Software That Facilitates Member Service

An association management software system might be an indispensable tool for your organization.

Misty Miller, RCE, EPRO, AHWD, C2EX is executive officer for the Ashland Board of REALTORS® in Ohio.

As the executive officer and sole staff member for what I call a microassociation (fewer than 100 members), I know how valuable having an association management software (AMS) system can be. But not every association takes advantage of such a system, so I thought I would contact the various vendors, hear their pitches, and put them together in a nice little presentation.

Then, I conducted an informal poll at the AEI Year-Round Facebook page. Here’s where association executives stand with AMS systems:

  • 47.6% - Associations that do not have an AMS or use QuickBooks (80)
  • 52.4% - Associations that use an AMS or are installing one soon (88)

A substantial number of respondents added, “We can’t/board doesn’t think we can afford an AMS,” and a handful said “What’s an AMS?” That’s a lot of AEs who either don’t have an AMS, don’t know what one is, or are making do with a less-than-ideal option.

So I took on an experiment: I set out to run our association for two weeks without using our AMS. That way, I could better explain the benefits and help AEs explain the benefits to their leadership.

What was it like? Pure hell. I nearly quit, then remembered that I had done this to myself. I could go into excruciating detail about how challenging it was, but I’d rather focus on what our members didn’t get from our association due to my lack of resources and time.

Here’s just some of what they missed:

  • A real person to answer the phones
  • Prompt return of emails, text messages, and voicemails
  • Prompt fulfillment of requests
  • On-time monthly billings
  • Complete and prompt committee meeting agendas and minutes
  • Quick follow-up on action items
  • Timely monthly reconciliations

Simply put, this board functions best with an AMS. Everything I tried to do not only took longer, but some tasks got so messy that members started asking questions. That’s when I realized that having an AMS is one of the best member benefits any association can offer.

I’m at my best when I can tackle projects in an organized fashion, everything I need is at my fingertips, my databases sync automatically, billing is automated, and I’m confident that every member is getting the information they need (even if they say, “I didn’t get that”).

The late Harley E. Rouda Sr., a REALTOR® from Ohio who served as president of the National Association of REALTORS® in 1991, once said, “If real estate is your career, then politics is your business.” I would add that if association management is your business, an AMS is the digital Swiss Army knife that helps you get things done.

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Support Systems

Seven brands were represented among AEs reporting they use an AMS, with Growth Zone and Navica Streamline being the leading options. Here’s a brief snapshot of the systems, and what size association they best accommodate (S = under 500 members; M = 500–1,500 members; L = 501–5,000 members; Mega = 5,000+ members).

  • Blacknight/Lamps. (S, L) Integrated software, data, and analytics solutions automate processes across the homeownership life cycle, helping achieve strategic goals.
  • Fonteva (Mega). Built on the Salesforce customer relationship management platform, Fonteva for Associations offers a flexible, configurable tool that supports multiple aspects of trade association management.
  • Growth Zone (S, M, L). The first AMS to offer a built-in marketing automation module, Growth Zone is designed for efficiency and—what else? —growth.
  • MMSI (M, L). MMSI’s Membership Director is built on an accounting platform to guarantee standard accounting practices and full audit trails, and it adapts easily to evolving member needs.
  • Navica Streamline (S, M, L). Emphasizing client service, Systems Engineering Inc. (SEI) has focused on software development for the real estate industry since 1975.
  • RAMCO (M, L, Mega). A comprehensive, flexible membership data solution for REALTOR® associations and MLSs that can help reduce ongoing membership system and development costs.
  • Rapattoni (S, M, L). Designed exclusively for the real estate industry, the latest version of Rapattoni Magic-Cloud offers an intuitive interface and powerful new features.

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