On Wednesday of this week I spoke at ASAE's Marketing & Membership Conference. Another sold-out show for the MMC, which has become a premier event for membership and marketing folks.

My presentation, along with Mary Pat Paris of IRP, was on managing the email opt-out process. One of the points that struck me as particularly salient was the struggle associations have with managing multiple data management systems. Every association has (or should have) a primary association management system that at a minimum contains membership contact information. But it is becoming increasingly common for associations to have multiple databases in place to manage different functionality. Examples include external registration systems, PAC management systems, and broadcast email tools.

Whether you have two or two hundred disparate systems, what is most critical is having a process for managing the synchronization of these disparate systems. Ultimately what that requires is three things:

  1. Identifying which data elements should be shared between the systems.
  2. Identifying which direction the data should be shared (one-way or two-way).
  3. Establishing a process for managing the sharing of this data.

My suspicion, based on direct observation as well as discussions at these types of meetings, is that few associations are considering any of these three points when adding new data management systems to the mix. Unfortunately what happens too often is that new systems are added (e.g., outside registration company) without consideration for what or how the data should be shared. It's only after the new system is in place that people start asking "Hey, how do we get that data back into our main system?"

Does your organization have this process under control? If not, start by identifying all the disparate systems you have. Then walk through the three steps above and establish a data-sharing process. You'll be happy you did.