I had the opportunity to sit through a lengthy demo of the Polaris product from ARC Solutions. Overall I was pretty impressed with what I saw. Their product is entirely web-based and takes advantage of all the latest technology available to web-based databases.
ARC is still a relatively young business (7 years old) and still has a relatively small client list (under 30 clients). But they’ve received some venture capital money and have developed some very nice tools. Their target market is associations in the $1 million to $25 million budget range, and I think this product will be a good consideration for these associations.
Some of the things I saw that I liked:
- The “recent items” task bar reflects more than just recent contacts (i.e., individual and organization records) but also reflects recent “objects” such as an order page or an event set up page. I think that’s cool because I find I frequently have to return to a page I was working on and the page is often NOT related to a person or org record.
- “Resend confirmation email.” This simple link resends the confirmation email for a membership join or renewal or an event registration (and probably others). A really simple function that’s missing from a lot of other AMS products.
- The system has really nice user tools that allow you to add fields and place them on many different screens. Also of note is that the users can “design” how the staff view looks and how the “member portal” (public-facing pages) look. These can look different, which is good. The downside is if you make a field change to the database, you have to remember to make a change in a couple of different places if you want that change to show on both the staff and public side. Overall, though, I think it’s net positive.
Some of the weaknesses:
- As of now, there is no Outlook integration. So any conversations had in Outlook need to be manually copied to records within Polaris.
- There are no email templates available at the individual record level. That means that if you want to send a single email to someone (say directions to your event) you’ll have to have a copy of that in Word (or somewhere else) and cut and paste it into the email within the database.
Overall, if your organization is willing to take a risk on a relative newcomer to the association, this is a product worth checking out.
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.