Anyone working inside an association for more than, say, a few hours has discovered there is a wide range of “normal” when it comes to member engagement and behavior. Some members will prefer paying via debit card online, while others choose to mail checks via snail mail. Some members will engage heavily on social media, while others simply wait around for the email newsletter. Some will become active participants in the online community, while others just sit back and browse the blog. That’s a lot of varied preferences to cater to!
When it comes to choosing your membership management software, you need to learn to cater to the rule, not the exceptions. The fact is, if you try to accommodate every whim, your system will become so cumbersome and complex that it’s not really much help. Yes, you definitely want to offer your members as much flexibility as possible, but you will need to draw the line somewhere. Here’s how to make sure your AMS software is capable of handling the overwhelming majority of your members’ needs, while remaining uncluttered and easily manageable.
Recognize Your Blind Spots
Exceptions stand out, primarily because they are, well, exceptions. For instance, if you have to handle a few dozen checks via mail each month, you’re probably more focused on those members than on the hundreds or thousands who simply click and pay online. That means that when you’re looking for association management software, you’ll be hyper-focused on the exceptions instead of those who follow the general rules. In reality, you probably won’t lose members by offering only online payments. Cater to the majority and keep your AMS software simple and effective.
Conduct a Cost-Benefit Analysis
When you aren’t sure whether it’s worth the extra time, effort, and expense to accommodate a small percentage of members with a particular feature or function, conduct a cost-benefit analysis. Put it in black and white: will adding the extra feature or option bring in enough revenue to justify the cost? Simple math is astoundingly effective when making these either/or decisions.
Determine the Most Important Goals
What are the goals you’re trying to meet with new AMS software? Make sure your selection allows you to meet those goals as simply and affordably as possible.
What are your most pressing objectives for the new software system? Are you trying to reach more prospective members? Boost the engagement levels of your current membership base? Provide more options for engaging with your association, or perhaps offer more value for your membership dues? Only with a firm understanding of your exact goals can you identify which features and functions are worth extra time and money, and which aren’t likely to produce enough return on investment.
Be Ready to Meet Some Resistance
People don’t like it when you take something away. This goes for your own staff as well as your association members. Be at the ready with an explanation for what you are and aren’t offering with the new membership management software. For example, explain that you’re able to keep dues lower by not having to process paper checks each month. Or, advertise how your new email newsletter is friendlier to the environment than your old paper ones. Most often, when people understand the reason for limitations, they are willing to accept the changes and adapt to the new way of doing things.
What other challenges will you need to be aware of during the process of selecting and implementing your new association management solution? Find out when you download Implementing Your AMS: What to Expect Along the Way.