By Brian Smith – Business Development Representative
The fiscal year budget has been cleared, the board of directors have given their approval and your CEO has just tasked you with evaluating and selecting a vendor for a new association management system (AMS). No easy feat.
Picking an AMS can be overwhelming. The best way to ease your concerns is to organize a team of decision-makers who will assist you with the responsibilities of the evaluation process. You’ll be able to collaborate after reviewing demonstrations, giving you a better idea of what works and which systems fall short.
You may be wondering, “Who should be on my AMS selection team?” The answer depends on your nonprofit or member-based association, but follow these suggestions, and you’ll be well on your way to a painless transition.
Cover All Positions
The AMS selection team should be like a football squad. Different positions with different skill sets. If your team consists entirely of quarterbacks, your odds of winning are slim to none.
Recruit your team by prioritizing your AMS needs. Is membership reporting important? Then bring on the membership director to the team. Do you oversee a lot of events? Include your meetings expert. Are you looking for a seamless integration with your accounting software? Time for the CFO to get involved in the process.
At smaller associations, perhaps your leadership may think the AMS selection process can and should be handled solely by IT. That may have been true 10 years ago, but with the functionality of many association management systems growing exponentially in recent years, it’s beneficial to include varying perspectives on your AMS selection team to make a well-informed decision.
Sometimes, database administrators can’t see the forest through the trees. Having conversations with different departments allows you to see the big picture.
If you’re a large association, having an entry-level employee on the team can provide another missing perspective in your evaluations. They won’t be the ultimate deciding factor, but a millennial or Gen Z point-of-view can be vital in understanding your staff’s approval or disapproval of a system. Considering that a growing portion of your membership will be young professionals, you don’t want to make a decision that is out-of-touch with what younger generations are expecting in a software platform.
In-House or Third-party Firms?
Do you already have a dedicated IT team that handles your back-office database and front-end website? If so, your technology decisions should be handled within your association. They understand your software infrastructure and know what your association needs for future projects and programs.
But if you find that your team is not the most tech-savvy, third-party consulting firms can provide key information in understanding the AMS market more clearly. Perhaps they can provide a standardized template for you to develop an RFP. Do some research on LinkedIn, and don’t be afraid to reach out with a direct message to get some information. Or, some consulting firms that are worth checking out include American Technology Services, DelCor and designDATA.
AMS Selection Team – Final Thoughts
Gone are the days when you would let your IT executive solely handle technology decisions. The range of capabilities that an AMS vendor can provide are too broad for one person to handle. Whether your team consists of membership managers, event planners, controllers, database specialists and professional development coordinators, the key is to make sure the group has no blind spots when the time comes to select a vendor. Be prepared and diligent, and the team will follow through.
For more on what to expect when shopping for an AMS, check out our webinar – Behind the Curtain: Insiders Dish on AMS Selection Secrets!
About the Author: Joining Protech Associates in 2018, Brian is responsible for sharing the tremendous benefits of Microsoft Dynamics 365 with member-based nonprofits. Brian previously worked in event management, and also wrote grants for program funding at a local Maryland nonprofit organization.