Happy New Year! As we all know, it’s customary to begin a new year by setting resolutions for what we’d like to achieve. This exercise can reveal better ways in which our time and resources can be allocated. After all, just because you may have a goal of being two-to-three times better in certain areas compared to last year, it’s not any more likely that you’ll suddenly have two-to-three times the budget to make that goal an easy reality!
This disconnect can be especially true for smaller-staffed associations, as it can be a struggle to balance a desire for sustainable growth with real-world restrictions on staffing and budgets. For these associations, it’s important to creatively maximize the use of existing resources, and use them in ways that may not have previously been considered.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a tool that’s likely already in your association’s toolbox – your AMS, or association management software – and consider some potential uses to maximize its utility.
Automate complex member dues reminders and collections
The most basic function of an AMS is to help manage member data, and every AMS user typically takes care of the processes of assigning and collecting dues. However, most association membership software systems contain helpful tools just beneath the surface of basic dues collection that can also be critical to the success of an association.
For example, most AMS systems allow for different dues structures to be automatically applied to different member types. Perhaps you charge college students or affiliate members at a simple flat rate, but have some type of multiplier for your primary member type. But a hospital association might charge different rates based on the number of beds in the member’s facility, or a construction association might charge contractor members a rate based on their total yearly sales volume.
Your association might apply other qualifiers to member dues: Can members renew to a different member type if desired, or are they locked into the same type every year? What is the term length for each member type? Do you have early bird discounts or late payment penalties? By plugging these calculations into your AMS, you can save your staff the trouble of having to manually calculate payments as they roll in, as well as automatically manage the terms of renewing.
Lastly, some AMS platforms have the ability to send out automated email reminders at pre-determined points in the membership renewal cycle for each member type. This email automation can unburden your staff of the tedious task of chasing down renewals, because your software is doing the work of automatically determining who is due and when, and sending out customizable emails on a personalized timeline for each member.
Analyze and report cross-tabulated data
Reporting is a tool within an AMS that everyone can agree is important, but many associations don’t explore the full breadth of how reporting can impact important decisions across the organization. In a world that is increasingly driven by data, analytics and logistics, having all of your member data consolidated to a single database presents a huge advantage.
With a typical association management software platform, associations no longer have to try to cross-reference their member data with reports from financial software, event software, website analytics, and other tools – it’s now all in one place. This centralization of data allows you to make the best possible decisions regarding staff deployment, allocation of resources, event structure, website reliance and more.
For example, let’s say you want to know how engaged your affiliate members are with your association. Your AMS likely lets you create a report to show event attendance year-over-year by member type, and compare that to any other factors that may be relevant like sponsorships purchased, activity on the website, donations received and so on. Perhaps you’d like to gauge the effectiveness of several recruiting drives you initiated throughout the year so you can decide which to replicate in the future and which to scrap. A report that shows new member joins across the time periods immediately following those initiatives can give a clear analysis of the results you’re looking for. You could add in filters like “only a certain member type” or “only those memberships that came in during an event” to really dig deep into the specific data that’s important to you.
In the old adage of “measure twice, cut once,” such fully customizable reports allow you to see the full picture, so you can be armed with the best possible information when making decisions about how to effectively move forward.
Automate detailed member emails
The last feature we’ll examine is the email marketing component of an association management software platform. Most systems allow you to create targeted lists for sending emails. This function can be expanded upon to make it extremely efficient to communicate precise information to an exact audience. Through your AMS, you can create custom mailing lists by topic that members can easily opt in or out of within their profile, then easily send communications to those lists with a simple click.
Some AMS systems offer even greater member communication customization by allowing different questions to be visible to different member types. For example, perhaps your primary members have the option to opt-in to receive monthly legislative updates, but your affiliate members do not. You can also create or upload templates into the email tool, so that you don’t have to start from scratch with regular communications each time.
With these simple tricks to automate and refine the selection process for which communications each member receives, you can make your emails more targeted and reduce the amount of staff time required to get your members the information they need the most.
Your AMS likely has many other features to help make your day-to-day operations easier. For this reason, I highly recommended you connect with your AMS account manager to help reconcile the needs, pain points and aspirations your association has with the capabilities and specific nuances of your AMS system. Regardless of the system you use, you’ve already committed to having that resource at your disposal by paying for it – so get creative in finding ways to make sure it’s working as hard as you are to help your association achieve more.