Association Software 101: How to Find the Best AMS Platform

Learn more about association software and how to find the best AMS platform for your organization.

As a member of an association’s staff or leadership team, you see the hard work that goes into managing these organizations firsthand. While this process can require a lot of effort and coordination from your team, it can be very rewarding to support your members with opportunities for education and networking.

For instance, you might watch members transform in front of you. With assistance from your association, a member can go from an entry-level employee to a seasoned leader with numerous professional contacts. Your community of professionals and the educational opportunities you offer are what build the connections and resources that make these transformations possible.

To build a supportive community and offerings that prioritize members’ goals and interests, it’s critical that your organization invests in the right association management platform. This software makes managing the large amounts of data your association collects simple, illuminating key member insights. From there, you can create engaging programs that focus on member experiences, growth opportunities, and enriching events and opportunities.

In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of AMS platforms and what to look for in a solution:

Whether your association already has an association management system or has never used one before, it’s worth learning more about the software, the essential features to look for, and how to choose the right solution for your association. Let’s start with the basics by defining what an AMS platform is and how it improves association operations.

Book a demo with Protech to learn more about our AMS platform.

What is an AMS platform?

An AMS platform, or association management software, is a platform that contains all of the tools your association needs to manage members and program operations. You can think of this software as a database for all member data as well as financial, statistical, and business information. Typically, this software includes features like membership directories, billing and payment processing, online community capabilities, reporting, event management, and marketing tools.

AMS platforms can be a significant benefit to your association by keeping all important association data in one secure platform, making it easy to organize, analyze, and report. Data gives your association the power to understand what is working well in your organization and what could be improved.

Additionally, this software can automate processes and set up “self-serve” functions for members that will save your staff time on administrative tasks. For example, you might choose an AMS platform with an e-commerce feature so members can purchase event registration or merchandise on their own, without needing to make the payment through a staff member.

What are association software partnerships and integrations?

As an association leader or staff member, you’re likely familiar with the concept of software integrations and partnerships. These involve the process of combining or pairing more than one software solution together into one seamless system. As you look at different AMS platforms, you’ll likely come across many different integrations and partnerships, and it can be difficult to know which ones will work best for your organization.

Here are two examples of how these work in the context of association management:

  • Integrations. Most often, integrations extend specific features or tools within the association management platform, like marketing or payment process. For instance, Protech’s AMS platform is integrated with Clover Connect, a secure payment processor that enables associations to collect fees and other payments from members. The integration allows data from the payment processor to flow seamlessly into your AMS platform.
  • Partnerships. While many different kinds of partnerships can occur, these are typically broader than integrations and are usually signaled with phrases like “powered by” or “based in.” Association management software providers might partner with other solutions like Salesforce or Microsoft, giving staff and members access to familiar interfaces and apps along with membership-specific features.

So, why are these combinations useful? Integrations and partnerships keep all of the tools, features, and data you need in one platform. This allows data and workflows to go seamlessly between each tool, eliminating the need to switch between multiple platforms and services or copy data over to different applications.

What are some essential AMS platform features?

Each association has different needs based on industry, size, budget, and other factors. However, the basic features you need in a quality AMS platform tend to be similar across most organizations. Here are some key features to look for when researching AMS platforms:

Here are some of the key features to look out for in an AMS platform.

Membership Management

Membership management features organize member data to provide positive, valuable member experiences. Specifically, these features can help you provide an experience that aligns with members’ expectations by covering topics they are interested in during meetings and conferences, sourcing knowledgeable speakers and presenters, building their networks, and assisting with upskilling.

Specifically, quality AMS platforms include features like:

  • Profiles that members can create and update at any time
  • The ability to update payment and membership information
  • Self-serve registration for events, membership renewal, and merchandise sales
  • Mobile-friendly design

These membership management features are designed to improve member experiences by providing an easy way for members to complete activities (like registering for an event) on their own.

Event Planning and Professional Development

Planning events and professional development opportunities is a great way to give members enriching experiences and add value to your offerings.

Event planning features should reduce the time you spend planning and organizing events. But, they should also track success-related event metrics like attendance, attract sponsors and advertisers, and juggle all of the logistical details. Specific features to look for include:

  • Simple, easy-to-use registration processes
  • Streamlined meeting setup and the ability to create one-time and recurring meetings
  • Transaction management for event booths, badges, and sponsorships

Another way to add value for members is to offer educational and professional development opportunities. You might create your own courses for members to complete or promote industry-specific certifications that are shown to boost sales or job performance. Look for an AMS with a membership portal that tracks members’ current accreditation or certification status and educational goals with features like:

  • Fields for educational history, goals, and certification progress
  • A learning management system to organize courses, learning materials, and discussions

Your association can use members’ education data to understand their interests and measure engagement in certain courses. Then, you can use your findings to plan future events and meetings.

E-Commerce & Fundraising

These capabilities are designed to garner more support for association initiatives or charitable causes by adding an additional revenue stream.

You can secure additional funding for your association by selling merchandise, paid registration, and educational courses through an e-commerce platform. Many association management software providers include a built-in e-commerce tool that allows users to:

  • Offer discounts and special promotions
  • Automatically calculate shipping costs and sales tax, if applicable
  • Streamline sales data into your financial reports
  • Leverage a secure payment processing system

When it comes to fundraising, your association should be able to create and manage donor profiles to better understand donors’ giving behaviors and capitalize on opportunities to fundraise. Your platform should also have capabilities that allow you to accept recurring gifts, in-kind donations like supplies or pro-bono services, and even charity auction items — all without adding to your staff’s workload.

Data Analytics & Reporting

Data is one of your association’s most valuable and powerful assets. But, you need the right software to get the most out of your data and reveal insights your organization can use to attract and retain more members.

Track and analyze member data using customizable reports and dashboards. Powerful software makes it quick and easy to generate reports that provide actionable insights you can use to make data-driven decisions. With these features, staff and executives can:

  • Share the custom-built dashboards with association staff
  • Create visualizations of data
  • Collect, store, and manipulate data within one platform
  • Build interactive reports

You can also use your AMS to track financial data. Look for a solution that integrates with your preferred financial management software, such as Intuit QuickBooks or Dynamics GP. Solutions that allow staff to automate accounting processes, like entering sales data each month, can save staff members’ time and limit errors that result from manual entry processes.


In addition to establishing your association’s reputation as an organization that provides members with meaningful, professional connections and enriching experiences, you can also spread the word through your marketing efforts.

Your AMS platform should offer marketing capabilities that reach untapped audiences of potential members. These offerings simplify the marketing process by:

  • Making it easy to create member segments based on a variety of characteristics and classifications
  • Allowing staff to send emails to individual members, segments, or your entire organization
  • Tracking marketing metrics and campaign progress
  • Integrating with other software in your tech stack like your email marketing platform

Because an AMS platform can offer a wide range of marketing capabilities, it’s important to know what your association needs. If you already have an established, effective marketing strategy in place, you might look for an AMS platform with a few marketing tools that integrate with your other systems. On the other hand, smaller associations without a robust marketing strategy can benefit from platforms with more extensive marketing options.

What are the steps to choosing an AMS platform?

When it comes time to invest in association management software for the first time or upgrade your existing platform, the process can feel overwhelming. There are so many considerations to make before choosing a platform, and it’s easy to feel lost in lists of providers. However, there are some specific steps you can take to make the process feel less daunting to help you choose the right provider.

If you’re considering a new association management solution, follow these steps to simplify the process:

  1. Understand your association’s needs. Outline your association’s goals and what you will need to accomplish them. Make sure to highlight any specific needs or challenges your organization has as well.
  2. Determine your organization’s size and budget. Note your organization’s exact member count as well as how many people are serving on your staff. Organize a team meeting to decide on a software budget that aligns with your organization’s other expenses.
  3. Consider integrations and partnerships. Your association likely already has some other tools and software it uses to keep operations running smoothly. Make a note of them and look for providers that integrate or partner with them.
  4. Research providers. Next, begin looking at AMS platform options by researching lists of software providers and looking over the information available on their websites. While this can be overwhelming, you can quickly rule out those that don’t fit into your current tech stack, wouldn’t meet your association’s needs, or fall outside of your budget.
  5. Book association management software demos. Narrow down your list of providers to around three to five potential partners and schedule demos. During each demo, you’ll have the opportunity to see how the software works firsthand and ask the sales representative questions.
  6. Ask questions. Attend demos with a prepared list of questions. These questions should be specific to your organization’s needs, but you might start by asking how they provide support, how long implementation takes, or what the process of transitioning from your current solution to theirs would look like.

Once your team makes a final decision on a solution that aligns with your budget, size, needs, goals, and tech stack, you can begin the process of transitioning over to the new software. Typically, this will involve setting up a few training sessions with staff to get everyone on the same page about how the software works. You should also ask your provider to assist in facilitating the transition to ensure data is securely funneled from your old system to the new one.

What are some top AMS platforms?


Best for: Associations that use Microsoft and are looking for a solution that will seamlessly integrate with their existing tech stack.

Solution Overview: Protech Associates helps associations streamline operations by automating membership management tasks, payment processing, event planning, and more. Data is consolidated and compiled into convenient reports that help you identify key insights at a glance.

With Protech, leverage powerful features for:

  • Membership management: Personalize each member’s experience to boost engagement and retention. Members can access exclusive content via a single sign-on portal, manage payments, register for events, and more from any device.
  • Event management: Easily create one-time and recurring meetings to prepare for virtual events. For conferences, manage transactions with registrants and exhibitors from Protech.
  • Professional development: Help your members upskill to remain valuable contributors to your field with guided courses and certifications. Track members’ education history in order to better understand their needs and interests.
  • Fundraising: Maximize additional revenue streams and easily manage fundraising campaigns. Accept a variety of gifts such as recurring donations and in-kind donations—plus, you can easily manage auction item processes.
  • E-commerce: Sell branded merchandise and allow members to register for events in a self-serve online store.

At Protech, we’ve been serving member-based organizations for more than 35 years. Browse our case studies to see how our comprehensive solution benefits the organizations we serve.

Pricing: Reach out to our team for a quote.


Best for: Associations that already use the Salesforce CRM.

Solution Overview: Fonteva is a Salesforce-native solution. Because it is already built on the world’s number-one CRM, you won’t have to worry about setting up complicated integrations with Fonteva. You’ll have access to the rest of the Salesforce ecosystem, including the huge library of applications on the Salesforce AppExchange. This way, the solution is truly scalable.

Fonteva helps you provide positive member experiences with collaborative communities, member directories, event management tools, and learning management features. Plus, members can access your resources and community from any device Customizable dashboards and reports will provide actionable insights for your team. Fonteva also offers multiple upgrades throughout the year so you can get the most out of our software.

Pricing: Reach out to our team at Fonteva for a quote.

Novi AMS

Best for: Trade associations looking for a tool designed to meet their unique needs.

Solution Overview: This solution was designed by trade association professionals to address pain points that association staff often encounter. Its event management technology, E-commerce tools, and reporting features help associations stay organized and make progress toward their goals. Novi AMS also integrates with Intuit’s QuickBooks, making it a good option for organizations that already use QuickBooks for financial management.

Pricing: Pricing varies based on your organization’s annual revenue.

Wrapping Up

With a deeper understanding of AMS platforms (and why your association needs one), your staff and leaders are better equipped to choose a solution that is tailored to your organization’s needs. Evaluate your current management practices and association needs to determine which solution will fit into your association’s workflow and tech stack. As you research providers and participate in demos, keep in mind that above all else, your system should allow staff to better understand and manage members’ needs and expectations.

If you want to learn more about AMS platforms and association management tools, check out these additional resources:

Schedule a demo with Protech to see firsthand how this AMS platform works alongside Microsoft technologies.