AMS Selection: What Not to Do

Need help finding your next association management software? Here's what not to do.

By Charlie Sapienza – Business Development Manager

As the Protech team prepares for two more AMS Fests in 2019, I started thinking about how the association management software selection process has changed. With the proliferation of review sites and association conferences, the AMS selection process looks a lot different than it did even a few years ago.

Buyers are incredibly informed these days. We’re no longer explaining the benefits of platform-based AMS systems. The same goes for the difference between true cloud systems and cloud-based systems. These are distinguishing and incredibly important factors that AMS buyers already know.

These changes actually make my job a whole lot easier, as many people have a general sense of what they’re looking for when we meet at events like the Higher Logic Super Forum or .orgCommunity’s Solutions Day. But association management software is a business-critical system, so it’s important to continue your due diligence throughout the process.

With that in mind, I wanted to share five examples of what not to do during the AMS selection process. These tips will put you in the best position to pick the perfect AMS for your trade or professional association.

5 Things to Avoid During AMS Selection

1 –Too Many Vendors – Keep the List Short

Thanks to sites like and events like AMS Fest, associations usually have the field narrowed down before they even request a product demo. For those who haven’t, here are a few key questions to ask your AMS selection team:

  1. Which of the two top CRM platforms suits our association best?
  2. Of the vendors offering the preferred platform, which integrates with the systems we’re already using?
  3. Of the vendors that integrate with our systems, which have a proven track record of success?

After answering those questions, a professional or trade association should have a strong understanding of which AMS software vendors best align with the organization’s business goals. From there, you should be able to whittle down the list to a few top candidates.

Delcor suggests an association consider three vendors, and no more than five. That’s a great guideline to follow. It allows the AMS selection team an opportunity to drill down into the details of each vendor’s solution.

2 – Skipping industry events – Attend ASAE Annual or Tech Conferences

AMS Fest is the premier event for associations in the midst of AMS selection. But what if you’re simply dipping your toes in the association management software selection waters?

I recommend getting your feet wet at the ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition and the ASAE Technology Conference & Expo. Why? Anyone who’s anyone in the association management space will be there.

Either of those two ASAE meetings is a great spot to build on your initial research of new systems. It’s a way to meet a vendor’s team, see if they’re a good match and ask what they can offer beyond what their marketing team talks up on the website.

You won’t want to miss events like ASAE’s Annual Meeting (pictured here).

3 – Missing key information — Ask Stakeholders What They Need

Consider this scenario: Your board has approved your top AMS choice. You seal the deal and prepare for implementation and go-live. Great news!

One week later, your finance team informs you that their accounting software doesn’t integrate with the new system… This scenario is entirely avoidable through great organizational communication.

For more essential AMS selection guidance like this, I suggest checking out Association TRENDS’ eight-step guide to AMS planning, selection and implementation.

4 – Going it Alone – Engage with a Consultant

Marketing materials, reviews and sales demos only take you so far.

Sure, product reviews give a high-level look at overall satisfaction with a system, but every association is unique. What goes right (or wrong) at one association won’t necessarily matter to yours.

Once you’ve found an objective consultant, their knowledge of each AMS vendor is a fantastic source of information. The consultant will be able to tell your association, with a high degree of certainty, whether a solution is the right fit for your organization.

5 – Forcing an Short Timeline – Set Realistic Deadlines

You’re looking for  a new technology to help manage your entire association. This isn’t like buying a new Bluetooth speaker. It isn’t like buying a new car. Association management software selection isn’t a personal choice. To make sure the system works and gets used by the team, it requires buy-in from all AMS users on staff.

But, trying to get a bunch of people to not only read your emails, but also do some research and respond is not going to happen overnight. Then, once you’ve compiled all your stakeholder feedback and narrowed the field to the top candidates, there’s likely still an RFP process, and more meetings and demos. Clearly, this process takes time, especially if you want to do it properly. So, be realistic and build in extra time to make sure everyone’s feedback is heard and considered before you make the multi-year commitment to your next association management software solution.

Hopefully these five things to avoid will help put you on the right path toward finding the perfect AMS.