So you’ve decided that your professional or trade association needs new association management software. But what exactly should you be looking for when evaluating potential solutions?
Every organization is different, so every organization’s needs will vary. But for most associations, the following features and functionalities are key:
When evaluating the database portion of an association management system, you’ll want to look for certain functionalities, specifically the ability to grant certain permissions based on certain member attributes. Many association management systems come with built-in member attributes (name, email, phone number, etc.), but some will allow you to configure custom attributes (member type, location, special interests, etc.). Look for a system that will give you that type of flexibility.
Website & CMS
Your website is your association’s biggest marketing tool. It’s how you attract prospects, engage members, extend benefits, collect payments...the list goes on and on. So when researching association management so ware solutions, it’s crucial that website features and functionality — on the front end and back end — are at the top of your list.
Beyond that, you’ll want to look for an association management system that includes a content management system (CMS). This will allow you to make real-time edits to your member website, keeping your content fresh and up to date.
Tiered Dues Management
If your association has a tiered dues structure, or in other words, varying membership levels, then it’s important to look for an association management system that’s flexible and configurable.
You’ll want to look for a system that will allow you to…
- Assign certain benefits (and permissions, in particular) to certain membership levels
- Assign each member to a membership level
- Track each member’s benefit usage
After your website, email is probably your association’s second biggest marketing tool, so it should also be high on your list of features to scope out.
You’ll want to look for an association management system that will allow you to…
- Send personalized emails (Insert names, member types, etc.)
- Send targeted emails (Target new members, special interest groups, etc.)
- Send automated emails (Automate dues renewal reminder emails, event confirmation emails, etc.)
Your association likely hosts a number of events throughout the year, whether in-person, virtual, or hybrid. These may include luncheons, workshops, silent auctions, conferences and trade shows — and everything in between! Whatever your event calendar may look like, you need a membership management system that can support it...literally.
You’ll want to look for association management software that will allow for…
- Online event registrations
- Online payment processing
- Flexible form building
- Automated confirmation emails
- Promo and discount codes
- Real-time communication
- Sponsor visibility
Financial management is a critical part of managing your association, so it’s important to find an association management system that will allow you to configure, automate, and track important financials. Specifically, you’ll want to look for membership management software that is PCI-compliant and integrates with your existing accounting software.
The more reports you’re able to pull and analyze, the more data-driven decisions you’ll be able to make — decisions that will allow you to better serve your members and further grow your association.
When evaluating the reporting functionality in an association management system, you’ll want to look for configurability. What do you currently report on? What would you like to be able to report on? Discuss that with potential software vendors to make sure those are reports you can pull with ease.
Association management software, given how much you’ll be using it, is a big purchase, so there’s a little more to it than this — more specific functionalities and also, characteristics to look for in a software provider. For everything to look for to ensure you land on the right association management system for your professional or trade association, check out our free Buyer’s Guide to Association Management Software!
Are you a chamber staff member looking for chamber management software? We have a guide specifically for you, too! Download our free Buyer’s Guide to Chamber Management Software here!