, regional chapters, and other subgroups. Make sure that your AMS features an app or otherwise supports mobile communication for members on the go.
Events. Event registration is easier on both your members and your team when members don’t have to reenter information that already appears elsewhere in your AMS. A combined AMS and event registration platform also helps you gather important information on your members so that you can plan events that address their needs and interests.
Accounting and financials. Whenever members pay their dues, purchase tickets to your events, or shop for branded merchandise and other products through your eCommerce platform, they’re initiating financial transactions that your association needs to account for. Your AMS should generate comprehensive financial reports.
Continuing education. Your members have already demonstrated their interest in their professional development by joining your association. You can provide them with additional opportunities for growth in their careers by integrating your AMS with an association learning management system (LMS) that they can use to complete continuing education courses and gain the certification required for advancement in many fields.
When you make the most of the features of your AMS and other software solutions to manage your association efficiently, you’ll be able to provide a wider variety of opportunities for your members. And when your members benefit, they’ll stay involved and lead to your association’s growth.
No matter what type of association you run or how many members you manage, you’ll save time and energy when you put in the necessary research to select the best association management tools to suit your organization’s specific needs.
2. What are the best association management tools?
Whether you’re starting out with all new software solutions or deciding which of your existing systems to upgrade, the first and most important system to consider is your AMS. Your team should carefully compare the features of each AMS you’re considering to ensure that you choose the right one to meet your association’s and your members’ needs.
Choosing an AMS
The top association management software minimizes the amount of manual data entry either your team or your members have to complete, whether they’re updating their information, registering for events, or completing another action. Look for an AMS that:
- Integrates with (or is native to) your CRM. If your association is using a constituent relationship management (CRM) system as your primary location to gather and store member information, you’ll want to select an AMS that integrates with your current system so that you don’t have to transfer data manually. If you’re using Salesforce as your CRM, you can choose an AMS that’s native to the platform, saving your team even more time and energy.
- Creates customizable member profiles. Member profiles aren’t just useful for your association when you need information to create courses or plan events that will meet your members’ needs and interests. They also facilitate connections among members, which can lead to opportunities for professional advancement. Members should be able to update their own profiles as their information changes, and this information should be reflected automatically in your CRM.
- Automates the dues collection process. Dues collection is one of the most necessary and unavoidable association management tasks, as well as one of the most difficult to coordinate without the help of your AMS. Make sure that the AMS you select is able to automate communications to members when their dues are coming up, late, or paid.
- Facilitates event registration and planning. Almost everyone loves participating in conferences, live learning events, and other opportunities for in-person interaction and networking, but logistical challenges can and do arise. Save time and energy for everyone involved by choosing an AMS that members can also use to register for events. Additionally, look for the capability to create event microsites—specialized websites that you can use to share more information on upcoming events with potential registrants.
- Integrates with your existing software systems. If you’re using a CRM such as Salesforce to store valuable member data, an accounting system to record financial transactions, an association LMS to provide continuing education opportunities to your members, or any other helpful systems, you shouldn’t have to give them up! Make sure that your AMS can integrate with your existing systems so that information is transferred in both directions.
With the right AMS and additional software solutions, your team will have more time to spend developing innovative programming for your members, and your members won’t get so bogged down in data entry and registration processes that they give up before they’ve participated!
Especially when a capable and enthusiastic team of association professionals is using them, the right software solutions can positively transform your association management experience. If you’re a newer organization or seeking a new direction, however, it may be helpful to consider hiring an association consultant in addition to upgrading your technology.
Does your association need a consultant?
If your association is happy with your current direction and is seeking to attract more members, strengthen member engagement, or expand the number of courses, events, and other programs you offer, you should be able to accomplish these goals with improved technology. However, if your association is seeking to make larger changes to your mission, structure, or operations, you may want to consider discussing your plans with a consultant.
Before you hire an association consultant, make sure that all of the key members of your team agree on the need to bring on a consultant as well as the goals that this individual will help you achieve. Once you’re in agreement about your need for a consultant, you’ll want to:
- Determine candidates to reach out to. Search online and ask leaders and representatives from other associations who they’ve worked with in the past. You’re looking for someone with experience helping your type of association—professional, trade, non-governmental, or philanthropic—who has had successes in the past.
- Discuss your goals with your candidates. Representatives from your team should reach out to your top candidates to discuss your goals and ideas. Every association is unique, so you’re looking for the individual most capable of meeting your specific needs.
- Choose the right consultant for your association. Remember that working with an association consultant is a partnership in which both your consultant and your team members will have important roles. Select the consultant that your team members are most eager to work with and who best understands your association’s mission and purpose.
Whether you’re choosing to improve your association management strategy with new technology or a combination of technology and consulting services, there are a few best practices that any association can follow to improve the management process.
3. What are some of the top association management best practices?
Most association management best practices relate to data management: where data is stored, how it’s organized, and how you can make the best use of it to better serve your members. When your AMS and other software systems improve your data management processes, you’ll be more capable of creating additional programming to benefit your members.
As you upgrade your technology and work with your team to reevaluate and improve your association management strategy, keep the following best practices in mind:
Keep your membership management system up-to-date. Effective communications and member engagement depend on an organized and updated association management database. Integrating your AMS and CRM—or choosing an AMS that’s native to your CRM—is an important step in the process of improving your member management system. You’ll also want to choose an AMS that allows members to update their own information as it changes.
Automate association-wide communications. Most associations are too large to reach out to members individually. Communications that involve all members—those relating to the dues payment schedule or news about upcoming events, for instance—should be sent through your AMS via automated email. Committees and regional chapters should also be able to automate communications to their members.
Manage events through a single system. This way, event registrants can save time by not having to enter information that’s already stored in your AMS. Attendees should also be able to purchase tickets and merchandise using your eCommerce platform and learn more about the event via microsites.
When your association is able to gather, organize, and access your members’ most updated information, your team will be better prepared to provide them with opportunities that benefit them. To accomplish this goal, look for an AMS that makes it easy to gather new data and keeps existing information updated and accessible at all times.
4. How can I revitalize my association management strategy with Fonteva?
If your association is ready to transform your management strategy, the most effective starting place is a new or upgraded AMS. Especially for associations already using Salesforce as their CRM, a native app such as Fonteva Membership provides a comprehensive and easy-to-use management solution.
Fonteva Membership is built on Salesforce, meaning that the member data you already have stored in your Salesforce CRM will transfer to your new AMS automatically. As members join your association, update the information in their profiles, register for events, or otherwise interact with your AMS, this data will transfer to your CRM so you never have to worry about lost, missing, or out-of-date information.
In addition to being native to Salesforce, Fonteva Membership also:
- Encompasses event management capabilities. This way, your association won’t need to transfer information between two or more software solutions when members register for events or purchase tickets and merchandise. You can facilitate registration for your members and refresh the information in your CRM simultaneously.
- Facilitates member-run committees, communities, and regional chapters. This feature is especially important for large associations in which not all members will be able to attend events held far from where they live. Leaders of member-run communities can invite other members to join, communicate with them, and even plan their own regional events.
- Robust reporting and analytics features. Gathering large amounts of member data becomes useful when your association can make sense of it and transform it into thoughtful programming for your members. Fonteva Membership offers reporting features that allow your team to take note of important trends and patterns.
The video below illustrates some of the ways in which associations can benefit from Fonteva’s cloud-based management solution and its numerous helpful features.
As your team goes through the process of comparing membership software options, be sure to keep your members’ needs and interests, as well as your association’s goals and mission, in mind. The right software solution for your association is the one that ultimately leads to greater member engagement.
Looking for more information on association management and choosing the right software solutions to help your team accomplish your goals? Check out the following additional resources for more guidance:
- Association Management Software: The Ultimate Buyer’s Guide. Learn more about the features you should be looking for in your next AMS with the help of Fonteva’s comprehensive buying guide to this essential association management tool.
- re:Charity’s Top Salesforce Apps for Nonprofits and Associations. For associations already using Salesforce to manage member data, these useful apps can make the process smoother.
- Membership Software: The Essential Guide. How can your association make the most out of the membership software solution you choose? Learn how to maximize the value of your software’s features using Fonteva’s guide.