At this moment, you’re staring at a screen. You’re scrolling through this article on your smartphone, or your tablet, or your laptop. An hour ago, yesterday, and last week at this same time, chances are pretty good that you were also staring at a screen, taking advantage of technology to find information or get some work done.
Technology has transformed the way we live and shifted our professional lives into hyperdrive, and nowhere is that more true than in the association industry. Associations have been using technology for years, association management software (AMS) in particular. Like other technology systems, AMS software is constantly changing and improving. The AMS you use today likely bears very little resemblance to what you were using 10, or even five, years ago.
Today’s association management software is more robust than in the past. From event management tools to dues collection features, a robust AMS platform can handle now handle most of your daily business tasks. That all sounds great, until you realize that with robust tools comes complexity. Do you even know all the tools and functionality your AMS has? Are you using the software in the best possible way?
With large systems like AMS software, it’s hard to take advantage of every feature and functionality. As a result, many associations could get a lot more out of their systems with only a few minor adjustments. Those adjustments could pay off in major resource savings, including time and money that you could put to better use delivering value to your members.
To take maximum advantage of your AMS software and save your association time and money every day, use these five secrets.
5 Secrets to Get More Out of Your AMS Software
Secret #1) Schedule Reports
Every association has key reports that help them evaluate member engagement, retention, and acquisition. You may even have a schedule already in place and reports that you run periodically, sending those reports to staff, volunteers, committee chairs, event organizers, and even your board. These groups have likely come to expect and even rely on these periodic communications.
If you’re still running and emailing all these reports manually, however, then you’re creating an unnecessary administrative headache. Juggling who gets what when can be exhausting and you may even cause errors by working with so many reports and recipients at once.
Take running reports off your perpetual to-do list by using the report scheduler in your AMS. The scheduler tool will allow you to automatically run reports at different intervals. The most common intervals are daily, weekly, quarterly, or yearly, and you can then specify who those reports should be sent to. You can also schedule the reports to be dropped into a group’s online resource library for easier access.
Taking advantage of your AMS software’s report scheduler saves you a ton of time. It also ensures that everyone receives the information they need on time, with no mistakes or inadvertent confusion over who gets what.
Secret #2) Minimize Integrations
When you use multiple systems that each store their own data, your association is diluting its access to real-time information and creating extra steps for data transfer between systems. This introduces errors and inefficiencies. Even if you integrate your systems through a developer, not only are you introducing additional cost in your AMS adoption, but your developer is only “stitching” them together.
While there is occasionally a reason to integrate with a disparate system, your AMS can handle a lot of your day-to-day operations and minimize your need for third-party systems.
The power of an AMS platform that hosts your membership, events, ecommerce, community, email, and website data all in one system is difficult to overstate. You’ll eliminate problems with data flowing between systems, reduce the number of systems your staff has to learn, and all your transactional, behavioral, and demographic behavior will be in one place. Most likely, you’ll also have fewer systems to pay for and will save money.
Bonus Tip: When you’re deciding whether to purchase an all-in-one AMS solution or integrate outside systems, consider customer support as well. Should any problems crop up with your technology, you’ll often receive better customer support with a single system. You only have one technology provider to call and no time to waste troubleshooting integrations, so problems can be solved much faster.
Secret #3) Learn the Features and Keep Abreast of New Feature Releases
Association management software is a robust, continually adapting product that’s easy to get lost in. There’s likely hidden features that you don’t know about, but even if you knew the ins and outs of your AMS when you purchased it, software vendors release new functionality several times a year. Always keep an eye out on the new feature rollouts. If you don’t, you could be missing out on powerful functionality without even knowing it.
To ensure that you’re not missing out on valuable AMS features, take the time to learn your system and attend ongoing software training from your provider. Go into AMS training with an open mind and learn everything you can about the system’s features, workflows, and functionality.
The new AMS features you discover will likely work with the functionality you already use every day, giving you the most powerful and effective way to manage your data. By remaining open to possibilities throughout training, you may find a more efficient way of managing your business processes.
If you come across a new feature that you don’t understand, contact customer support for more assistance. Top AMS software vendors will make it easy for you to get in touch with a specialist who can explain not only how to use the new feature, but the benefit in doing so as well. Often, you can contact specialists by phone or email and automatically have your questions archived so you can revisit the answers in the future.
Bonus Tip: The more you explore your AMS software, the more likely it is that you’ll run across capabilities you weren’t aware of before. Some of those capabilities will be useful immediately, but some will not. Just remember that the best systems are designed to grow with your association, so even if you don’t intend to use these features now, you may in the not so distant future.
Secret #4) Empower Chapters
One of the greatest benefits of membership management software is the ability for associations to give chapters their own website, event systems, private discussion areas, resource libraries, and membership dues system. While providing the autonomy that chapters crave, the technology is still under the umbrella of the membership platform and the association as a whole. This provides a cohesive system and yet allows chapters to retain their individuality.
When you give chapters these tools, you lessen your workload. There’s no need for chapters to come to you for website updates or system changes. They can do it all on their own. And because everything is still under your association’s umbrella, you will keep the regulatory powers you need to efficiently manage your chapters.
Secret #5) Enlist Members to Clean Up Your Data
A common complaint associations have with a simple standalone AMS is the difficulty in getting members to update their information. This could happen because, without any other actions to perform like browsing an online community or accessing benefits, your members don’t have a reason to log in on a regular basis.
Regardless of the cause, anytime information isn’t regularly updated you end up with outdated contact details, demographics, and more. With that poor data, it becomes difficult to connect with your members and give them the right offers.
When you combine your membership system with an online community, however, you give members a reason to log in and can enlist their help you clear up all that data using their profile.
Prompt members to update their profile information (which will automatically update your demographic records) through emails and on-screen ticklers in your online community. Remind them that their profile data is on display for their peers and other industry professionals and that the more accurate the information they provide, the more likely they are to make connections with experts and peers.
Having something to do, such as connecting with peers and browsing content in your online community, gives members reasons to update their information. They’ll be more engaged, and your association will get cleaner data.
Using AMS Software Efficiently Takeaway
These five action items are some of the best ways that you can get more out of your AMS software today. They’ll save you time and effort while helping your association more effectively provide value to members.
In the long-term, the best way to get more out of your AMS is to understand all of its features so you can take full advantage of them. Use your software vendor to do this. Your vendor partner knows the intricacies of the system, as well as current and future feature rollouts on the development schedule. The support team can also help you maximize your operational efficiencies with your AMS platform.
Just remember that the real power users of your system are your members and your staff. The functionality and features you learn about should be useful to them. Take some time to participate in user forums and groups, or attend your AMS software vendor’s users’ conference to find out the best ways your AMS can serve members and staff. You’ll be amazed at the tips you can pick up from that knowledgeable group.