As an association administrator or staff member, you know that there are many complicated moving parts to running an association and just as many ways to organize your operations.
Perhaps you’re still relying on outdated methods like spreadsheets, documents, and email to manage communities and events. In this case, it may be time to invest in a more comprehensive solution that can streamline your operations. On the other hand, you may already have an association management solution but are looking for one that integrates more smoothly with your current technology stack.
Whatever the reason, exploring different solutions to support your association management strategy can help you find a platform to make your operations more efficient. This can give your staff more time for tasks like planning your next event, sourcing impactful speakers, or exploring and implementing member feedback to add more value to your association.
In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of association management software and some of the top providers to consider when looking for a solution:
- What is association management software?
- Top 8 Membership Tools & Association Management Software Options
Before exploring and choosing a provider, it’s important to understand exactly what an AMS is, what it will allow your association to accomplish, and which specific integrations and tools are best for your organization. Let’s get started.
What is association management software?
Association management software is a platform that combines all of the tools and features associations need to operate and manage members. Typically, these platforms include a member database and event management tools, and they can host educational resources, member-generated content, and message boards. To aid the business development side of associations, they may also include fundraising, e-commerce, financial management capabilities, and marketing capabilities.
Often, this term is used interchangeably with customer relationship management software (CRM). While both of these systems are designed to collect, store, and analyze data, CRMs are primarily used to learn more about customers and create stronger relationships with them with the goal of boosting revenue.
An AMS, on the other hand, helps you manage the specific tasks related to running your association like soliciting membership renewals and encouraging members to register for events and meetings. Additionally, your AMS may integrate with or be part of a tech ecosystem you already use. For instance, if your association uses Microsoft tools, using a solution designed for Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 system ensures that your association’s tasks and data will flow seamlessly through your existing management toolkit.
Top 8 Membership Tools & Association Management Software Options
As you look for the perfect solution for your association, be sure to identify your association’s needs and what you want to gain from the software before committing.
First, create a budget that is based on a strong understanding of your association’s cash flow. Then, determine your unique needs, pain points, and member count—this is key as many solutions have features that are tailored to specific needs and association sizes. When you find a potential fit in a provider, set up a demo to see how the software works and have the opportunity to ask questions.
Protech Associates offers software to automate the everyday processes that keep your association’s operations running, like managing members, billing and processing payments, setting up professional development events, and analyzing data.
What makes Protech unique is its connection with Microsoft. The software was designed to integrate with Microsoft’s tech ecosystem to give your association a wider range of options while also streamlining data flows. With Protech, you can seamlessly leverage some of Microsoft’s most powerful offerings like Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power BI alongside your association management solution.
In addition to its integration with Microsoft, Protech offers a range of robust association management tools, such as:
- Membership management. Protech’s membership management features create positive member experiences and free up your staff’s time. The solution uses single sign-on features to give members access to your online offerings, uses a mobile-friendly interface, and keeps billing and making payments simple and convenient. Members can also update payment information, register for events, and upgrade their membership on their own, at any time. By allowing members to self-serve and automating administrative tasks, Protech saves staff time while supporting retention, engaging members with mobile apps, simplifying renewals, and more.
- Event management. Track how effective your association’s meetings, conferences, and other events are with attendance tracking data. Setting up recurring and one-time meetings is simple, and staff can quickly copy meeting and event details when setting up new events. You can also allow members to register for events on their own through the e-commerce platform to limit staff time spent on registration. And when planning for events and conferences, your team can manage transactions between your association and exhibitors for items like booths, badges, and products.
- Educational resources and professional development. Make it easy for members to track their current certifications and future accreditation goals through Protech’s membership portal. Not only is this beneficial for members, but your association can reference the data to better understand members’ interests and expertise. Accurately tracking education history and certification progress assists your association in building a more consistent and effective learning experience, particularly when paired with a learning management system.
- E-commerce. With Protech, your association has access to its own customizable e-commerce store, giving members a smooth online shopping experience when purchasing merchandise or registering for an event. The platform ensures members have complete control over their purchases, allows your association to offer special promotions and discounts, automates shipping and tax calculations, and frees up staff time.
- Financial management. Managing finances is a pain point for many associations, especially when there are revenue streams from multiple sources (e.g., membership fees, registrations, and merchandise orders). Protech employs Clover Connect as its secure payment processor, securely storing members’ data using Microsoft Azure Cloud to protect privacy. You can then automate manual accounting processes for your revenue and expense data, limiting data tracking errors and creating reports that staff can quickly analyze to make more informed decisions.
These tools are just a few examples of what Protech has to offer your association. The solution also includes comprehensive analytics and reporting tools, giving your association deep insights into who its members are. When you get to know your members, your staff can determine how to add value to your offerings in ways that align with their preferences and interests. With its built-in marketing and fundraising capabilities, you can automate marketing campaigns and increase revenue through effective fundraising.
Fonteva’s association management software is native to Salesforce and aims to help your association create professional communities that bring people together to combine resources, make connections, and drive association success.
Fonteva is ideal for larger organizations that are looking for a way to manage members, events, and communities in a Salesforce-native, integrated system. The platform has virtually every tool and feature your staff could need to manage members and association operations.
Here are the areas Fonteva’s software focuses on and some of the ways you can use them to benefit your association:
- Membership. Fonteva offers a wide range of membership tools, allowing you to create collaborative online communities and user-friendly membership directories that members can access on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices. You can then access real-time reports on membership data and customized KPIs to track and measure interactions. This can help you understand what members want from your association and how to adjust your offerings to retain and attract more members.
- Events. As more events shift towards being virtual or hybrid, you need a solution that can support these different formats. Fonteva makes setting up registration easy and can even help you source, screen, and manage speakers. The mobile events app helps keep attendees up-to-date during your event or conference with real-time updates and push notifications.
- E-commerce. Your association can create personalized, optimal buying experiences for members. For example, you can offer discounted bundle options or set customized pricing for members if your association uses tiered membership. The e-commerce capabilities include everything you need for a smooth experience (for members and staff) like an intuitive online storefront, shopping cart feature, and revenue accounting.
Fonteva also offers features to help you build a flourishing community. These community-based tools allow you to create microsites designed to cater to the needs of sub-communities in your association, set up message boards for members to interact on, and enable multi-lingual communication to increase accessibility.
MemberLeap is a membership solution with features created to manage and engage members as well as plan events.
This solution has the standard membership management features that allow associations to collect and organize data about members including a member database, automated billing, and chapter management. MemberLeap also supports associations that plan events in different formats, offering a Zoom interface for virtual and hybrid meetings and events. The solution also has tools that allow staff to create interactive maps of conference booths and to conduct and manage calls for event presenters.
This provider strives to make engaging with members simple. Associations can easily send broadcast emails and newsletters to members, and those who favor mobile communications can receive texts instead. Message boards facilitate conversations, networking, and connections between members to develop relationships and professional networks within your association.
HiveBrite’s solution offers a community portal that caters to a variety of different communities, ranging from volunteers to alumni to professionals. The platform allows you to customize the platform according to your community’s unique needs. For instance, you can update member profiles to include custom fields. Where alumni organizations might include a field for the member’s graduation year, volunteer communities would opt for a field about past volunteering experience and interests instead.
In addition to helping you manage your community’s data, HiveBrite also makes it easy to upload, update, and moderate content on the platform. Members can publish content themselves using the software’s integrated content management system, but your administrators will always have control over the content and can edit or delete anything members post.
Uplifter primarily serves communities for activities like skating, gymnastics, and camps, but they offer association software tailored to the sports industry as well. The software enables associations to automate registration, streamline the collection of fees and dues, and make member management easier for staff.
Uplifter prioritizes conveying a cohesive brand identity for your association to keep members engaged. Whether members interact with your association through your website, the software itself, registration pages, or marketing materials, they will see and remember the same branded elements. The solution also offers standard membership management features like:
- Data management and analytics
- Financial and membership reporting
- Built-in targeted email tools
- Automated payment processing
- Support for both corporate and individual accounts
This solution is best suited for associations that operate within the sports industry (e.g., a hockey association) as Uplifter’s staff have expertise in both athletics and the software.
StarChapter is designed to make it easier for chapters of larger associations to overcome the challenges of low member participation and stagnant membership rates. StarChapter offers tools to remedy these pain points, such as:
- Event registration tools that simplify the registration process so associations can add more value to events through rich member experiences.
- Membership management that makes it easy to offer special deals and discounts on merchandise and registration, create content customized to members’ interests, and send renewal reminders.
- Communication to limit email fatigue for members by learning when to send emails, how often is too often, and what to include in messages.
StarChapter automates many of these repetitive tasks, giving your staff time to take care of more important tasks that attract new members or add value to your program.
7. Association DNA
Association DNA places a strong emphasis on collecting information, generating rich reports to visualize data, and protecting your members’ privacy.
This association management software can quickly create reports that reveal important insights to staff, freeing up their time and allowing them to make decisions based on accurate and up-to-date data. This ease of use makes Association DNA a great choice for smaller associations with limited staff and resources that still want to make the best decision for their members. Association DNA can build a trusting relationship between your organization and members by prioritizing the protection of their data and privacy.
8. Brilliant Directories
Brilliant Directories is a tool that simplifies the process of creating customized, professional-quality membership sites and business directories. These sites are simple and easy to launch, but they have the potential to grow your association’s revenue and membership over time.
This platform offers directory and website themes created by dynamic designers, and all you need to do is customize the template with your logo, text, and other branding (and you won’t need to hire a graphic designer or developer). These templates cater to many different industries and niches, so you’re sure to find one that fits your association’s needs. Brilliant Directories also offers SEO-optimized templates for association blog content to rank for relevant keywords and spread the word about your organization.
Finding the right association management platform can have major, long-lasting positive impacts on your association. Software like Protech has features designed to reach more prospective members, improve experiences for members, and provide a deeper understanding of association data. With these capabilities, you can derive insights that reveal ways to add richness to your offerings to better serve members. To learn more about this solution and see the software in action, schedule a demo today!
If you’re curious about association management and want to know more about how to improve member experiences, check out these resources:
- Building a Space for Connection: Overcome Barriers to Online Community. Discover how you can build meaningful relationships with members in the digital age.
- Time for a New AMS? Tips for Board Buy-in. If you found a promising new AMS in this guide, it might be time to explore some of the strategies you can use to convince board members to make the switch.
- 4 Ways to Optimize the Value of Your Association’s Online Community. It can be challenging to form authentic connections online. Read up on how you can make the most of your virtual community.