The trend for many Association Management Systems is to try to wrap everything they can into one package. Need a website? Here’s a website builder! Need online communities? Let’s turn on that module!
However, just because a system CAN do something, doesn’t mean it SHOULD. Furthermore, the needs of your association or non-profit may still require customization that the all-in-one approach just can’t manage.
Here is some helpful advice as you’re evaluating how to manage multiple technology needs and your AMS’ capabilities.
Always Request a Demo
It may seem boring to sit through an hour of training on a tool you may not even purchase, but live demos do a lot more than online videos and spec sheets. It’s easy to gloss over specific functionality online and use words like “customizable” when describing features. It isn’t until you get into a live demo that you can ask specific questions about how customizable certain features really are. You also have the opportunity to take the presenter off-script and dive deep on features that may be at the core of your association’s technology requirements.
Data Can Still Be Used from Outside Sources
Event registrations give great data on member engagement. Using an AMS that includes registration capabilities at its fullest capacity will provide tons of info that you can make business decisions based on. But what happens when you need a research tool or new member product that just can’t be created easily in your AMS? Just because the system is stand-alone doesn’t mean the data can’t be regularly imported into your member database. Look for ways to integrate usage statistics, financial transactions and more from other systems to get a more complete view of your members’ activities.
Consider Your Internal Resources
Association management systems like iMIS, may have far-reaching capabilities but adding new features and functions within the system may place undue burden on database managers instead of subject matter experts. You don’t want to turn your market research analyst into a database manager any more than you want to turn your member services director into a webmaster. Even when combining multiple features into one system, be mindful of the culture of your organization and the roles that each team member plays.
All-in-One Is Often Not the Best Budgetary Decision
When larger AMSs offer a module or add-on approach, it can feel like that is the only way to go and since you’re “already there” you may as well just sign up for their solution. Much like going to the movies though, you could be paying a premium for something just because it’s convenient. Many tools and online services offer APIs and easy integrations. So choosing an expensive, embedded email marketing tool over something like mailchimp may not offer your organization any additional data benefit, while costing you significantly more money. Similarly, there is a wide variety of free website content management systems available with minimal added costs for hosting. Paying a hefty subscription fee for a website module that offers only a fraction of the design flexibility likely doesn’t make good financial sense.
Centralized Is Only One Answer
It may sound great in theory to house everything in one place, but a closer look shows that 3rd party tools definitely have their place. Be sure to evaluate all of your options and reach out to us if you have questions!