What Associations Like About Their Databases

For the past three years, I’ve conducted a non-scientific survey of association executives, asking them what immediate concerns they have surrounding the management of their database.

For a change of pace, I recently conducted a non-scientific survey asking association executives the following question: “When someone asks you ‘what’s good about your database’ what’s the first thing that comes to your mind?” The responses I received were somewhat surprising.

I received just over 50 responses to this question. In years past, for the “what’s wrong” survey, I’ve received over 150 responses. This lower response makes me wonder if respondents had a tougher time answering the “what’s right” question as compared to the “what’s wrong.”

Because this was an open-ended question, the results included a broad range of responses. But a few common themes emerged.

Easy to configure/customize – Several responses reflected users were pleased that the database they were using could be configured and customized to their needs without requiring vendor intervention. This reflects the improved tools being created by the AMS vendors that allow for well-trained staff to make customizations within the database without requiring actual programming. Some representative comments included:

“I like the ability to customize our database without having to go to the vendor for every customization.”

“It is very flexible, and capable of being customized to fit our exact needs.”

“We like the ability to be able to make most customizations on our own without the need for a consultant or programmer.”

Easy to use – Ease-of-use is always a major concern when using an association management system. User adoption is a one key to long-term success, and ease of use is directly related to user adoption. Several respondents pointed out that ease-of-use was one of the things they liked about their database. Representative comments included:

“Easy to figure out – easy to learn.”


“It’s really easy to look up people.”

Good source of data – Several respondents pointed out that the actual data the database contains is something they like most about the database. It’s one thing to be able to collect data, yet another thing to retrieve and use it. These respondents clearly like the value of being able to access and use the data they are collecting. Representative comments included:

“I can get any report I need. We tend to call it our datamart.”

“Historical information is very valuable”

“It is becoming a treasure trove of Member information.”

Not surprisingly, I did receive a handful of responses along the line of “Nothing about my database is good.” But I was encouraged overall by the number of positive responses I received. While many associations still struggle with managing their data, clearly some are drawing benefits from their current systems. As we manage our systems, it’s important to focus on what is working as well as what is not working.


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