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“Why don’t you just tell me which system to buy?”
28 February 2008, by , in Data Management, 2 comments

Clients will sometimes say to me: "Can't you just tell me what the best association management system is so that I can buy it?" Frankly, that's like saying "tell me the best car to buy."

There are hundreds of software packages for membership management. There are dozens of software packages for association management (which typically involves more than just membership management). The question is: why? Why are there so many choices?

The simple answer is, there is usually more than one solution to any given problem. And in the case of managing the data for your association, there are literally dozens (if not hundreds) of technology solutions available. I personally track nearly 30 different vendors providing association management software to the association market.

And just like buying a car, you have to decide what's important to you, what features you need, and how the product will better serve you. The good news is, you have plenty of options to choose from; the bad news is, you have plenty of options to choose from.

The reality is, there isn't a single best solutions for all organizations. So you need to do your homework, identifying what your needs are, and which packages can best address those needs.

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  • Mark

    There really are better packages. Face it consultants make a living, sometimes even better then the software vendors, from facilitating the selection process. And associations typically want to use an “independant consultant” instead of an informed staff member making a sole decision.

    If you are buying a car you can get viable research from Consumer Reports, JD Powers, Edmunds, etc to narrow the choices down real fast.

    Software in this class is vastly different as there is little if any true independant research such as Forrester, Gartner, Yankee and little if any worthwhile industry news. So your left with sifting through promised functionality and a consultant who has seen it before should be able to offer up biased opinion based upon their insight and experiences.

  • Thanks for your thoughts, Mark. I agree there are better packages, but I think there are also “classes” of software. That is, there are packages appropriate for really large organizations (like yours) and others that are more appropriate for smaller organizations. Thus my position that there is no easy answer to “which system is best?”

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“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
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“We came to Wes because we were very frustrated with our existing AMS and we wanted to improve our capabilities as soon as practicable. Wes very quickly helped us through a process of identifying our needs, identifying potential vendors, and selecting a new system that we’ll be able to move into very quickly. I especially appreciated Wes’s candor about our processes as well as the systems we were looking at. He was a great resource to have in a period of high anxiety for our organization. I would highly recommend Wes for any similar project.”

Jack Chiasson, CMP Executive Director
National Association of Life Brokerage Agencies

“Wes was able to come in and offer tangible, relevant advice that made us more productive immediately. I value his understanding of databases but more so, his understanding of how nonprofits work. There was no lost time educating him about how membership organizations are “different.” Wes recommended changes in processes as well as tips and tricks that were easy to implement made an immediate positive impact.”

Mary Pat Paris, Executive Director
International Registration Plan

Mary Pat Paris
International Registration Plan

“This is the second database implementation we’ve done since I have been at Western Arts Alliance (WAA). The first I did on my own. This time we engaged Wes Trochlil as our database planning consultant. Let me tell you, this process is a whole lot easier having Wes on your team! For a small association like WAA, it’s tempting for board and EDs to question the justification and expense of a database planning consultant. But it’s the small associations that need Effective Database Management the most. Wes strengthened our planning process, clarified our needs requirements, helped us steer around solutions that couldn’t meet our objectives, and saved us money in the long haul.”

Tim Wilson, Executive Director
Western Arts Alliance

Tim Wilson
Western Arts Alliance
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