What is Customer Experience (CX)? Crash Course

When your association engages members, how do you conceptualize and measure their experiences? Associations understand the importance of engagement and loyalty since member retention is of such critical importance. However, they also might lack a framework to measure and study the various factors that shape the member engagement and retention trends they experience. 

To better understand the root reasons why members join and stay with your organization, associations should take lessons from the customer experience (CX) playbook. CX is a relatively new field of business strategies that all types of organizations can use to ensure their customers, clients, or members have their voices heard and problems addressed. 

But what is CX? To help your association’s team understand CX, why it matters, and how to get started with it, this article will provide a crash course, reviewing topics such as:

Even if the term CX is new to your organization, know that the principles are not. Listening to your members, showing empathy for their problems, understanding their feedback, and taking steps to make your association a better place should all be core aspects of your member engagement strategy. With CX best practices, your association will be able to take a targeted approach and improve customer relationships with data-driven decisions. 

What is CX?

CX is the concept that interaction a business has with customers, from initial outreach or marketing to ongoing retention efforts, shape and define the customers’ overall feelings towards the organization. The customer experience can be actively studied and strategically improved through CX management to create a seamless experience. 

For your association, this means every touchpoint you create and interaction you have with members throughout their membership journeys is part of the entire member experience that you offer. 

Why does it matter?

Chances are that your association likely already has a membership engagement strategy in place. However, an intentional CX strategy provides structure that enables associations to deliberately and consistently collect and act on their members’ feedback, making it far more valuable than an ad-hoc approach. 

Most associations understand the importance of listening to members, and a CX strategy gives you the framework to do so. 

What are the benefits of an intentional CX strategy?

Often, customers have high expectations and little patience, and it’s important to show empathy when they encounter a pain point. Implementing a CX strategy allows organizations to make improvements to every part of their customers’ journeys, meeting their expectations throughout their entire engagement. For your association, this means you’ll be able to create better, near frictionless experiences for members whether they’re filling out their first sign-up form or attending their twentieth virtual event

A robust customer (or member) experience strategy can bring these benefits for any organization:

  • Stand out from competitors. Your CX strategy will allow your organization to continuously make improvements and adjust to your members’ needs, making your association more responsive and unique when compared to competitive organizations. 
  • Improve retention. Often, associations are only able to catch that a member is about to lapse when it’s already too late. With CX, your association will open the doors to early communication, allowing you to get ahead of problems before they can lead to membership lapses. Consistent feedback collection even allows you to more easily resolve individual issues in real time.
  • Boost word-of-mouth referrals. According to NPOInfo’s charitable giving statistics, 57% of associations report that word-of-mouth is their most successful method for recruiting members. A good CX program makes it easy to identify your “promoters” or highly satisfied members, who you can then ask to help spread the word about your organization. 

Ultimately, the focus of CX is on proactively learning about and responding to your members’ needs to ensure your association is cultivating enjoyable, convenient, and meaningful experiences. By implementing a CX strategy, your association will experience a number of benefits, including:

  • Gain deeper insights into your customer journey
  • Gather data to back up strategies and decisions
  • Improve your brand loyalty, recognition, and reputation
  • Discover how to course correct in real time
  • Create more touchpoints with high impact customers 

A new CX strategy doesn’t need to replace your current approach to membership management, but rather strengthen it. For example, you may already use your membership software to create member customer profiles. With a CX strategy, you would continue maintaining these profiles but with additional details, such as automated notes about interactions that triggered a survey, the details of their survey response, and what your association has done to act on this feedback. 

Understanding the CX Process

CX management is a continuous process. Each experience you create should collect data to help inform your members’ next experience. PeopleMetric’s guide to the customer journey breaks down this process with this graphic: 

  1. Create intentional experiences. Intentional experiences can include any relevant touchpoint along the customer journey. For example, an association interested in driving community conversations may look at the experiences they’ve created around networking, communication, and community-building. 
  2. Measure your performance using surveys. To learn how members feel about your experiences, send out surveys to ask them. Many organizations will establish a set of trigger interactions that will result in a survey being sent out. Have you ever received an invitation to provide feedback after buying a product, getting technical assistance, or using a service? That’s CX management in action. 
  3. Manage your experience proactively in real-time. As you collect feedback from members, plan how you can incorporate it into your association’s strategies. Take note of what situations require an immediate response, such as receiving negative feedback that could be smoothed over with an empathetic, timely response. In other cases, your association will need to gather enough data to make informed decisions based on a significant number of members’ feedback. 
  4. Keep it running as a continuous feedback loop. Continue facilitating new customer experiences, and continue collecting feedback from members about them. This will allow you to continue responding to customer needs as new concerns are raised, previous changes result in notable improvements, or new audiences with new interests join your association. 

You can take a similar approach to managing your employees’ experiences as well. Doing so can help you motivate, manage, and retain employees, saving your association time and resources that would otherwise need to be devoted to managing staff turnover. 

Ways to Manage and Improve Your CX

After implementing your initial CX strategy, there are additional steps you can take to ensure you are collecting useful feedback and leveraging it as effectively as possible. Specifically, your association should try to:

  • Use dedicated tools. While theoretically your association could use free survey tools to collect member feedback, dedicated CX software comes with a variety of enhanced features, such as comprehensive analytics tools, survey accessibility options, and automation capabilities. 
  • Act in realtime. As mentioned, acting on member feedback in real time shows that your association is responsive and cares about their input. Emphasize to your member engagement team the importance of showing empathy for their struggles when responding to a customer who has encountered a pain point. This helps reassure members that they’re being understood and your association cares about them.
  • Remove silos. Often, organizations collect feedback but fail to act on it due to internal data silos. Assess your internal processes for places where communication could be improved or staff members can be empowered to take more direct action. 
  • Develop new initiatives as needed. To manage your CX strategy, try setting up a customer advisory board (or member advisory board). These boards consist of a selection of your highest-impact members with the purpose of gathering their feedback. Modern CX software has allowed organizations to hold meetings entirely online, making it easier than ever to benefit from this focused approach to feedback collection. 

Before implementing your CX strategy, determine what metrics you’ll focus on to measure improvement. For example, an association may review its overall retention rates and the number of new member referrals, or they may look at more specific metrics, such as the attendance rates for their next event. Your KPIs will naturally vary depending on what part of the member journey you’re seeking to improve using the overarching CX framework.

Applying CX Principles to Memberships

Your association’s members are your customers, but implementing a CX strategy designed for for-profit businesses may require more flexibility. Specifically, associations getting started with CX should review their: 

  • Member journey. What are the current touchpoints on your membership journey? How do these differ from a for-profit business and are any of those differences relevant to your CX strategy? For example, associations will need to consider their approach to renewing memberships, which may be an opportunity to create an improved, more convenient member experience. 
  • Communication practices. How does your association currently communicate with members? Are there any surveys you already regularly send out? When you implement a CX strategy, your association will be getting in touch with members more often to ask for their feedback. Make any necessary adjustments to your current communication approach to avoid overwhelming members with too many survey requests. 
  • Internal culture. The CX process works best for organizations with a culture of iterative improvement and measurement. Meet with your staff to explain what the CX process is and why your association is implementing it to help gain employee buy-in. 

As mentioned, your current association management tools can be a reliable resource throughout the CX process. Take a look at any member feedback you’ve already collected, note if it has been implemented, and what strategies you can take to make the transition to your new CX process as smooth as possible. 

Your members’ experience with your association determines how much they’ll engage with future programs, whether they’ll recommend your association to peers, and if they’ll renew their membership. By getting started with CX, your association can take a proactive approach to these essential parts of the membership journey.

About the Author
Sean McDade has been helping companies optimize customer experiences for over twenty years. An angel investor in the Philadelphia region, he is also the founder, CEO, and visionary of PeopleMetrics, a leading provider of experience management software and advisory services. In addition to working with a number of leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, he is the author of two books.

Dive into the fundamentals of AMS systems, as well as our top picks for the best association management system software solutions.

AMS System: What is it? and 5+ AMS Software 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 engagement opportunities for members to enjoy.

Juggling so many different tasks isn’t easy—that’s where association management software 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 you through the following topics to prepare your team to find the right technology 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! 

Explore Fonteva’s all-in-one association management platform.
What is an AMS? Read on to explore the fundamentals of association management software.

What is Association Management Software?

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 processes.

What is Association Management?

Association management is a rather unique field as members pay dues in exchange for being a 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.

Associations are usually governed through a board or an elected committee to help oversee the member journey or member experience, event planning, registration processes, and member communications. And 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.

AMS software offers various benefits for both your association staff and members.

What are the Benefits of Association Management Systems?

Benefits for your staff

Your staff works hard to provide content, educational materials, conferences, events, and ongoing opportunities for your members. Without the right technology in place, your team also has to juggle the day-to-day operations of fact-checking member profiles and tracking due payments. 

The best systems not only streamline these tasks but enhance their value, providing your association with:

  • Efficient and secure flows. 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. Reliable integration capabilities are essential to make this possible. An even better option—invest in a platform solution.
  • Increased security. Consolidating your association’s information in your AMS database is more secure than having it live in an Excel spreadsheet. Association database management is more accessible to your staff when it is housed in an online software solution, and we’re not talking about a Google doc. 
  • Increased recruitment and retention. With an AMS optimizing your communications and ensuring you offer the best member experience, your association can not only acquire new prospects but also better 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 for your members

Your AMS system or membership platform isn’t just there to increase efficiency for behind-the-scenes operations. The member experience is reflected in your rates of member retention. The more intuitive and engaging your technology is, the more likely it is that 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 eye-catching 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. The right association management software 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 association software can promote this with online discussion boards, engaging event ideas, and much more.
What features make for a strong and effective AMS? Let’s find out.

AMS System Features to Look Out For

The features you’ll want in your own association management solution 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 necessary.

While every association has different priorities, no matter what, your AMS should have these essential features:

These are the essential features of an association management system.
[These are the essential features of an association management system.]
  • Membership management. One of your most important tasks 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 association management software provide you with tools to oversee member information, but the best ones should also offer a member portal. This should include a navigable directory where members can 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 engagement 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 requires a financial management and payment tool. Make sure your system’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 can focus on your content rather than when and how you’ll deliver the message.
  • Reporting tools. An AMS is the perfect tool for compiling data, so make sure yours comes with robust reporting features. Your solution 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.
Enhance your approach to membership management with the best AMS systems and platforms on the market.

5+ AMS Systems to Explore

No Association Management Solution is built the same. Some are more comprehensive or “all-in-one,” whereas others are created to meet industry-specific needs. In order to help you find the software that’s best for your association and its members, we’ll walk through these different solutions:

  1. Fonteva Membership Software
  2. Protech
  3. MemberClicks
  4. MemberLeap
  5. NoviAMS
  6. iMIS

Fonteva: All-in-One Association Management Platform

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

Say hello to one of the most comprehensive and robust association management solutions on the market. Packed with far more power, flexibility, and capabilities than a typical AMS system, Fonteva Membership is a dedicated, all-in-one Association Software Platform built on the power of Salesforce, the world’s leading Customer Relationship Management software. The Fonteva Association Software Platform supports and nurtures both new and existing member engagement, empowering your organization, members, and staff to reach their full potential. 

Fonteva is built for associations looking to streamline processes and make the day-to-day tasks of management more effective. As a true-cloud software solution, Fonteva gives users 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 today’s leaders 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 association management platform, 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 association management platform 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.
  • Fonteva Payments delivers a best-in-class payments platform that provides processing and a secure payments gateway. Additionally, it delivers a single source of truth about payments for members, with orders and payment data built-in.

Protech: AMS System Overview

This is a screenshot of the Protech association management platform website.
[This is a screenshot of the Protech association management platform website.]

Backed by the world-class Microsoft Dynamics 365 system, Protech’s association management platform has an incredible capacity for customization. With Protech, your association can skip the growing pains of setting up a new software system and immediately begin integrating and personalizing its suite of tools with a platform tailored to your specific needs.

Why This Association Management Solution Stands Out

Protech’s association management platform boasts a variety of features, such as:

  • Seamless connectivity with Microsoft AppSource tools, as well as Microsoft Office and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business applications.
  • Streamlined member and donor management features, including customizable constituent profiles, mobile outreach, and personalized communications.
  • Intuitive event management tools, from simplified registration procedures to management for exhibitor booths and transactions.

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 Association Management 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 information about association and membership management software, check out these additional resources:

Download our guide to association management software!

Learn how to effectively leverage your member engagement strategies with these top tips and software.

Member Engagement: An Association Strategy & Software Guide

Association memberships are unique in the way that they provide ongoing, rewarding experiences in exchange for the dues members pay to continue to be a part of the organization. That’s why it’s important that your association actively works to keep members coming back year after year, offering unique value through engaging opportunities and events.

Whether your association is made up of professionals in the same field or alumni who attended the same university, strengthening member engagement should always be one of your top priorities. Engagement secures your association’s relevance and fuels healthy member retention.

It’s likely that you’ve developed a set member engagement strategy over the years. However, with advancements in technology and an online world saturated with virtual experiences, it’s always a good idea to review the basics and look for opportunities to improve. Using your association management software (AMS) system, you can leverage your tools to further engage your members, encourage member-to-member networking and community-building, and enhance your overall approach to member outreach.

In this guide, we’ll be reviewing some member engagement basics and walking you through a couple of key questions. Follow along from the top, or skip to the section that interests you most using the following table of contents:

Don’t wait for your engagement strategies to become obsolete. Use these lessons, tips, and software recommendations to brainstorm new ways to not only keep members renewing each year, but attract new ones as well. Let’s dive in!

Improve your member engagement strategy with Fonteva.
What is member engagement for your association?

What is member engagement?

Member engagement is the ongoing outreach and interactions between associations and their members to keep constituents informed, educated, and motivated to continue their memberships. 

By extension, a member engagement strategy is the different messaging, content, and opportunities that associations share with their members to ensure that they remain engaged.

Essentially, once a member joins your association, you need to actively work to nurture member relationships. You’ll know when member engagement is successful when the value associated with the actions you take and the experiences you offer outweigh the expense of membership dues.

However, not every association will measure engagement in the exact same way. Member engagement varies based on the type of association and your member’s preferences.

Defining & measuring member engagement

The way that a university association measures member engagement will look noticeably different than how a professional association will measure engagement. The former will typically look at event attendance, while the latter might refer to their learning management system (LMS) to gauge how often members take advantage of further education opportunities.

Since no two associations are the same, the way your association measures member engagement will also be unique. To begin setting your own benchmarks for member engagement, think about what your long-term goals are, whether it’s to increase member retention or encourage community-building.

As you review what member engagement means to your association, take the time to gain insight into where your members are already active. In other words, consider the various experiences and engagement opportunities that your association offers and the platforms where your members already are. Using a data-driven approach, observe how your members engage with those experiences, including:

  • Social media platforms.
  • Email marketing.
  • Live events.
  • Learning opportunities.

Once you get a clear sense of what member engagement means to your association, you can then turn these engagements into measurable numbers. This can be done by setting, tracking, and analyzing key performance indicators (KPIs).

Setting KPIs for member engagement

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are strategic business metrics that your association can set to measure your progress towards specific, quantifiable goals.

KPIs will help you and your staff measure the performance of your association based on key objectives. After defining what member engagement means to your association, you can then set KPIs to evaluate your success at reaching specific engagement targets.

Here are some examples of KPIs based on where your members may be currently active:

Set key performance indicators to measure the success of your member engagement strategies.
  • Social media platforms. Consider measuring how often you gain and lose followers, level of post engagement, the number of profile tags or references, and which of your posts get the most attention.
  • Email marketing. Consider measuring your email open and click-through rates, which members opted to receive your newsletter, and how often members respond to your correspondences.
  • Live events. Consider measuring how many people registered, total attendance, how people found out about your event, and the type of tickets people have bought.
  • Learning opportunities. Consider measuring metrics from your association’s LMS system, such as which classes are most popular, how many members received accreditations, and how often members start courses but do not finish.

Determining effective KPIs is an important part of measuring the success of your member engagement strategy. Seeing actual data metrics will help you make the best future decisions. For more examples of KPIs, this article on data analytics offers detailed information about essential metrics to look out for.

Why is member engagement important to your association?

Why is member engagement important?

When most organizations think about member engagement, it’s easy to go straight to data and measure specific transactions. However, you have to look beyond the numbers and understand the meaningful experiences your association offers its members and the mutually beneficial value they provide.

Increased member retention

Lots of associations utilize their member engagement strategy to increase member retention.

From a management point of view, prioritizing member engagement is crucial to promoting member retention. The more you engage your members, the more likely they will renew their memberships.

Focusing on member retention is generally more cost-effective than member acquisition, so building up a loyal member base will better support your organization’s stability in the long run.
Consider what your association can offer to boost the value delivered to members in exchange for membership dues. No one will pay to be a part of your organization without gaining something meaningful in return.

Provide your members with opportunities and experiences that they will actually appreciate and motivate them to keep coming back. Keep in mind that positive member engagement results in a positive member relationship.

Member engagement and community-building

Associations often use member engagement to encourage member community-building.

Member engagement doesn’t just help you develop better relationships with your members. It can also encourage members to interact and engage with each other. 

Oftentimes, individuals join associations to meet and network with others with similar interests or professionals in the same field. This way, they can learn and grow with other like-minded people, or even advance their careers. 
This is what makes it so important for members to feel like they’re a part of a growing community. So consider basing your member engagement strategy around encouraging member networking and interaction. In particular, you might:

  • Host live events. Events are the best way to engage your members and encourage community-building. This is because they provide a space for members to interact face-to-face. For example, a conference allows members in the same industries or sectors to come together and talk about new innovations or improvements in their field.
  • Provide an online member portal. While your association may have recurring in-person meetings and annual events, a growing membership requires an intuitive online member portal. This way, members can communicate with each other through forums and browse other profiles to get a better sense of their community.
  • Organize a member directory. Member directories provide your members with an important networking resource to explore your association’s member base and reach out to their peers. Additionally, they act as a great form of marketing for your organization, allowing you to show off to the public the size and professionalism of your membership program.

Member engagement and non-dues revenue

Certain member engagement efforts can increase your non-dues revenue.

Many associations prioritize raising funds outside of their regular membership dues to continue funding and enhancing their services. The key to unlocking these non-dues revenue streams is to offer additional, paid engagement opportunities for members to further enhance their membership experiences.

Of course, asking members to pay fees on top of their regular dues might sound challenging, but it is entirely possible as long as these paid opportunities are valuable, unique, and worthwhile.

For example, event ticket sales are a great way to increase non-dues revenue. While tickets are an extra cost, events offer a rewarding experience that justifies the member’s purchase.
Other engaging ways to increase non-dues revenue include running fundraising campaigns and offering branded merchandise through an online store.

What are some association member engagement strategies you can use?

Top Association Member Engagement Strategies

Since every association is different, it’s difficult to definitively say exactly which association member engagement strategy you should follow. Depending on your ultimate goal and members’ preferences, your member engagement strategy will be built around your specific KPIs and data metrics.

However, there are a couple of common strategic moves that can help to strengthen any member engagement strategy.

1. Send out member engagement surveys.

Always establish a direct line between you and your members. This way, you have a reliable communication channel and platform to gauge how your members are feeling.

Whether it’s delivered through a social media platform, mobile events app, or email marketing tool, regularly send surveys and polls to your members. This way, you can gain a more direct understanding of your members’ needs and preferences.

When is the best time to send out surveys and polls? Consider these approaches:

  • After events. This is when the event is most prominent in your members’ eyes, so it’s a great time to get feedback on how your event went and what can be improved.
  • With membership renewal reminders. As members are deciding whether or not to renew, it makes sense to also get some feedback from them. If members decide to leave the association, ask them to reveal why!
  • At the end of the year. When the holidays begin to wrap up, this is a great time to get members to reflect on the year and what your association has offered them.

2. Segment your members by interests.

To better engage your members, segment them based on their interests. This way, you gain a better understanding of which members respond best to different member engagement tactics.
For example, you can start customizing content to resonate with certain segments of your members. Younger members may be more receptive to one type of message, while another version appeals to older members.

3. Improve your communication strategies.

People get bombarded with emails and messages every day, so don’t bog down their inboxes with unnecessary content. As you’re developing your member engagement strategies, consider ways that you can improve your communication strategies.

For starters, consider letting members choose their preferred mode of communication and deliver messages in a way that they’re most likely to respond to. To do so, you can take a proactive approach by asking members for their preferences. Alternatively, you can also explore previous engagement data to determine which channels a particular member responds best to.

For example, one group of members might indicate that they like to be contacted through direct mail, while others tend to favor digital channels. When you communicate with each individual in the way they prefer, they’re more likely to respond positively.
Additionally, segment your members and tailor each message based on their particular preferences and engagement histories. This can be done by customizing existing templates within your AMS platform to more personally address each recipient.

4. Host engaging events.

One of the most appealing factors of joining an association is the events. In-person meetings provide significant value, as they reinforce to members that they’re a part of a real community. There’s little loyalty or emotion involved when all of the other members you “meet” are just photos on a screen.
In addition to serving as a strategy for boosting member engagement, events offer learning and networking opportunities that might not be found elsewhere. Remember that what your association offers should outweigh the costs of the membership dues, so actively consider ways to make your event stand out.

5. Make new members feel welcome, and existing members feel valued.

Your member engagement strategy should start on day one. As soon as a member joins your association, focus on engaging with them. Send a welcome packet containing relevant association information, as well as instructions to access the online portal and information on any upcoming events. It’s important to immediately communicate the value of engaging with your robust member community.

However, don’t forget about those who have stayed loyal to you over the years. Tenured members should still feel valued, as their retained contribution and engagement are still vital to your association. Maintain positive member engagement by continuously communicating your appreciation for their membership.

6. Offer many ways to engage.

Avoid focusing on only one method of member engagement. While it’s wise to have a goal for your association to work toward, don’t let other engagement opportunities fall to the wayside. We’ll be discussing both digital and in-person member engagement strategies.

Here are some digital member engagement opportunities:

  • Online member portal. Provide a space for members to connect with others in their community.
  • Community message board. Members can actively engage with each other through forums, collaborate on files, and comment on each other’s ideas.
  • Learning management system. With an effective LMS, you can offer online courses and classes for members to further their education and gain certifications.

However, don’t forget about the value of face-to-face engagements. Consider these in-person member engagement opportunities: 

  • Events. Host conferences, presentations, and more to engage your members in-person. This way, they can actively interact with each other throughout the event.
  • Learning opportunities. Offer in-person classes and learning events for members to further their education.

Meetings. Oftentimes, your association will have committees and subsections. Encourage them to meet in person on a daily basis so that they can accomplish objectives in an efficient manner.

7. Make it easier with an association management system

Invest in an association management system to help you manage your member engagement strategies.

To compete with other organizations vying for your members’ time, money, and attention, relying on software solutions has become more of a necessity than a suggestion. This is especially true as your association continues to grow. 

After all, as more members flock to your association, you want to ensure that each individual continues to get the same level of attention and keep closely engaging and participating with your organization. And how can you effectively engage your members when you and your staff are bogged down by daily internal processes like manually sending dues reminder emails?
By investing in the right association management software solution, you can automate the upkeep of daily tasks, streamline communications, and closely monitor and analyze your various engagement activities.

Consider Fonteva’s all-in-one membership management platform and member engagement solution.

Fonteva: Our Member Engagement Software Solution

If you’re on the hunt for an effective and reliable association management solution, then look no further. Fonteva has worked with associations for over a decade, and through our powerful Salesforce-native association software, we strive to reduce the burden of association management and member engagement. 

With more powerful and comprehensive tools than a simple association management system, Fonteva provides an all-in-one association management platform that gives you and your team access to:

  • Online member profiles. Engage your constituents online by providing a public member directory. This gives members a chance to get to know each other and even interact on an online message board. Members can also edit their own profiles and update any inaccuracies.
  • An intuitive member database. An intuitive CRM system makes it easy to personalize member communication. Fonteva is also 100% native to Salesforce, which means that your member profiles will be fully fleshed out and regularly updated with engagement metrics from event attendance, payment preference, and more!
  • Event planning and management software. Fonteva’s association management platform includes event management tools, so there is no need to look for a third-party solution. You can easily host an event microsite, create a mobile event app, and manage all of your key event personnel on one streamlined platform!
  • Continuing education opportunities. People join associations to stay up-to-date on best practices and innovations in their field. With Fonteva, you can offer certifications, learning events, online courses, and more.

Fonteva’s comprehensive association management platform also helps your association to visualize past data to improve your member engagement and retention strategies for the future. With flexible reporting tools, you can easily see which communications, events, and other forms of outreach are working and which need to be tweaked.


Actively engaging your members is an ongoing journey, but certain strategies can simplify the process. For example, consider your association’s overarching goals and areas where your members are already actively engaging. Additionally, by investing in reliable association management software, you can easily compile reports to understand these goals and form measurable KPIs to take appropriate action.

Eager to learn more about strategies and tools that you can use to elevate your association and engage your members? Check out these additional resources:

Improve your member engagement strategy with Fonteva's software.
As the world's cloud-based CRM software, Salesforce can be an incredible tool for associations. Explore these strategies to make the most of Salesforce.

Using Salesforce for Associations | 5 Strategies for Success

With more than 150,000 businesses leveraging its software and over 3,000 apps built using its interface, Salesforce is likely the world’s frontrunner in cloud-based customer relationship management, application development, and enterprise software. 

However, Salesforce isn’t just a tool for businesses. The power and scalability of Salesforce have made it one of the most intuitive platforms for creating and powering association management software

As an association professional, you’ve no doubt heard of Salesforce and its power to streamline the many operations of running an association. But when you’re dealing with a platform that is capable of so much, it can be difficult to wrap your head around how to begin using Salesforce and its many apps for the benefit of your association. 

To help you navigate Salesforce and the marketplace of tools that would be useful to associations, we’ve prepared these essential best practices and strategies for making the most of the world’s leading CRM:

With this information, you should be far better prepared to join the Salesforce community, confidently navigate your current Salesforce association tools, or even prepare for an upgrade.

Request a demo of one of the top Salesforce AMS solutions on the market: Fonteva.
Explore the fundamentals of Salesforce, its uses, and how it can benefit your association.

The Basics: What is Salesforce?

Before we dive into critical strategies for using Salesforce, it’s essential to understand what Salesforce is, how it works, and what to look out for in regards to strengthening your association’s toolkit. Let’s begin with a brief overview of the Salesforce platform and its key benefits.

What is Salesforce used for?

Salesforce is the world’s leading cloud-based CRM software provider. It allows users to leverage its platform to manage their data, connect with their constituents, and enhance the internal operations of their organizations. 

However, for association professionals not well-acquainted with the technical side of their membership’s operations, this definition might sound a bit confusing. In simple terms, you can think of Salesforce as the engine through which different organizations build out their management systems. 
Salesforce itself is not an association management software (AMS)—it’s the foundation upon which association experts have created association management platforms, like Fonteva.

How can Salesforce benefit your association?

There’s a reason that Salesforce is considered the industry standard for CRM and native-built association platforms. 

Other popular AMS software, such as iMIS, can become unwieldy for your association in that these legacy systems require users to have extensive coding and backend experience to effectively perform customizations. Additionally, because this AMS software uses separate systems for its various tools, it can be difficult to move data between your entire AMS suite.

On the other hand, consider how an effective Salesforce platform can help to streamline operations for your association:

From customization to the Salesforce AppExchange, AMS systems built on Salesforce boast an array of effective features.
  • High levels of customization. It’s no wonder why nonprofits, businesses, and associations alike can all leverage the Salesforce platform to the benefit of their specific organizations. Salesforce offers a robust foundation of CRM tools, such as constituent data reporting and constituent portals, on top of which software creators can create custom management systems for your organization.
  • Ease of use. While it can take a moment to get the hang of any new AMS system, platforms such as Salesforce offer a safety net for association professionals who aren’t quite tech-savvy enough to exclusively customize their AMS using code. With drag-and-drop interfaces and dashboards, it’s never been easier to navigate an AMS system than those built on Salesforce.
  • Member community capabilities. With powerful member portals, a Salesforce AMS enables you to host vibrant member communities. These online communities allow members to initiate conversations with one another, connect and explore your resources, and engage more closely with your organization.
  • The AppExchange ecosystem. The Salesforce AppExchange is a robust library of the various software systems built on Salesforce. With a Salesforce-native AMS, you have access to the entire collection of 2,700+ apps that can be easily accessed, purchased, and directly integrated with your current association management tools. Are you searching for association event management software? With the AppExchange, you can save time and money on implementation and messy data imports by integrating your new Salesforce event management app directly into your suite of AMS tools.
Consider these essential membership management strategies to use your Salesforce AMS to the fullest capacity.

Using Salesforce: 5 Membership Management Strategies

Salesforce association management software comes stocked with intuitive, powerful tools and capabilities to take your association to the next level. However, its benefits will be limited if you don’t understand how to effectively use the software that’s now at your fingertips. 

To make the most of your Salesforce-built AMS, consider these membership management strategies that take advantage of the platform’s best features:

These membership management best practices will enable you to make the most of your Salesforce AMS.

1. Personalize and Automate Member Communications

Communication is the building block of any effective member engagement strategy, and Salesforce’s comprehensive communication features hold the key to enhancing your member communications. 

Rather than sending out general email blasts until your members slowly lose interest in your messages, incorporate Salesforce’s branded email templates into your messaging. This allows you to create unique, custom messages that can be automatically sent out to an entire list of members, with their names and personal details filling in the gaps. 

These emails are branded to your association and can be scheduled to send at any time. This means that you can automatically reach out to members with important information about their dues, upcoming events, and other important communications at precisely the right time. 

This automation can also be used beyond just emails. Certificates, event tickets, and receipts can all be automated to maximize your member communications.

2. Explore the AppExchange

The Salesforce AppExchange is one of the most valuable resources afforded to you by using a Salesforce-native AMS. With the AppExchange, your association isn’t forced to purchase a pre-built package of tools that aren’t the right fit for your association’s current needs. 

Instead, your suite of association management tools is scalable to your association’s goals and growth. For example, while you may not have the bandwidth at the moment to host very many in-person or virtual association events, you may find yourself on the hunt for a dedicated association event management toolkit in just a few years.

With the AppExchange, you can build out your own custom toolkit of membership software, from powerful e-commerce software to seamless membership platforms.

3. Create Thriving Member Communities

With a Salesforce AMS and membership platform, you can create a rich online resource for members to communicate, explore, and access important resources. Leverage these tools to improve the online member experience:

  • Self-service portal. A dedicated member portal gives online users access to guides, downloadable resources, videos, and other membership content that helps them to shape their own membership experience.
  • Group creation and collaboration. Enable members to form groups within your membership platform. From forming casual, special-interest chatrooms to more formal member committees, your members will be able to take a more active role in your association and how they engage with it.
  • Member directories. Membership directories can be used both to promote your association to the public and to offer a way for members to take charge of their own networking opportunities.

Be on the lookout for an AMS that takes full advantage of Salesforce’s community-building features. From empowering members to drive their own engagements to freeing up time for your association team, this membership management strategy can create significant gains for any association.

4. Look Out for Upgrades

Make sure that your Salesforce AMS solution abides by Salesforce’s quarterly update schedule. With association technology constantly evolving, it’s important to be able to rely on an AMS system that is frequently improving to keep up with advances in the membership sector. 

With Salesforce, your AMS should be able to install critical software upgrades with just the click of a button. 

Best of all, Salesforce operates on a true cloud system, meaning that an AMS system fully built on Salesforce should be able to perform upgrades on any device, at any time.

5. Leverage the Flexibility of Salesforce

One of Salesforce’s most important, popular features is its customization. In particular, be sure to make the most of these customizable features: 

  • Custom dashboards. Improve your team’s view of member data and allow each department to effectively manage its own workflow with configurable dashboards. 
  • Custom reports. Track specific key performance indicators, schedule reportage, and better manage your association’s unique data with custom reports.
  • Custom messaging. From branded email templates to customizable surveys, be mindful to personalize your messaging with members for maximum engagement. 

Through coding or drag-and-drop interfaces, the right AMS system should allow you to easily control and configure your membership management operations within its suite of tools.

Explore Fonteva AMS, the most effective association management software built on Salesforce.

If your association is in search of an AMS solution that takes full advantage of the tools and capabilities of the Salesforce platform, then look no further. 

Fonteva AMS is 100% native to Salesforce, meaning that our suite of association, event, and membership management tools are built from the ground up using the Salesforce engine. 

With perfect integration capabilities between other applications in the Salesforce AppExchange, Fonteva is the best solution for association leaders who are searching for the true Salesforce experience.

To learn more about Fonteva’s association and membership management software and how we can optimize your association’s operations, explore our Membership page.

Take a tour of our association management and membership to find out how our Salesforce system can impact your association.

From simplifying internal operations to enhancing the membership experience, the right Salesforce AMS solution can completely transform how your association manages itself and its members. With these strategies and with Salesforce-powered software, we hope that your association can begin to take steps towards reaching its fullest engagement and management potential.

Want to learn more about association management and engagement strategies? Check out these resources:

Additional Resources

Request a demo of Fonteva's software to begin using Salesforce to its fullest potential.
Are your e-learning courses underperforming? Here are four ways to elevate your courses to increase both member interest and engagement in the new year.

4 Ways to Elevate Your Next Association E-Learning Course

It’s your job to provide worthwhile networking and professional development opportunities that keep members engaged year after year. High engagement means increased revenue and membership… low engagement for multiple years in a row could mean your association is struggling in numerous ways.

However, providing those opportunities can be expensive. The last thing you want to do is invest in custom-creating a new e-learning course only to have few members (if any) purchase it. Just like a forgotten instrument, treadmill, or book gathering dust in the corner of your closet, courses that members don’t complete provide little value for your organization.

Whether lack of personalization, relevance, or even accessibility, there are several reasons why you might be seeing low engagement with your e-learning courses.

If you’re investing in custom e-learning course development, these courses need to be top-tier and worth the investment. Here are four tips to elevate your next e-learning project and increase engagement all at once.

Create content that helps members do their jobs better.

What’s the story behind your industry? Who was the Benjamin Franklin, Milton Hershey, or other innovator who made the initial discovery that led to the roles your members serve in today?

We’d guess that there’s a storied history that led to what your industry looks like today. It can be tempting to include tidbits of that story throughout your courses (or, take a deep dive into it at the start of each course). Don’t do this! Remember—what’s interesting isn’t always helpful.

Focus on creating courses that will actively help members be more effective in their day-to-day roles. To do so:

  • Incorporate tips that are specific to your members’ experiences. Take OSHA compliance, for example. Workplace safety guidelines can differ drastically depending on if your members work in offices or construction sites. Adjust your compliance training to align with what your members actually experience in their roles, rather than providing generic best practices.
  • Keep courses updated. Consider the past two years. Chances are, a lot has changed across your industry. From working from home to new office safety procedures, we’d guess that life looks substantially different for your members. That’s how quickly parts of your courses can become outdated! Regularly update your courses to provide valuable information for members as the world changes.
  • Remove “fluff.” This is where your history lesson falls. Take a critical look at each line of information you include in the course. Ask yourself how this will directly help learners do their jobs better. If you can’t think of a direct action that the information will improve, cut it!

Creating useful content is by far the most important tip to elevate your e-learning courses. You can overcome most obstacles with slight updates to your courses—but if the content inherently is not helpful to members, you’re behind the starting line.

Prioritize accessibility for all learners.

Have you ever watched a movie in which a door gets stuck, and the main character jiggles the handle incessantly until the handle inevitably falls off? Then, a comedic montage ensues as the character waits for someone to set them free.

The character wasn’t able to open the door. This wasn’t because they didn’t know how to use a door—but that when the handle fell off, they no longer had access to the tools to use the door. If you create an e-learning course that’s not accessible, you’re replicating that experience: you’re providing educational materials with no “door handle” for learners to access them.

There are a few key tenets to keep in mind when it comes to accessibility in e-learning:

  • Accessible Graphic Design: Select a design theme with sufficient color contrast, which is helpful for learners with visual impairments. Don’t use light gray text over a white background, for example, as it may be challenging to read the text.
  • Descriptions of Visuals: Use alternative text for all images, illustrations, videos, and animations. This text alternative should describe the visual content, helping users who can’t discern the image to better understand it. Additionally, include closed captions for all audio elements so individuals who have hearing impairments can read the content.
  • Navigation: Design your course so that it can be navigated using a keyboard. This will help individuals with mobility impairments, as they’ll be able to press the “Tab” key to go from page to page and press the “Enter” key to activate any buttons. If your course can be navigated with a keyboard, individuals using assistive technology (such as an eye tracker) will also be able to maneuver through the content as well.

All learners, including those with visual and hearing impairments, deserve to have a positive experience with your course. Accessibility shouldn’t be an afterthought. Instead, make it a priority from the start.

Consider ways that members can personalize their learning experiences.

Let’s say you’re going shopping for a new suit. When you arrive at the store, the fitting attendant presents you with only one option—a plain black, boxy suit. For others, that might be the perfect fit… but it’s not your style. You soon discover that it’s the only suit that the store offers. Would you stay there? No!

The same idea applies to your e-learning courses. While your association is a collective, it’s full of individual members. Each member will have slightly different interests, learning needs and styles, and goals. These individuals will see your courses as significantly more valuable when they’re personalized to their experiences.

There are a number of ways to “personalize” e-learning courses to make them more relevant and valuable on an individual level.

For example, you could create supplementary microlearning courses that expand upon topics that are skimmed over in a larger course. If learners take the larger course and are curious, they can check out your micro-course offerings for more information on specific topics.

You could also build out “Choose Your Own Adventure” branching scenarios. Essentially, you’d build the course like a tree, and learners would click to navigate down “branches” and learn more about topics that interest them. The point is, you need to create a customized experience that reels your learners in until they’ve finished the course.

Remember that content should be both educational and engaging.

Step into one of your learner’s shoes for a minute. Are you a busy healthcare professional, currently tackling your normal duties with the unhelpful addition of a global pandemic? Or, are you a marketing professional who normally would work in an office setting… but now your office is in your home, and you’re working double the time to make up for lost sales in the past year?

The idea here is that, regardless of what role your members serve in, one thing remains true—they’re busy. Very, very busy. That brings us to a hard truth: if a training course isn’t explicitly required (such as for a certification), your members may not want to purchase it. They just don’t have the time to make the purchase worthwhile!

It’s up to you to make a compelling argument for investing in ongoing professional development courses. Do that by making courses that are both educational and engaging.

Keep the following tips in mind to ramp up the interest in your e-learning courses:

  • Use scenario-based learning to immerse members in the course. Let’s say you’re discussing video conferencing best practices. Rather than listing out the tips, have members participate in a simulated Zoom meeting. They’ll be able to practice how to use the mute button (an essential skill) and be immersed in the course.
  • Empower members to practice key skills with gamification. You can create a multi-level e-learning game through which members can learn a specific skill and practice it, while having fun. Each level could cover a different skill or even get more challenging as the learner progresses through the game.
  • Consider innovative, interactive methods to display information. What’s more likely to help you remember the steps in a process: reading them on a page or dragging-and-dropping them to sort them in the correct order? The second one. Consider how you can make each part of your course interactive to keep learners engaged.

With these tips, courses won’t just be helpful to have, but enjoyable as well. It’s easier to make time for things you enjoy doing!

When it comes down to it, elevating your association’s e-learning courses simply means making them as useful as possible for members. When they see value in the courses, they’ll keep purchasing them and you’ll see engagement rise.

These tips are a great starting point. Good luck!

If your association conducts an awards program, then it is essential for you to know the fundamentals of creating an effective and engaging program website.

Designing the Optimal Association Awards Program Website

What Roles Do an Association Website and AMS Play for Awards?

An association’s AMS is a critical point of record and the association website is an essential platform for marketing the activities within the association. Having an effective awards program requires both a software portal for application submission, as well as a public-facing website for promotion.

Oftentimes the association’s website will dedicate one page to promote the awards, as a homepage, and then the awards website will be on a separate platform. Most associations view their main website as an entry point for the awards program. The awards management software will then use a public-facing website to detail the association’s submission process, categories and deadlines.

When it comes to the AMS, the awards program creates a lot of useful data. If the AMS and awards website are not speaking to one another there is a tremendous amount of valuable membership information that remains siloed. In addition, an AMS can enable judges and applicants to seamlessly log in using their same AMS credentials, otherwise known as the single sign-on.

Designing the Optimal Awards Program Website

There are two schools of thought when it comes to the design and aesthetics of an awards program website:

  1. Keep it really simple and focus on the reliability of the platform. It just needs to work.
  2. Branding and custom design is essential.

One is not better than the other, but it is important to decide where your priorities are because that will influence how you approach optimizing your website and content. There is also a significant difference between having a website dedicated to a single awards program versus having a website that encompasses many programs at once. 

In the following article we will cover everything from a basic site to advanced custom site design to help you identify the best possible approach for your own organization.

The “Keep it Simple” Approach

If your organization’s priority is simplicity and functionality, then a basic design is the approach you will wish to take. Below is an example of the American Geophysical Union’s Fellows program landing page. They are utilizing OpenWater’s default look and feel that comes with a standard navigation banner. You can also upload a banner of your choice.

Take a look at this simple, function awards program design from Union Fellows.

The landing page content is dedicated to the Union Fellows program with a call to action in the navigation bar to “Nominate a fellow”. You may also wish to have additional navigation bar items that include FAQs, policies, rules, or contact information for administrators.

The benefit of a simple design like the above keeps the applicant focused on just completing the work required and reduces any clutter or distraction. It also reduces the burden of implementation by requiring a banner and some content. No other design items are required.

About half of all OpenWater customers go with this default look and feel.

The “Match Look and Feel” Approach

The next most common approach is to do what is known as a Match Look and Feel. This means that your awards program submission form and website match your own website. There is no differentiation between your awards website and your regular website.

This approach is best if you want a consistent brand between your organization and the submission process. This makes the most sense for something like a grant or scholarship application. It is also a good choice for those who run multiple grants and scholarships on a single site. Let’s take a look at the Institute of Engineering and Technology’s page below.

The Institute of Engineering and Technology takes a clean, consistent branding approach to their awards program website.

They do a great job listing some basic instructions followed by a call to action. Additionally, they provide a table of programs along with their availability and Apply Now links.

What you are looking at is still the OpenWater platform, but the header and footer match that of the IET website to ensure consistent branding between both platforms.

Advanced Custom Design and Branding

In some cases, the awards program itself is the brand, not the organization. Notable examples of this are the Grammys, Oscars, and Emmy Awards. And if you want to build a brand around your awards program, then you should have a dedicated website with its own brand.

The MSL of the Year Awards run by the Medical Science Liaison Society is a relatively new awards program, but they have done a fantastic job creating a website showcasing the program.

MSL of the Year starts off with a full page, designed banner with a large call to action to “Submit a Nomination.”

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

The next section conveys important information about the awards program, such as dates as well as categories.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

The section below categories is a video highlighting the MSL of the Year awards and previous winners and finalists.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

Highlighting the judges and their expertise is a great way to further the brand.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

As you get lower down the page, you provide additional information on eligibility and FAQs.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

A timeline of events keeps both applicants and judges informed on important dates of the awards program.

Take a look at the elaborate and sophisticated awards program web design from the Medical Science Liaison Society.

Other great examples of custom design websites are AdAge’s A-List & Creativity Awards and Sandow Media’s Awards.

You may also draw inspiration from AdAge's bright, clean, and orderly awards program website design.
Check out Sando Media's impressive HiP awards program website design.

We hope sharing these different approaches inspires your team to evaluate your awards program branding and decide what is best for you. Go here to learn more about OpenWater awards management software

Other Awards Website Best Practices

1. Include a Winners Gallery

Having historical data of your awards in a gallery is a nice thing for visitors to see, not just to look at, but also to get a better feel for your program. (Take a look at the website for The Oscars as an example.) Providing an archive of your awards adds to your legitimacy and prestige; by adding a gallery of winners, you are enticing entrants with the prize itself.

2. Review & Update Your Information

Keep information on the site updated regularly so visitors will be able to easily find what they need. Make sure all of the submission information is clear and concise. Review your website with the eyes of a newcomer and see if there’s anything you could add to help entrants. (Remember: better instructions means better submissions.)

Awards Call for Entry Best Practice

The call for entry (CFE) page on your awards website is nothing without the right elements in your CFE itself! When you’re carefully crafting this, be sure to include these 9 vital elements:

1. About the Awards – Your CFE is meant to excite people! By including information about your program’s history and tenure, you can generate interest and establish legitimacy too.

2. Categories – Listing out your categories will let interested entrants know whether or not their submission would be a fit for your program.

3. Judging Criteria – Showing how entries will be judged will help entrants structure their submissions and heighten the qualities of the entries as well.

4. Entry Criteria – Be sure to tell entrants all of the information they’ll need to submit upon entering! This will help them prepare and evaluate eligibility requirements.

5. Judges – Judges are typically industry experts, meaning that they can attract potential entrants too. Be sure to show off your judges for additional publicity.

6. Relevant Dates – Let entrants know when your CFE begins and ends so they can prepare their submission in time.

7. Fees – You don’t want entrants to get to the end of your program and then be surprised (often in a negative way) by the necessary fees. Detail different costs (like general entry fees, early-bird discounts, and late fees) explicitly and your entrants will thank you.

8. How to Submit – Include a link to the application to simplify the submission process for those who are interested. This can increase your number of entrants and create a hassle-free process for everyone involved.

9. Contact Information – Contact information makes it simple for those who have questions or want additional information to get it quickly and efficiently.

How OpenWater and Fonteva Work Together

Trade Associations and Membership Societies that use Fonteva as their AMS can integrate with OpenWater for single sign on, membership specific pricing and to exchange data with the AMS to enable seamless reporting on nominations for awards, submissions, judging and much more. Click here to learn more about OpenWater’s integration with Fonteva.

This is the feature image for this article about top membership management software and reviews.

Top Membership Management Software Options & Reviews

As your association grows, your requirements for your membership software grow, too — so much so that you’ve outgrown your current membership management solution!

After congratulating your members on another successful year, it’s time to get to work with your association leadership team and find your next membership management system. Your task is to find the best association management software that can handle your organization’s specific needs and scale with you as you continue to grow.

There’s no shortage of systems to choose from, and parsing through all your available options can quickly become overwhelming. In this guide, we’ll review membership management software basics and describe top options to give you a clear picture of how to proceed. We’ll cover these topics:

As you work through this post, keep in mind that the perfect membership management system looks different for every unique association. Features your organization can’t do without may not even cross the minds of another association’s executive team.

Ultimately, your members are the heart of your association, so keeping your member community and their needs at the forefront as you decide which management solution is right for your organization is essential. With that, let’s jump in!

This section will describe the basic features and purpose of membership management software.

What is Membership Management Software?

Membership management software is a specialized customer relationship management (CRM) system that association leaders use to stay on top of the administration of their association’s membership program.

These software systems store crucial information about association members, such as member profiles, continuing education history, and preferred communication methods.

In addition to storing this essential data, association management software enables association leaders to complete various administrative tasks meant to streamline management processes, improve communication with members, and boost member engagement.

For example, with the member information you gather through your software system, you can create courses, events, and other programs based on your audience’s preferences. This system can also keep track of members’ continuing education credits and event registrations, boosting personal and professional development. Additionally, communication features allow leaders to automate association-wide updates for a simplified notification process.

If your organization has yet to implement a full-fledged membership management system, you’ll be amazed at the opportunities it can reveal. You can ditch the messy spreadsheets and clunky communications systems you may have used in the past for an all-in-one solution that simplifies your management duties for maximum engagement success.

These are the seven essentials for your membership management software system.

7 Essentials for your Membership Management System

No matter what kind of membership program you operate, there are several essential features you should look for in new membership management software. Here are the top seven features to look for in a membership management system:

Robust member profiles are important features of membership management software options.

1. Robust member profiles

While all membership software should store necessary information such as contact details, more sophisticated solutions will automatically populate more specific information from other features you integrate into your membership CRM, such as:

  • Event attendance: When your members attend an event, your membership CRM should record the type of ticket they bought as well as any add-ons they opted into.
  • Connections: Your membership CRM should reflect relationships between members, like membership in the same chapter or employment at the same workplace.
  • Membership level: Your CRM should apply badges, special permissions, or discounts based on membership level when members make online purchases.

The best membership software will also allow members to modify their profiles. Encouraging members to keep their profiles up to date doesn’t just ensure that your data is current — it also fosters engagement in the greater member community. Users can explore the robust member directory to identify and connect with members for personal or professional networking opportunities.

For example, Fonteva’s member profile platform allows members to input basic information such as job titles and contact information, link their Twitter profiles to connect with other members on social media, and keep track of their subscriptions:

This is an example of the member profile page offered by Fonteva's membership management software.
Your membership management software should be able to handle automated membership renewals.

2. Automatic member renewals

One of the most significant benefits members receive from being in an association is joining a strong network of like-minded professionals. These connections are symbiotic and can help further each others’ careers through career advancement opportunities or sharing advice.

To maintain the strength of these networks as a member benefit, member retention is paramount. Membership software that can automate the renewal process will drastically increase your members’ chances of renewing by simplifying the process of renewal for both members and the staff tasked with notifying them.

Look for membership software that can identify individuals whose membership is up for renewal, then send them automated renewal reminders. These reminders should be:

  • Timely, giving your members plenty of time to pay their dues before their membership expires.
  • Recurring, to keep renewal on your members’ minds without annoying them.
  • Personalized, with your members’ name and a link directly to a renewal form.

Membership software should also send automatic welcome messages to new members and expiration notices for members who don’t renew in time.

Here’s the process of how these updates boost renewals:

  1. Your organization sends a reminder email to a member who’s up for renewal or a lapsed member with information on the benefits of staying involved. Depending on your organization, these benefits may include receiving training through an educational course or getting involved in your membership mentor program.
  2. You also describe exciting upcoming events, such as a virtual networking night or a new speaker series.
  3. Your member receives the message, personally addressed to them, and it gives them a reason to maintain their membership. They see how staying involved will benefit them personally and professionally.

On the other hand, members that don’t receive any reminders will forget about your membership program (or at the very least, take longer to rejoin).

If you want to know more ways to make your membership renewal letters more enticing, check out this guide full of tips and examples. For example, it’s good practice to use a personal greeting and friendly tone and incentivize early renewals with discounts or other perks.

Event management is an important aspect of your membership management software.

3. Event management

You might not think that event management is essential for membership software, but think again! The benefits of integrating your member database and your event planning software are practically endless. Your event planning team will be able to:

  • Eliminate manual data transfer from a third-party platform, saving time and promoting accuracy.
  • Avoid implementation and transaction costs from a second software solution.
  • Upsell memberships at registration, then apply member benefits to the same purchase.
  • Empower local chapters to plan events.

And those are just the benefits to your planning team. Think about how helpful integrated event features are for your members:

Members get automatic discounts, priority registration, and special permissions when they register, and their attendance records are automatically stored in their member profiles. They can check the member directory for others who registered for the same event to strike up a conversation about what they learned or experienced.

Not all association management software solutions offer these features! Make sure you research alternatives to popular solutions before committing.

For example, check out what Fonteva’s integrated event management platform looks like:

This is Fonteva's event builder, a critical feature in this membership management software option.

As you can see, Fonteva’s membership management software allows event organizers to manage ticketing, speakers, sponsors, and basic event information all within your membership CRM. This saves your team time and ensures everyone’s on the same page through every step of the planning process.

Your membership management software platform should also handle payment processing.

4. Payment processing

eCommerce and payment processing solutions are not only necessary to manage member dues, but they’re also crucial for driving non-dues revenue for your organization. These revenue streams, such as event tickets or online courses, are likely an important funding source for your association.

Once you find the best payment processor for your association, you need to ensure that your membership CRM will integrate seamlessly with it, tracking and managing:

  • Membership purchases.
  • Member dues, including recurring payments.
  • Registration and ticket purchases.
  • Refunds and deferred invoices.
  • Prices for online purchases.

Your membership software solution should be able to produce reports based on this data, providing your administrative team with a birds-eye view of your accounting. Top options also provide a seamless experience for your members, allowing them to easily and quickly submit online payments.

You'll want to choose a membership management software system that offers analytics and reporting features.

5. Analytics and reporting

Speaking of reports, there’s nothing more valuable to an association’s long-term goals than comprehensive analytics. There’s no way to know how to move forward if you don’t know what’s worked well — and what hasn’t — in the past.

The best membership CRM will make it easy to create custom reports for different departments, special committees, and projects with:

  • Reporting on standard as well as custom fields.
  • Simple customization interfaces (no coding required).
  • Easy export to common file types.

When every team member can customize their own reports while drawing from the same central, up-to-date database, every aspect of your strategy will benefit. Keeping track of everything from fundraising metrics to non-dues revenue and more helps your organization grow by allowing you to set data-driven goals that move the needle. Plus, you won’t have to learn how to use complicated reporting software that’s separate from your central system.

Self-service member portals are another important feature of membership management software.

6. Online self-service member portals

When you choose an association management system, you know that the solution’s focus has to be on your members. That’s why one of the most crucial features of your membership management solution is the option to offer online self-service member portals. 

Beyond the member profiles we mentioned before, you need to be able to empower your members to take charge of their engagement with options such as:

  • Full control over their membership tiers and status.
  • Easy online event registration and check-in.
  • Online networking and communication outlets.
  • Continuing education, certification, and accreditation options.

Members will want to continue or expand their engagement with your association when you offer them a smart membership CRM that improves their interactions with your organization and helps them further their careers. 

You'll want to choose a membership management software that offers full database customization.

7. Full database customization

You know that to use your database to the best of your abilities, it has to work for your organization. Your members rely on your association’s ability to meet their needs, so you need a software solution that fits yours!

When looking for membership software, make sure you choose a system that allows you to customize your database. Depending on your association, this could look like:

  • Customizable member fields, so you get all the information you need and none you don’t.
  • Member segmentation options, so you can analyze your members and conduct targeted communication efforts.
  • Customizable views, so your staffers can always see the most relevant information for their daily tasks.

Your organization will continue to grow and change, so don’t settle for a membership management system that can’t grow and change with you.

Based on these necessary features, few software options offer these requirements, but there’s one choice that stands out on top. Read on for an overview of our top software recommendation.

Learn more about membership management software with our free checklist.
Fonteva is our top membership management software recommendation.

All-In-One Membership Management Software: Fonteva

Overview of this Membership Management System

Fonteva Membership is a true-cloud association membership software native to Salesforce, the world’s foremost CRM system. Fonteva has over a decade of experience working with associations, professional societies, association management companies, and local governments. These organizations all use Fonteva to enhance management and engagement strategies with a cloud-based, scalable platform.

With Fonteva, organization leaders can complete these necessary functions with ease:

  • Empower members with easy access to the member directory, event sign-ups, and continuing education opportunities.
  • Manage ticketing, speakers, sponsors, and basic event information all within their membership CRM.
  • Integrate payment processing and automatic discounts for members who shop using their member profiles.
  • Access automatically-generated reports based on any number of metrics.
  • Give members access to a self-service member portal.
  • Create customized databases to fit specific needs.

With Fonteva Membership, organizations also receive implementation and data migration support and ongoing training on best practices for using the software. Transitioning member data to a new system can be a major undertaking, but with Fonteva, associations have a helping hand throughout the entire process. We’re with you every step of the way.

Why Fonteva Membership Stands Out

One of Fonteva Membership’s greatest assets that sets it apart from other options is that it’s built on top of Salesforce. Salesforce is the world’s leading CRM provider for a reason — it offers a highly scalable and customizable platform and employs an army of developers and partners to support customers and continuously devise new and innovative products.

With Fonteva, organizations receive updates, code-free customization, and 24/7 customer support from Salesforce. With the backing of Salesforce, users also rest assured that their membership system is protected with high-level security measures.

Fonteva has many other advantages — for one, it’s an easy-to-use system that doesn’t require an in-house IT department to get up and running. Additionally, since Fonteva is cloud-based, organizational leaders can access the system from any location, with any device.

Here’s a practical example of what Fonteva can do for associations. Check out this customized database, built for an event:

This is an example of how you can conduct event management through your membership management software.

A comprehensive dashboard provides a high-level overview of the most important reports and trends related to the event, ensuring organizers can carry out activities effectively and analyze data once the event concludes.

Fonteva offers the flexibility and extensive, yet user-friendly features to simplify management practices, save association leaders time, and strengthen communities through a personalized member experience.

Here are other options for membership management software.

Other Top Membership Management Solutions

Your choice in membership management software is a critical decision, so it’s essential to not rush into any solution too quickly. In addition to Fonteva, there are several other software options that may also be equipped to meet your organization’s needs.

Protech is another great option for membership management software.

Protech: Overview

Leveraging Microsoft’s intuitive Dynamics 365 software, Protech provides a rich membership management solution that can help streamline your association’s membership management processes from event planning to member engagement.

The Protech platform is another powerful option for membership management software.

Take a look at a few of the many tools available with Protech’s powerful AMS, such as:

  • Access to robust, enterprise-level e-commerce features, streamlining the online shopping and event registration process for both members and staff.
  • Seamless integration with AppSource tools, Microsoft Office and Business applications, and various third-party platforms.
  • Automated, personalized marketing and communication features, allowing associations to both simplify their outreach and maximize engagement across multiple channels.

Additionally, Protech provides event software, professional development tools, and a variety of other built-in or integrated features to help complete your association’s membership management toolkit.

Regpack is another option for member management software.

Regpack: Overview

Regpack combines association management and membership renewals into an all-in-one solution. It offers flexible and integrated payment processes, automated communications, and reporting systems.

Regpack is an option for membership management software.

In addition to expected features such as event registration, member databases and portals, and automated dues, organizations can use Regpack to:

  • Embed member application processes into their websites.
  • Offer donation opportunities through their websites.
  • Save money through optimized registration processes.

Regpack doesn’t just offer membership software — it also has systems for camps, schools and other educational programs, travel groups, and more. Therefore, a wide range of organizations turn to Regpack for management assistance.

MemberClicks is another option for membership management software.

MemberClicks: Overview

MemberClicks works with associations, chambers, universities, and association management companies to provide comprehensive software solutions that increase engagement and generate revenue.

MemberClicks is another option for membership management software.

Beyond just a membership management system, the integrated platform offers a suite of software tools, including:

  • A learning management system to store and distribute educational content and track members’ learning progress.
  • Job board software that helps connect job-seekers to new opportunities, providing additional value to members.
  • Membership website and CMS to create a modern, responsive site that engages and informs visitors.

MemberClicks also provides training resources for organization management and member retention.

GlueUp is another option for membership management software.

GlueUp: Overview

GlueUp provides a sophisticated yet easy-to-use CRM platform for associations, business networks, and chambers.

GlueUp is another option for membership management software.

GlueUp’s membership software solution contains these features:

  • An event management suite that allows organizations to set up branded event pages, ticketing, and event promotions.
  • A training management suite to create engaging, monetized webinars, manage certificates, and promote courses.
  • A community engagement suite to facilitate discussion and networking.

With GlueUp, organizations also receive access to two mobile apps: one for community members and one for association management teams.

HiveBrite is another option for membership management software.

HiveBrite: Overview

HiveBrite is a community management platform used by professional networks, school and university alumni groups, corporate alumni groups, and nonprofits.

HiveBrite is another option for membership management software.

With HiveBrite, organizations customize the platform to fit their specific needs and requirements. Associations appreciate HiveBrite for its:

  • CRM and member management tools that allow users to apply filters and conduct targeted member communications.
  • Content management to maintain an updated website.
  • Communication tools such as in-app messages and mobile notifications.

Like GlueUp, HiveBrite also offers the ability to create a customized, branded mobile app. HiveBrite’s “Who’s around me” app feature allows members to use a map to discover other members nearby.


From member recruitment to retention, your association management system is the most efficient tool in your association’s toolbox for completing essential tasks. Engaging your members in a strong member community starts with forethought and the best software available.

You may still have lingering concerns or questions about membership management software options or how to get the best ROI for your choice. If that’s the case, check out these additional resources before making your final decision:

Ready for a membership management software platform that can do it all? Contact Fonteva today.
Selling online courses for your association is a key engagement strategy that drives genuine value for your members. Explore our favorite tips and tricks here.

Tips for Selling Online Courses to Your Association Members

A major driver for becoming a member of an association is the opportunity to further a skill or advance in a particular field. Depending on your association’s mission and offerings, you likely host in-person events with speakers, or maybe even multi-day conferences, all to provide ample networking and learning opportunities.

However, your regular plans were likely thrown in for a loop the past 18-24 months. Now, virtual events and online experiences have taken the reign. Included in this genre are e-learning and online courses.

Selling online courses to your association members is an effective way to provide engaging and educational experiences and opportunities. If your association is made up of professionals in a similar field, online courses can even be offered for official accreditation that members can announce and pin to their online profiles.

If you want to expand your own online learning opportunities for association members, this article is here to provide you with some guidance. Selling online courses is more than just pulling together educational materials and handing them off to your members. From the topics you offer to the ease of your registration process, we’ve compiled a few key tips to keep in mind:

  1. Offer courses that will appeal to your members
  2. Make the online registration process easy to find and complete
  3. Invest in a secure online payment processor
  4. Follow up with a course registration confirmation email

Providing members value through online courses is not only an effective recruitment tool but can also increase retention rates for your association. You just need to offer courses that appeal to your members and encourage registration. Let’s begin. 

1. Offer courses that will appeal to your members

This may seem obvious, as you wouldn’t offer online courses on the subject of business marketing to members of a professional medical association. However, there are additional steps you can take to ensure that the online courses in your catalog are driving genuine value for your members. The best way to do this is by analyzing your data. 

Your association management system should store key information that you collect from your members. This should include both personal information like names, contact details, job titles, and engagement metrics such as what types of events they usually sign up for, and more. Make sure this information is easily accessible within your management solution.

This data can give you a clue into what online courses and events will garner the most registrations and meet the needs of your members. For instance:

  • Consider past courses or conference workshops that have been popular and pivot them to take place online
  • Make note of common job roles and levels and create online courses that target them

Along with looking at your existing data, you can also research similar associations in related fields and explore the online courses they offer.

Or, be more proactive and send out a survey to your entire member base. Ask them if they have a particular skill they want to develop or a course they want to take for accreditation. From there, you can begin planning how you can take this learning experience entirely online. Using live streaming software and other e-learning platforms will be your best approach. 

2. Make the online registration process easy to find and complete

Once you have a catalog of online courses for your members to select from, it’s time to start encouraging your members to register. No matter what, your online registration process should be easy to find and complete. 

Within your association’s website, have a dedicated space for your online courses built into your main navigation or include a prominent link on your homepage. Include calls-to-action within your event calendar or other association offerings. 

Send out an email to your members letting them know about the online learning opportunities. Ensure that you place a clearly displayed link to your registration page so that users know exactly how to sign up if they want to. From there, it’s critical that your online course registration process is as streamlined and convenient as possible. Often, a registration form that takes too long or asks too many questions can be what causes the potential attendee to simply give up in frustration.

Creating an intuitive and quick sign-up process is where a dependable online registration tool will come in handy. Let’s take some insight from this scenario featuring the Northwest Hydroelectric Association. They needed a solution that not only automates the registration process but also centralizes data for helpful reporting. After investing in a solution, they said “It frees up time from having to manually input every entry,” ultimately streamlining the sign-up process and positioning them for increased registrations.

Make sure your own registration solution has the following capabilities:

  • Customization to ensure the form is branded to the association. This not only improves user experience but also helps build the relationship between the registrant and your association. 
  • Embedding options for your organization’s website. Sending users to a third-party site not only interrupts the registration process but can also confuse the registrant and even make them suspicious of legitimacy. 
  • Personalization to cater the registration process to each individual. Look for tools with conditional logic abilities that react to the registrant’s answers by changing the form and the questions. If a member indicates that they’re interested in a follow-up course, the form could change to include additional information regarding their options. If they say they’re not interested, the form does not change at all. 
  • Integrated payment abilities. This way members can checkout during the registration process, meaning you don’t have to charge them with another tool or bill them later. We’ll talk more about your payment processor in the next section!

Along with the above capabilities, make sure that your registration page has all of the necessary information that attendees will need before they sign up for the opportunity. After all, online courses aren’t the traditional form of learning but have been rising in popularity due to their cost, convenience, and wide accessibility. If specific online software is required or the course you offer requires multiple sessions, these details should be prominently displayed before individuals register.

3. Invest in a secure online payment processor

The final step of the registration process for your online courses is payment. You don’t want to mar your member’s registration experience with an insecure and unsafe online payment process. One data breach can ruin your association’s reputation and make the selling of online courses (and acceptance of membership dues or event tickets) much more difficult in the future.

Make sure that you invest in a dependable and integrated payment tool, ensuring that course signups get finalized and that everyone’s data is protected. Your payment tool should

  • Be PCI Compliant. According to iATS Payments, “The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) was created by major credit card companies to set high technical standards to safeguard customer information. PCI Compliance is mandatory for all merchants, regardless of size.”
  • Automate payment invoices breaking down the transaction and registration. 
  • Offer payment plans and auto-billing to ease costs. 
  • Provide comprehensive payment reporting using a centralized system that both registration coordinators and accountants can access

To jump-start your online course registration offer discounts or early-bird signups to your most active association members. Some tools can even automatically trigger and apply discounts depending on the applicant. 

Consider creating different discount codes for member tiers. Taking insight from this Fonteva article, segment your members based on different discounts, like who has taken previous online courses or who has been a member for longer than a specified period of time.

4. Follow up with a course registration confirmation email

As the online course registration wraps up and payment is completed, it’s time to send out a course registration confirmation email. 

Registration confirmation emails have a couple of key uses. For one thing, they prevent confusion down the line about whether the registration was accepted. This verifies to the registrant that they have successfully signed up and that their payment has been received.

This type of email also opens up a communication channel between your association and online course participants. If there are any questions that registrants need answered, they can simply hit reply or use the preferred contact details provided in the email. 

This is also the place to relay all pertinent course information and target actions in the email. For instance, if a particular form needs to be completed before the course, make sure you have a bright button indicating that. Or, if the course requires a Zoom profile, the email should make this the focus action. If there are any urgent deadlines or other dates, make sure to bold them so that readers don’t accidentally gloss over these important details.

If you are having some trouble figuring out exactly what to say in your online course registration emails, Regpack has a handy guide along with three templates. Use the templates as inspiration and then tweak them to fit your association’s exact needs. 


Selling online courses to your association members provides them with engaging experiences and exciting learning opportunities. From making sure you offer the right courses to streamlining the registration process, the above tips and strategies will help you take your own member engagement to the next level moving forward. Good luck!

About the Author

Asaf Darash, Founder and CEO of Regpack, has extensive experience as an entrepreneur and investor. Asaf has built 3 successful companies to date, all with an exit plan or that have stayed in profitability and are still functional. Asaf specializes in product development for the web, team building and in bringing a company from concept to an actualized unit that is profitable.

Strengthening Member Engagement: Tips From an HR Consultant

As an association leader, you work hard to provide opportunities for your organization’s members to learn and grow professionally, connect with each other, and contribute to their communities. This wealth of opportunities is exactly why your members join your association in the first place, and why they keep renewing their memberships year after year. 

But despite your best efforts as a leader, much of the success of your association depends on the dedication and action of your members. Your team can set up a mentoring event, plan a conference, or create a job board on your website. But without buy-in and participation from your members, opportunities and resources like these will be of little value to anyone. 

That’s why it’s important to monitor and work to improve member engagement within your association. While having an insider’s perspective can be useful, it also poses challenges. Sometimes it’s beneficial to get a fresh perspective from experts outside of the realm of association leadership. Doing so can invite you to consider new strategies and best practices that will bolster your members’ enthusiasm and breathe new life into your association’s management strategy. 

In this guide, you’ll get tips on strengthening member engagement from an HR consultant. In the world of HR, one of our most important focus areas is employee engagement, which impacts job satisfaction and retention. These same principles that apply to the internal staff experience can and should teach you a thing or two about boosting external engagement with your members.  

In particular, we’ll cover these six tips:

  1. Invest in a comprehensive management solution. 
  2. Define the value you provide to your members. 
  3. Maintain transparency. 
  4. Communicate consistently. 
  5. Offer ample learning opportunities. 
  6. Provide tools and opportunities for members to engage with each other. 

Even if your association currently has high levels of member engagement, taking a proactive approach to sustain (and improve) engagement levels can only lead to a brighter future for your organization and its current and future members. 

Let’s dive in!

1. Invest in a comprehensive management solution. 

Investing in a management solution for your association will make your efforts to strengthen engagement much easier, especially if you want to empower your members with the tools they need to engage with your offerings and each other. It’s also incredibly useful to track all of those key engagements, which your software can do. 

The solution internal HR leaders turn to is talent or performance management software. For associations, membership management tools will be your best bet. Depending on the opportunities your association offers, try to look for membership solutions that can integrate with or also have event management capabilities.

Here are some of the top features your own solution should have:

  • Member database. Every piece of data and information you have on your members should live in your member database, also known as a constituent relationship management (CRM) system. Not only does this help keep your association organized, but you can use these data points to personalize member communication and build more meaningful relationships. Make sure to actively track engagement, as you can use information like event attendance and online activity to tailor association offerings to your members’ interests. 
  • Online member profiles. Encourage users to add profile photos so that your members can get familiar with one another, even if they can only do so virtually. Members should also be able to update their profiles through self-service capabilities.
  • Email marketing and communication. In order to actively engage your members, you need a way to communicate effectively with them. Especially for large associations that rely on the majority of interactions taking place in the digital space, a management system with highly capable email and communication tools is key. We’ll touch on this more in the next section. 
  • Event planning and management. As mentioned previously, finding an association management solution with event planning capabilities is key. For one thing, your association is already likely hosting a number of events, whether they’re smaller meetings, larger conferences, or virtual experiences. With event tools integrated into your core management system, you have the ability to easily create event pages and streamline the registration process. Then, all of that data can be centralized in your member database to further help you engage your members. 

It’s worth it to invest in a comprehensive association management system whenever possible, instead of piecing together separate tools as your organization grows. With an integrated solution, you can pull all of your data together to create in-depth and meaningful reports. These help you and your team understand past data, ensuring you have the resources needed to make informed decisions and move forward.

2. Define the value you provide to your members. 

In order to encourage higher levels of member engagement, you have to consistently remind your members of the value they’re getting out of interacting with your organization and with fellow members. Doing so will remind members that full participation is necessary for reaping all of the benefits their membership offers. 

Here are a few suggestions for making the value of your membership program clear: 

  • Define your membership model on your website. According to Morweb’s guide to building a membership website, you should showcase your membership model on your website and explain what benefits your members receive for joining your organization. Some associations use a tiered structure for their membership model, where lower-level members receive only basic benefits and higher-level members gain access to more exclusive resources and opportunities. 
  • Highlight the element of exclusivity. Letting members (and potential members) know that their membership gets them access to exclusive opportunities can illustrate the need for deeper engagement and continued membership. For example, perhaps you have a job board you reserve for members only, or perhaps you host a members-only retreat each year. 
  • Share success stories. Reporting on how other members have benefited from engaging with your association can also encourage better participation. For example, you might report on how a CSR course helped one member to improve his company’s volunteering days program or how a recent college graduate benefited from your mentorship program. You can even have members write “review-style” success stories themselves. These are great for sharing on your website or in your newsletter. 

Communicating the value add of your association is similar to an organization communicating its benefits and perks for employees. Doing so won’t just motivate current members to more fully engage with your programs and opportunities. It’s also useful for marketing your association to new members! 

3. Maintain transparency. 

Loyalty to your association can be a big factor in how motivated a member feels to interact with your organization online or register for an upcoming event. HR professionals know the value of loyalty when it comes to employee engagement and retention. And, according to Astron Solutions’ guide to employee loyalty, one of the best ways to cultivate loyalty with employees is to prioritize transparency in all of your operations. 

The same idea applies to association members. Transparency is key to building trust and ensuring that the expectations your members have for their experience with your association will be met—or better yet, exceeded! 

Of course, it’s easy to be transparent about the great things that your association is doing. It’s a little trickier when it comes to being transparent about the not-so-good things. For example, maybe your association loses a major source of funding or has a high-profile conference speaker cancel. Being transparent with your members, even during those difficult times, will pay off as they see your organization as authentic, genuine, and honest.

4. Communicate consistently. 

When a member joins your association, that doesn’t mean your communication with them should stop. In fact, as soon as they officially become a member, this should be the start to a long-lasting and two-way communication channel. 

As an association leader, your role is to offer exciting and valuable opportunities and content, while your members should engage, ask questions, or offer feedback when prompted.

However, it isn’t enough just to send a couple of emails per month. The average email open rate is only around 21.33%, so taking steps to optimize your communication strategy is worth it. One essential tactic that many growing organizations often neglect is email segmentation.

Segmentation involves sorting members into different groups based on shared characteristics, like how long members have been active, what skills or experience level they have, or what their preferred communication method is. This will be unique to your association and the data points you value. 

Then, you’ll create targeted content for each segment and use your membership management solution to send emails to relevant recipients. If you want to take this to the next level, consider data automation to personalize your email communications. 

In order to automate data personalization, it’s crucial that your membership database and email tool are integrated and work together seamlessly. Your tools should pull the relevant data points from your CRM and populate it into email communications. You might use these personal data points:

  • Name
  • Role
  • Membership length
  • Past accomplishments
  • Engagement history (or past event attendance)

These little tidbits of personal information ensure that members know that the email they get is made for them. After all, no one enjoys receiving and scrolling through hundreds of spam emails that don’t even pertain to them. Set the expectation early on that each email you send to members is valuable and tailored for them.

5. Offer ample learning opportunities. 

Many times, members join associations to further their career or expand certain skills. That’s why professional associations are so popular. This means that one of the most engaging ways you can continue building your relationships with members is to offer ample learning opportunities, which are much like professional development opportunities in the workplace. 

In particular, online learning opportunities have become extremely popular in recent years. And this form of learning also enables you to expand the number of people who can experience it. Members (or non-members) can sign up and participate in the course no matter where they are, and no matter what time it is.

To get a better sense of the types of learning opportunities your members would most likely be interested in, consider the following:

  • Take a look at your membership database and make note of common goals.
  • Review what other professional associations are teaching and offering to their members.
  • Research the industry and jot down different skills for different levels.
  • Take a look at available e-learning courses and select a few that you think might benefit your members.
  • Create and send a survey to your members asking them to rank their top choices for new educational content.

Partnering with an e-learning content development company is another option to explore, especially if you want to create your own courses, design a long-term learning experience, or even translate courses into other languages. 

6. Provide tools and opportunities for members to engage with each other. 

Along with the engagement opportunities you offer to your members, consider how you can encourage members to engage with each other. After all, a huge draw to becoming a part of an association is meeting others in your sector and taking advantage of networking opportunities.

Over the course of the pandemic (and beyond), virtual interactions have become particularly popular. Here are some tools and opportunities you can provide to maintain and grow virtual engagement among your members: 

  • Dedicated online member portal where members get familiar with the other members, access discussion boards, and more.
  • Virtual association events where members can take advantage of live streaming tools and other online solutions to engage with others.
  • A membership directory, which members can use to connect with each other, see the accomplishments of peers, and network for professional opportunities.  
  • Association member committees made up of some of your most active members. Invite prospects to be a part of the committee, let them know of the role requirements, and encourage them to chat and discuss topics via text, audio, or video.

Ensuring that your members are engaging with each other is crucial for your recruitment and retention strategies. The same goes for employers trying to increase employee productivity. Without the ability to talk and interact with other team members, it’s harder for employees to feel a sense of belonging and loyalty to the organization.

HR consultants are familiar with many of the challenges associations face when it comes to engagement. Like employee engagement, member engagement impacts every individual member’s experience and the long-term future of your organization. 

By implementing these tips, you’ll be able to improve how you engage your members as an association leader. As you do so, remember to rely on a comprehensive management solution as the foundation for all of your efforts. You’ve got this! 

About the Author

Jennifer C. Loftus, MBA, SPHR, PHRca, GPHR, SHRM-SCP, CCP, CBP, GRP

Jennifer C. Loftus is a Founding Partner of and National Director for Astron Solutions, a compensation consulting firm.  Jennifer has 23 years of experience garnered at organizations including the Hay Group, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Eagle Electric Manufacturing Company, and Harcourt General.  

Jennifer has held volunteer leadership roles with SHRM, New York City SHRM, and WorldatWork. She serves as a subject matter expert to the SHRM Learning System and as a SHRM instructor.  Jennifer is a sought-after speaker for local & national conferences and media outlets.

Jennifer has an MBA in Human Resource Management with highest honors from Pace University and a BS in Accounting summa cum laude from Rutgers University.  

Jennifer holds Adjunct Professor roles with Pace University, Long Island University, and LIM College.

Jennifer received the 2014 Gotham Comedy Foundation’s Lifetime Ambassador of Laughter Award.

Check out our top picks to help you choose the best association management software to suit your members' needs.

Best Association Management Software | Our Top Picks

Learn about the future of association software in this whitepaper!

Managing an association takes a great deal of scheduling, organization, and coordination within your leadership team. Emailing members, recruiting prospects, and ensuring payments are received on time can be daunting tasks, especially as your membership base grows. That’s where association management software or AMS solutions come in. 

Whether you’re looking to invest in an AMS for the first time or you need to upgrade your solution, it’s worth it to take the time to explore which choices best suit your long-term goals. That’s why we’ve created this review of the biggest names on the market! This list spans a variety of niches and levels of comprehensiveness, so be sure to read through each section. That way you’ll get a clearer sense of the particular balance of specificity, utility, and ease-of-use that will best suit your association’s needs. Here’s what you can expect from this guide:

  1. Fonteva Membership – Best for Salesforce users
  2. Protech – Best for Microsoft Users
  3. Wild Apricot – Best for smaller and mid-sized organizations
  4. MemberPlanet – Best for groups who have a smaller budget
  5. MemberClicks – Best for an all-in-one management solution for small groups
  6. 123Signup – Best general cloud-based platform
  7. Novi AMS – Best for QuickBook users
  8. ClubExpress – Best for clubs
  9. iMIS – Best for member recruitment
  10. Raklet – Best for customer support
  11. Almabase – Best for alumni associations
  12. StarChapter – Best for multiple chapters

Before we explore these top picks, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked questions on association management software.

This section answers some association management software frequently asked questions.

 Association Management Software FAQ

What is association management software?

Association management software is used to automate membership management, fundraising, event management, chapter management, and financial processing. You can choose an AMS with features that align with your association’s size and goals. 

What does association management software do?

The best AMS solutions are specifically designed to meet the unique needs of associations like yours. They can help you organize and record the data of your organization based on the information you collect from members over time, such as their contact information or even their interaction level with your organization. Depending on your organization’s goals, AMS solutions can also help facilitate events and schedule member communications. 

What features should you look for in association management software?

Each AMS provider includes different features, and some even offer various levels of complexity for associations of different sizes. Here are some of the most common and useful association management software features to look out for when choosing your software:

Membership management. Membership management software gives you a full view on member activities, their depth of involvement, and their potential for growth. This solution can include a member directory and CRM to keep your membership data organized. 
Member portals. This feature allows your members to login in to view their payment records and customized membership resources. You can often tailor member profiles for different tiers of membership packages. 
Event management. This feature can help you host in-person or virtual events with tools like live streaming, panel platforms, event registration, and event promotion.
Financial management. Financial management features can help associations record and process payments. It can also be used to remind members about late dues.  
Communication management. This feature can help you stay connected with your members through text messages, email updates, and newsletters. Associations can also create topic boards to stimulate discussion among members. 

The Best Association Management Software Platform

1. Fonteva Membership – Best for Salesforce Users

With comprehensive features and a lean and intuitive structure that can get your team up and running in no time, Fonteva Membership is one of the best AMS solutions out there.

Focused on offering your team both big-picture planning capabilities and more specific tools to fine-tune your strategies, events, and communications, Fonteva Membership is a powerful partner for any membership-based organization. Retain more members and grow like never before with one of the most agile and intuitive AMS solutions on the market!

Association management software overview: The software is built on Salesforce, the world’s leading CRM platform for businesses. 

Recommended for: Fonteva membership is great for any size association because the software is completely scalable, so it can grow with your organization and integrate with other apps you use. 

Favorite Feature: Member-360 provides your association with a 360-degree view of your members with insights into their engagement and interests. You can also customize membership pages for tailored experiences and seamless communication.  

Pricing: Contact the Fonteva team for a demo and custom pricing. 

As a fully native Salesforce app, Fonteva offers associations the power and the flexibility needed to not only fit comfortably within your operations, but also to streamline every aspect of them.

There are no growing pains with Fonteva – it’s a completely scalable solution.

As a true cloud solution, Fonteva Membership allows you to choose the functionality you need when you need it. You can easily add additional tools as your association grows and your needs change.

This section will go through our top picks for association software.

Other Top Picks for Association Software

2. Protech – Best for Microsoft Users

Association management software overview: Protech is built with Microsoft Dynamics 365 and is best suited for associations that use the Microsoft ecosystem. Their system includes a variety of database, financial, e-commerce, and analytics tools. If you’re searching for a platform that includes member, leadership, and staff engagement capabilities, look no further!

Recommended for: Associations who use the Microsoft suite of products and are looking for an easily-integrated AMS. 

Favorite feature: Protech’s BI & Analytics feature empowers associations with automated and shareable reports like membership reports and financial reports. 

Pricing: Contact the Protech team for pricing.

3. Wild Apricot

Association management software review: Wild Apricot offers powerful association management tools that would otherwise be inaccessible for mid-size associations such as a member database, website builder, payment processor, event management platform, and mobile app.

Recommended for: Smaller to mid-size associations looking for a cost-effective, scalable association management platform. 

Favorite Feature: The mobile app feature allows admins and members to access their profiles on the go. If you’re an active leader that’s frequently attending region chapter settings and conferences, this can help you keep your association organized wherever you go. 

Pricing: Payment plans are based on total association size including staff and members. Wild Apricot services range from $0 per month for 50 people or less to $420 per month for 15,000 total people. 

4. Member Planet

Association management software review: MemberPlanet offers a lightweight association management solution with simple payment processing, a member directory, and member messaging capabilities. 

Recommended for: Smaller associations or those with multiple chapters who are looking for integrated chapter solutions. 

Favorite Feature: MemberPlanet’s online payments feature includes customizable payment forms, several payout options, and accepts all credit card payments, making transactions simple for you and your members. 

Pricing: All versions of MemberPlanet’s association management software plans include a payment processing fee of 3% + $0.30 per transaction. Their basic plan is free with a 4% platform fee.

5. MemberClicks

Association management software review: MemberClicks can help you recruit new members, grow your revenue, and promote your organization with their suite of member-centric tools. 

Recommended for: Associations looking for a tailored all-in-one association management software. 

Favorite Feature: MemberClicks’ MC Professional platform can evaluate membership profiles so you can understand your engagement rates to improve retention and boost recruitment. 

Pricing: Contact the MemberClicks team for pricing. 

6. EZ SignUp

Association management software review: EZ SignUp is an association management software solution focused on event management. You can customize event registration forms and email templates for optimal event promotion and member engagement. 

Recommended for: Associations that frequently host in-person or online events. 

Favorite Feature: EZ SignUp’s flexible event pricing makes it simple to set tiered pricing, early bird deals, and member rates. 

Pricing:.Contact the EZ SignUp team for pricing.

7. Novi AMS

Association management software review: Novi AMS was created by association professionals as the ultimate QuickBooks integrated association management solution. This platform has a built-in CMS and features like email marketing, member portals, and accounting. 

Recommended for: Trade associations that have members join as employees of a company rather than individuals. You can track familial relationships and business affiliations when needed in this AMS. 

Favorite Feature: The Novi AMS task center allows your association leadership to set and assign tasks to team members, creating incredible organization and efficient workflow within your association. 

Pricing: Their scalable pricing, based on your annual revenue, starts at $685 per month with $2,495 in onboarding fees. 

8. ClubExpress

Association management software review: ClubExpress is an online association management solution that is an excellent option to quickly build your website, record membership data, and process payments. After your initial sign up, your association will have access to a template website, so you can dive right into managing your events. 

Recommended for: Small associations and clubs who want an online association management software solution with no download or onboarding necessary. 

Favorite Feature: ClubExpress’ jobs board allows association members to publish job openings for their peers to stimulate networking and communication. 

Pricing: ClubExpress has a minimum fee of $24 per month that increases per active member in your organization. 

9. iMIS

Association management software review: iMIS is a platform that combines the power of AMS, CRM, and CMS to bring you an engagement management platform. It is a popular scalable solution that your association can use to streamline your membership recruitment and community-building efforts. 

Recommended for: Associations focused on enhancing membership experience to help with recruitment and retention. 

Favorite Feature: The iMIS membership management feature enables you to customize the online experiences of your different tiers of members.

Pricing: Contact the iMIS team for pricing. 

10. Raklet

Association management software review: Raklet offers a wide range of services that you can customize for your organization’s needs. Their plans scale up depending on the size of your organization and the number of features you need. 

Recommended for: Larger associations that have enough members and financial means to use the optimized plan. 

Favorite Feature: Raklet’s discussion board feature allows members to connect and communicate about topics that interest them and potential career opportunities. Raklet can connect with up to 2,000 other online apps, meaning that your members have the opportunity to share their experiences. 

Pricing: Raklet charges a transaction processing fee between 1-4% + $0.60 per transaction. For 1,000 members, plan coverage starts at $49 per month and ranges to $1,312 per month for 1 million members. 

11. Almabase

Association management software review: Almabase is an alumni association management software with powerful tools to help cultivate your alumni membership through events, email marketing, and an online alumni forum. 

Recommended for: Alumni associations focused on maintaining a close network of members and engaging them in virtual events. 

Favorite Feature: Almabase can connect with Facebook and LinkedIn to provide easy ways for members to engage with their peers and view interests. Members can also create their own affinity groups within the association platform, giving them the power to facilitate their own mini events. 

Pricing: Contact the Almabase team for pricing. 

12. StarChapter

Association management software review: StarChapter is an excellent solution for large associations with multiple chapters looking for a streamlined approach to membership management. This association management solution allows for board members and other staff roles to be customized in the backend of the platform, allowing for greater efficiency. 

Recommended for: Associations with multiple chapters looking to unite their leadership and members under a larger system. 

Favorite Feature: StarChapter’s email marketing enables associations to promote events, send automated newsletters, segment their member audience, track email engagement, and receive feedback from members. 

Pricing: StarChapter offers pricing based on organization size with the essentials plan starting at $83 per month with a $779 setup fee for 150 members and 1,000 additional contacts. Their pro plan is $165 per month with a $1,559 setup fee for 1,200 members and an additional 8,000 contacts. 

Additional Resources

If you’re looking for more information about what features to look for in an AMS or how to use them to manage your community, look no further. Review these articles to learn more about using association management software for your organization:

Contact us here to find the best association management software for you!