4 Lessons on Making the Big Move to New Membership Software

Birmingham, Alabama, has been my one and only home, but I had always dreamt of uprooting my life and moving away to a “big city” where I could experience a new and much different way of living and not feel so stifled and stuck. Almost a year ago, that dream came true, and I found myself trading the South for life in Chicago. While moving homes may not be exactly like moving membership software, you’d be surprised by the overlap my fish-out-of-water experience has with the association executives I’ve talked with over the past year.

The day before I was to move up to the Windy City, I was feeling a whirlwind of emotions…mainly excitement, but also a bit of trepidation because I had never lived anywhere else, and here I was about to embark on an exciting adventure-during their wintertime.

Here were 4 change management lessons I learned relocating to a new city that can be applicable to searching for a new membership software.

1. You can never do too much of this… Membership software


In retrospect, preparing for my move up here was a total whirlwind. Everything happened so incredibly fast. The first thing I did when I realized I was actually doing this (aside from freaking out about leaving), was making a to-do list of everything I would need in order to move. The first item on that list was figuring out where on earth I was going to live. And before that, I had to consider my budget.

When searching for an AMS software, one has to consider the budget because like moving it is a huge expense and investment for your association. If you don’t have the budget, support, and the approval from your board, then you’re not likely to get very far. If you’re wondering how your association staff should approach the topic of purchasing a new AMS software, then I would suggest taking a look at these compelling reasons.

Once you’ve convinced your board and allocated money for the software, you need to make a list of the following items:

What does your software have that works well?

What is lacking in your current system?

What does your wish list entail for a switch?

What are your needs?

When looking for new software, you have to consider what is important to your association when you do make the switch, and what you are looking for in order to get the best value. In a nutshell, your new system should make your staff jobs easier. Ask yourself what are you dissatisfied with? Are you unable to track the emails you sent members? Are you still managing your event registration manually? Is their duplicate data in your system?

When you go to work, you don’t want to feel more stressed knowing that your software may or may not function the way you want. And you want a software where you can perform all your tasks rather than having to do some things by hand or using different platforms to do your job. Ultimately, you want to do your job using just one system.

In my case, once I determined my budget and figured out what the cost of living was, then I could start to pin point what neighborhood(s) I could consider. 

And as with determining your own list of needs for a new system, I also had to make my own list of what I was looking for in my future home. Since I wasn’t familiar with the city, and I didn’t really know anyone up there, I had to consider what was important for me and what I was willing and unwilling to compromise on. As you can probably imagine, I had SO many questions running through my head.

For me, safety was an obvious concern. I wanted to feel comfortable walking around no matter the time of day. Also, it was equally important for me to live near public transportation, a grocery store, and a gym because those were things that I needed in order to make my transition to city life easier.

If you’re going to purchase an AMS, then you must do your research beforehand. Request a demo and ask all the questions you might have. The more questions you ask, the more information you can collect, and present to the rest of your team who will be part of the final decision-making process. Armed with all that information, your team might be inclined to be more supportive of your case for searching for a new system.

2. Anticipate unexpected costs…because they will arise.

I didn’t have the luxury of time to see my apartment before I left Birmingham. I had to do everything by email and phone. So when I moved up here, my cozy little studio lacked a few, (what I’ve always considered) standard household items. Aside from the initial shock of walking into my studio (never having been inside one before and having a 10 second internal panic that none of my stuff will fit), I quickly realized my apartment didn’t have a dishwasher, microwave, or light fixtures. So yes, some unexpected expenses did arise, and I find myself washing dishes more often than I’d prefer.

When searching for new AMS software, one of the first questions that you’re probably wondering is, “How much does it cost?” Well, as with relocating, it really depends. You need to ask yourself what matters to your organization, and what are you looking for it to do your staff?

Also, keep these factors in mind when it comes to the price…

  • There are costs that arise when you are searching for the actual software, such as working with a Vendor Selection Consultant
  • The price of the actual software 
  • The cost to maintain your membership software

At the end of the day, this is a huge investment for your association, and you’ll see a positive impact in the years to come. There are many factors you need to consider when making this purchase. It’s not an impulsive buy (like a Harry Potter remote control wand for your tv), and it shouldn’t be treated as one. 

3. Communicate often AMS selection

Moving up here has proved to test how strong some of my friendships are. Although living in a world where we are connected via social media has certainly sustained my friendships, I have still drifted apart from some of my friends. I’ve learned that friendship is a two-way effort and that communicating, whether it’s through text, call, Facetime, or social media, is absolutely necessary. But I’ve also learned that as time goes by, and the longer you’re are out of school and move into different stages in life, it’s only natural that you’ll drift apart from some people.

When communicating with your team about transitioning to a new member software, it’s imperative to keep your teams in the loop. You want everyone in your association to be as prepared as they can for this transition because more than likely you will meet some resistance.

You need to set realistic goals and find the people on your staff who will spearhead this AMS software search. Ideally, these leaders are the ones who are on board with the notion of switching systems and have a desire to collaborate with the rest of the organization and will play an integral role during the implementation process. 

4. Doing something uncomfortable leaves you feeling empowered and liberated AMS selection

Moving may not seem like a big deal because most people tend to do it multiple times throughout their lives. 


When you spend your entire life in one place and then you actually decide to pack up and go to a place where you have no friends or family…

and before you know it a year flies by, and you realize how well you’ve adapted and thrived (but are aware you still have a lot to learn), you can’t help but feel those feelings.

Switching to a new member software should feel the same way. It’s supposed to help you attain your organization’s goals and should leave you feeling empowered to do your job more effectively. It helps you communicate with your members more easily and allows you to reach new potential members as well.

Behind the scenes, association staff members can come to work knowing that they have a system that saves time, improves accuracy, and helps them analyze their member data. Yes, it’s scary commiting to this change, but by remaining comfortable with your outdated system, you’re doing a disservice not just to your association staff, but your members AND future members. 

Now that my Chicago-versary is approaching, I can look back and see how wonderful this first year has been. There were times when it wasn’t easy adapting to the frigid cold weather and the high cost of living, but I’m learning to deal (sort of). Moving up here has left me feeling liberated and empowered because I now know that I’m capable of moving to a completely different city and making it my home. I can leave behind everything that is familiar and comfortable and be okay. And it made me realize that one day (in the far, far future), I’ll do it a few more times because I’d be doing myself a disservice by remaining in one place for the rest of my life. 

Implementing Membership Software

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