If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that we have accelerated beyond online communication platforms being a mere convenience. They have become a necessity, more than ever before, for conducting day-to-day business. Today, the importance of integrating association-specific software into a cohesive technological ecosystem cannot be overstated. For many associations that have implemented and managed their own technological ecosystem, it has afforded them greater member engagement and higher non-dues revenue. For others, even just the idea of a technological ecosystem can seem like an overwhelming, disjointed and frustrating endeavor. But, there’s hope for those left behind in this digital revolution.
So what exactly is a “technological ecosystem?”
A technological ecosystem is an interdependent and interconnected network of multiple digital entities that communicate with one another. That’s a mouthful of techno-jargon, but for associations, it simply means that it’s everything that you have for your association related to technology connected together to form a larger, all-encompassing system. Every association is different, but it could be a conglomeration of all or some of the following:
- Membership database
- Email communications (like Constant Contact)
- Event registration
- Online job boards
- Online learning or certification
By using integrations to connect these separate software services into a single ecosystem, the member experience is streamlined and reporting is consolidated for your association staff. To illustrate, let’s see what it looks like to not use integrations to connect association technology.
Without a digital ecosystem in place, you have one of two options.
- You have everything under one software umbrella. This usually means you have all-in-one software like an AMS that has a membership database, website, email, event registration tool, and more built into it. However, in this case, you’re limited to whatever your chosen AMS has. For example, if you have an AMS that has all the functionality you’re looking for in most areas, but you don’t like the way the events module works, you’re out of luck. If you want to get rid of the events module, you’d have to get rid of the whole AMS system, too.
- You have multiple systems. On the other end of the spectrum, this means you are running multiple platforms to run your digital operation. In this case, without integrations in place to connect the platforms, your communications and user experience are disjointed. For example, from a member’s perspective, if they want to sign up for an event, they have to remember their login for the event software, which may be separate from their association website or job board login. With no integration between them, the valuable member data in each system is completely separate, making a simple task like updating an email address utterly cumbersome for your members. Then, for you, the association, you have multiple places from which you have to pull reports.
On one hand, you’re stuck with having the all-in-one system that you can’t customize at all and you take it as-is, and on the other, you can highly customize everything with best-in-class tools but it is also a lot of clerical work on the staff side, plus you’re asking a lot of your members to be able to get through all those different logins and communication deliveries.
Without the integration of a technological ecosystem, your association is, essentially, stuck with two bad choices.
Simplify with powerful integration
Integrations are what bridge the gap — they provide the best of both worlds. By allowing data to pass from one software system to another, integrations act as a powerful tool that simplify communication and interactions between you and your members. And, it all starts with your member database (all of the information about your members in data form) because that is your centerpiece for beginning the integration transformation.
The way to have a successful ecosystem is by connecting other software with that database, which is typically your AMS. An example could be making sure your AMS and job board have an SSO, or single-sign-on so that a member can log in once and be recognized as a current member in each. It could include taking credits that are earned in your online Learning Management System and making them automatically viewable on a member’s profile on the website. There are many forms integrations can take, but the idea is always the same – have a single, connected source for your member data that can then extend out to any software platforms you utilize.
This thereby creates a system in which you only have one login and one dashboard. Your staff can see everything about all of your members all in one place. Members, likewise, only have to go to one website to get everything they need to know related to your association.
Make it as easy as possible for your members
Making sure your members’ experience is positive is crucial. Most people’s experience with your association is now virtual and through a website. Your members’ online experience with your association comprises most of their interaction with you. If they don’t have a positive online experience, it can adversely affect your relationship, no matter how good your staff is or how much experience you have. Taking care of your members with an integrated approach, especially in the pandemic age, as they are trying to figure out where their dollars are going and deciding if they want to remain members, is paramount to your association’s future success.
Enable your members to be able to do all the things you want them to do, so they can enjoy interactions with your association.
How do I get started?
Often, and usually out of convenience, associations tend to create multiple communications platforms but don’t understand that they need to be connected. That’s where integrating and creating an ecosystem can help. There are two crucial steps that an association needs to take to integrate a technological ecosystem.
- Make sure member data is correct, first and foremost. This is your source of truth for all your data. Figure out whether you’d like that to reside in a small database or Excel sheet, or something more powerful like an AMS; this is where your digital ecosystem will start. Your database is your gateway to your membership – if one data point is incorrect, it can disrupt the rest of the processes.
- Make sure you examine every component of your future communications. Do you need a newsletter? Do you need a job board? Are your existing tools helping you service your members more effectively, or would you benefit from the use of specialized association software tools? From here, you tie everything back into your database.
Naylor is here to help your association navigate the process
If you realize that all of this is important and you are overwhelmed or not sure what to do, then you need to talk to someone who can help.
Naylor Association Solutions provides innovative association tools and services for strengthening member engagement and increasing non-dues revenue. Our offerings include member communications, management of live and online meetings and events, online career centers, Association Management Software (AMS) and Member Data Platform (MDP), full-service association management and online learning.
With expertise in all of these individual services, Naylor brings the benefit of a holistic perspective on how associations interact with their members through their data. And, even if we’re not your source of data with our AMS, we still understand how those connections need to work and can assist your association by lighting the path for you.
Grow your membership and revenue using a membership management software built to help you scale.
Want to learn more? Schedule a consultation.