Dear AMS providers,
I’ve been working in Membership Development and with Association Management Systems (AMS) for over 10 years now and have experienced a fair share of the AMS systems on the market. I've seen a range of features in these systems that run absolutely essential, to extremely cosmetic. From the perspective of the AMS user, there are some features that should come standard in every system. I write this letter because even in 2020, there are some AMS platforms that still do not provide these features. I present to you 5 features all AMS’s should have. If any of these features are missing from your system, I seriously suggest you rethink, as you are doing a disservice to us, the users.
Bulk Changes – Perhaps the greatest feature of an AMS is the ability to manage data. The goal of any AMS should be to make the management of data as quick and easy as possible. However, there are many AMSs that force staff to make changes to data one data point at a time. This process is highly inefficient, eats away at our staff’s time, and causes the greatest sense of frustration with a system that I have seen. The ability to make bulk changes to our data set is essential to the utilization of your system.
Mail Merge – Personalization is a key marketing tool that enhances user experience and yields more activity from patrons. Mail Merge is the programmatic feature that allows personalization by pulling information from an individual’s account and posting it in messages. Mail Merge has become a standard feature in most software that has marketing functionality and should also be in your AMS. The ability to personalize messages on our webpages and marketing messages can be the difference in garnering the activity we need from our members.
Automatic Renewals – Automatic Renewals is a critical retention tool that significantly increases your ability to retain members just by having the feature available. Organizations that offer an automatic renewal option see greater retention numbers than organizations that do not. Any AMS that does not provide this ability handicaps an organization's retention efforts!
WYSIWYG Editors – Simple text editors should be dead! I am simply speaking from the standpoint of the messaging editors in your AMS (not on HTML editors for coders). All message editors that your AMS provides should be WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors. These editors, unlike simple text editors, unlock the wonders of the internet! You can add pictures, objects, links, etc., format your text, add your branding, mail merge (see above). With WYSIWYG editors, you are providing users with an endless world of possibilities!
Dashboards – While we know that we can go to our trusted AMS and pull out the data we need at any time, there is some information that we need so frequently, that it would be counterproductive for us to have to run a report for this information every time we need it (ex. daily membership #s). Dashboards allow us to easily access this pertinent information when we need it (and we need it frequently!) What is key here, though is for AMS platforms to not define what those key data points are for us, but to allow us to determine what our key data points are for ourselves.