What should your association management software include out-of-the-box?

As you look for your next association management software, make sure it includes these out-of-the-box (no added fee) capabilities. 

Your association management software (AMS) is critically important to the ongoing success of your growing organization. It’s the tool you use every day to manage your association. 

As you’re building your technology stack and considering options for your association’s next software purchase, keep in mind that not all AMS systems offer the same capabilities. Some include robust functionality to help support mid-to-large size organizations like yours. Others include only basic capabilities and charge extra fees to add on other features and modules. 

But how do you know which capabilities are most important for a growing organization like yours? We’re here to help.

Here are some top of the top out-of-the-box (no added fee) functionality to look for in your next AMS:  

Membership management 

Members are at the heart of your association. And as your membership base expands, you need tools that support a unified view of your members and their engagement with your association.

Your AMS should help you to create and deliver value to members while building stronger relationships with them. For example, it should include tools to help you: 

  • Manage and streamline the member journey – from application to renewal.
  • Automate manual membership processes to help you save time so you can get more done.
  • Configure multi-tiered membership models and pricing to align with your individual and organizational membership packages.
  • Track chapter and committee memberships.
  • Provide a member portal where members can easily update their own contact information and other details, such as communications preferences.  

TIP: NetForum AMS by Community Brands include robust membership management functionality and a member portal to help you easily manage your association membership information and processes.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

Individual members aren’t the only people you maintain relationships with. You also need tools to help manage and track relationships with prospects, donors, individuals, organizations, and more. Look for tools that make it easy to: 

  • See a complete profile view of any record in your database.  
  • Create parent/child account relationships, giving parent accounts the ability to manage contact information and membership status for their child accounts. 

TIP: NetForum includes CRM capabilities to help you track and manage unified views of engagement and transactions for members, prospects, donors, and other contacts.

  • Automatically document constituent questions and requests, and forward them to the appropriate staff member. 

TIP: For a faster alternative to a customized AMS implementation, NetForum offers a streamlined implementation option that uses pre-configured modules. It can have you up and running with NetForum AMS in a flash. 


Think about how often your membership activities and processes require accounting support. And think about how challenging it can be to get financial information into and out of your accounting system.  

Look for an AMS that includes an accounting module designed to support integration of your financial data directly with the correct accounts in your accounting system. It should help with:

  • Invoicing 
  • Cash receipts 
  • Financial transactions, including deferrals, credits, returns, and inventory 

 Also, look for a system that allows you to easily compile and review financial data so you can understand the financial health of your association – from membership renewals to dues processing and profitability. 

TIP: NetForum AMS can help you manage your association’s accounting needs from within the AMS so you know exactly where your organization stands at any given moment.

 Reporting and analytics

It’s important to have tools that help you dig into your data to understand it and put it to use to support your organization’s growth. 

 Look for tools that help you easily view and act on key organizational metrics each day. You should also be able to drill into charts and graphs to view the data behind it so you can better understand what might be impacting various trends.  

TIP: NetForum provides dashboards and hundreds of standard reports that give you visibility into the health and performance of your organization. You can easily modify them without the need for IT help. NetForum also integrates with the Nucleus data analytics solution for associations, and a Nucleus membership dashboard is included for all new NetForum customers.   

Event management

Your association’s events can improve member engagement, provide the networking and educational opportunities members want, generate non-dues revenue, and much more. But they do take work.

Make sure your AMS includes functionality to help you save time on event setup and management. It should help you manage multiple events – from committee meetings to annual conferences. It should also help you do things like: 

  • Manage registration types, tracks, booth assignments, and contracts. 
  • Set up various price structures based on membership type or status. 
  • Track registration payments, cancellations, and refunds. 
  • Track event details, such as meeting rooms, audio/video needs, and food service. 
  • Create detailed reports for event staff that includes information, such as meeting times, room names, and expected attendance.  

TIP: NetForum AMS includes functionality to help you manage all of your association’s events. You can create, manage, and track event details; track trade show information; manage registration and sponsor invoicing and payments; and much more. 


If fundraising is part of your association’s revenue-generating plan, there are multiple fundraising activities your AMS should support. Look for an AMS system that helps you:

  • Manage donor data – You should be able to manage a donor profile for each of your members that includes a comprehensive view of communications, touch points, interests, giving history, and past campaigns that have inspired giving. Your software should also allow you to give donors and prospects the convenience of managing their own profiles, contact information, recurring gifts, and saved payment methods through an online donor portal.
  • Monitor donor health – Look for tools that allow you to track engagement levels so you can take smarter and faster action when connecting with members. Once members have given, make sure you can identify where they are in the fundraising lifecycle and manage their movement forward.
  • Target donor communications – Your software should help you send targeted communications and specify suggested donation ask amounts that are calculated based on a donor’s historical giving patterns. You should also be able to use built-in analytics and easily build custom queries for reports that will give you insights into your donors for use in targeted donor communications and campaigns.
  • Process gifts efficiently – Make sure your software supports things like batch gift entry and process automation so that you can make quick work of gift processing and save time that’s better spent on other fundraising activities. 

TIP: Fundraising functionality in NetForum AMS supports these best practices, and more. 

Learn more
Choosing the right AMS will support your organization as you grow to the next level and ensure your success for years to come. Be sure to look for key functionality that’s built into your AMS, and you’ll be on your way to making the most effective choice for your association. 

Learn more about key capabilities your software technology stack should include to support your association. Read the guide, Finding the High-Functioning Software Your Growing Association Needs.  

If your tech stack is letting you down, see what partnering with NetForum and Community Brands can do for your association.

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