As an Association Learning Management System (LMS) vendor, we integrate with the industry standard Association Management Systems (AMSs) and maintain partnerships and relationships with the various software systems in this space. We understand the AMS space is a complex world to navigate, especially when you’re looking to replace your current system. In your search for a way to keep your organization’s membership information under control, you may have sorted your way through a long (and seemingly ever-growing!) list of software vendors promoting their Association Management Systems (AMS). At the upcoming 2018 Annual Meeting and Exposition of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) in Chicago, over 20 distinct AMS’s and a dozen or so integrators or consultants for those products will be present. We’ve reviewed the list of vendors and, in an effort to learn more, studied the Salesforce-based systems to start. We’ll continue to do our research on the various systems, but read on to learn more about Salesforce specifically and stop by our booth at ASAE Annual to learn more about our approach to integration.
You might be thinking, “Salesforce?! Wait a minute – I’m not a salesperson looking to hock my wares! I’m an association executive looking to provide support for my members. Organizing events, offering continuing education, promoting collaboration for the greater good – that’s what I do. Geez, buddy, do you have some nerve!” Ok … maybe I should back up a minute and explain what Salesforce is and why Salesforce is relevant outside of a typical sales department.
Salesforce is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that, among many other things, allows businesses to track information about clients from the prospecting stage and beyond. This CRM allows companies to note customers’ preferences, capture their customer support history, and route that data to the right team at the right time. In a way, then the name Salesforce is a misnomer – it really should be called something like Customerforce or Memberforce, but those names don’t have the same ring. In any case, Salesforce has been a very popular platform for keeping close track of a lot of data about a lot of people with a focus toward acting on that data.
Why use Salesforce as the base for an AMS?
As an association executive, you too deal with a lot of people and a lot of data that needs to be acted on. Salesforce helps keep track of these data points for each individual. From these individual data points, reports and dashboards can be built to help you get a sense of the state of the organization. This data consumption and analysis is one of the core functionalities of Salesforce that is transferable to the association space. In addition, if you have tools you want to use with your Salesforce data, a robust set of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) allow Salesforce to integrate with a wide-variety of external programs (e.g. Quickbooks, DocuSign, Mailchimp, etc.). Thus, your data is not trapped but rather free to move and work for your members. Furthermore, Salesforce seamlessly upgrades its software three time per year for all its members, so you are always on the latest version.
Getting the AMS feature set right
As an association executive, of course, your needs are different from a salesperson’s. Two of your main concerns are collecting dues and organizing conferences, expos, or similar events. Unfortunately, a new Salesforce instance has no concept of what a “member” is. Thankfully, one of Salesforce’s other key features is the ability to create customized apps using Salesforce’s internal coding languages (e.g. Apex for backend coding and Visualforce for frontend styling) as well as other features for building apps without code. These apps can then be made available to the public in Salesforce’s store, the AppExchange. Two examples of this type of AMS are Nimble AMS and Fonteva Membership. These apps not only know what a member is but how to track a member’s subscription type, register and charge a member for a conference, sign up a member for a conference panel, and connect a member to other members in an online community. To get a feel for what one of these systems looks like for both the association executive and the member, check out the demonstration of Fonteva Membership here.
The power of enterprise software, the continuously upgraded quality of the platform, the feature set of an AMS, and the ability to customize or integrate with a host of other Salesforce or external applications are all strong reasons why you might want to check out a Salesforce-based AMS. If you’re in the market for a new AMS, consider the Salesforce options as well as several others. We’ll hopefully see you at ASAE this August and get to talk about your association management system and how our learning management system seamlessly integrates with it.