AMS vs CRM: Which One is the Best Fit for Your Association?

association management system

Software is critical to helping associations manage member databases, communicate with members and process payments. Both association management software (AMS) and customer relationship management (CRM) software are viable options for associations, but having both would be duplicative.

Read on to learn more about the unique software needs of associations and how leaders can decide between AMS or CRM software.

The unique needs of an association

The unique membership structure of an association means it also has different needs from other organizations. While different digital solutions manage workflows, process payments and provide communications tools, many of these technologies are designed with customer relations in mind rather than association member management.

Like other organizations, associations process financial transactions, maintain databases of contacts and communicate with stakeholders. When associations experience challenges with payment processing, contact management and communications, they can benefit from specialized tools.

Processing donations and payments is slow

Problems in payment processing can disrupt the member experience. For example, associations that rely on membership fees, donations and event fees must offer a secure, effective way for members to make payments. Investing time and energy into member relations is a worthwhile effort because if they experience issues with payments, that can impact their feelings about the association as a whole.

Managing contacts and membership databases is resource intensive

Associations collect information from members, related associations, vendors and volunteers, and maintain records on prospective and former members. Managing this data requires a significant resource investment. Securing this private information can also present challenges for associations.

Communication to members is overwhelming

Associations regularly reach out to members through newsletters and emails. These points of contact serve as investments in a long-term relationship between the member and association. Yet processing these communications, as well as other forms of communication such as invoices and notifications, requires time and energy. As associations scale in size, member relations can quickly overwhelm current resources.

What is customer relationship software (CRM)?

customer relationship management concept

Customer relationship management (CRM) focuses on the interactions between an organization and its customers. CRM software manages leads, organizes communications, and provides analytics on customers and potential customers.

Lead management

CRM software provides tools to track and manage leads by allowing organizations to monitor lead data from different channels, including social media, direct emails and other marketing efforts. In addition to consolidating leads, CRM systems can sort leads by their quality, providing valuable information on the best use of marketing resources.

Contact management

Organizations can manage customer information and create contact profiles using CRM systems. Creating customer profiles makes it easier to track interactions, and the searchable databases allow organizations to quickly access data.

Analytics and reporting

Many organizations turn to digital solutions to analyze data and generate reports. CRM software offers reporting functions such as customer engagement tracking and conversion rate trends. Detailed analytics tools provide insights for decision-makers within the organization.

What is association management software (AMS)?

Designed specifically for member associations, association management software (AMS) helps the user manage member communications and repeat tasks. Common functions include integrated association websites, membership databases, event management and member engagement platforms.

Management of an association website

AMS software integrates with an association’s website, providing tools that automate event registration pages, generate calendars with links to member events and manage online member directories. Using AMS tools on an association’s website also makes it easier to maintain consistent branding. AMS technology can track analytics to monitor site performance as well.

Improved member communications

online registration online

AMS can automate sending emails or newsletters to members. Associations can send updates, event notifications and conference invitations through their AMS. In addition to improved communications, an AMS makes it easier to maintain a membership database and track member activity. These functions save associations time and improve member relations.

Creating member-exclusive content

Many associations provide exclusive content for their members as a benefit of membership. The right AMS makes it easier to share member-exclusive content such as white papers, job boards and training modules. Members can access continuing education courses or webinars through AMS software that integrates with learning management systems.

Top benefits of an AMS?

An AMS is the stronger choice for associations. In summary, the top benefits are:

  • Payments and Fees: Process membership fees and payments through secure, fast payment systems.
  • Registration Pages: Create membership registration pages and allow members to register for events easily online.
  • Communications: Automate member emails, association newsletters and invoices through AMS software.
  • Member-Only Resources: Manage access to training materials, industry research, white papers and other member-exclusive resources.
  • Member Database: Maintain an up-to-date membership database that can track member activity.

Contact Hartman for an AMS software that will meet your needs

Hartman Executive Advisors offers AMS and other software selection consulting services to advise key decision-makers at associations throughout this complex process. Our focused and organized approach ensures that software both aligns with your goals and that vendors and products are sufficiently vetted and tested before consideration. Contact Hartman today for a no-cost consultation.


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