I’m working with a client who has a custom database application to manage their website and database. It’s actually a pretty slick system. But the problem is that it was designed by web developers who have a great sense of managing web things, but no sense for managing finances.

I see this time and time again from web-development companies that expand into the AMS space. While they may develop great data and website management systems, they frequently overlook one of the most important aspects of a traditional AMS: financial transactions.

Your AMS has to be able to track all money coming in to your organization, and keep track of who actually owes you money (accounts receivable). Too often what I see in custom designs is a simple checkbox that says “Paid” or “Unpaid.” But there’s nothing there to generate invoices, track whether and how payment was made, and track which general ledger account the money should be applied to.

One of the advantages that most off-the-shelf products have over custom products is that they’ve already addressed the issue of managing the money. They have in place the tools to manage invoicing, refunds, transfers, g/l accounts, and the rest of the financial minutiae that most of us hate, but all of us need to best keep track of our financial status.

So when you’re considering off-the-shelf versus custom, make sure either system you consider has the ability to fully manage all of the a/r accounting functionality you’ll need. And of course, as I write here, most associations shouldn’t be in the custom software business anyway.

Full disclosure: EDM is an independent third-party consulting firm. This means we have no financial relationship with any of the vendors mentioned in this blog. We provide unbiased opinions on what we see.