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5th Edition Association Exec’s Guide Now Available

See the top 7 tips for leveraging association software to boost revenue generation and member engagement based on real-world client best practices.

I’m very excited to announce that the 5th edition of our highly popular The Association Exec’s Guide to Improving Organizational Performance is now available as a downloadable e-book!

The book is all-new — ASI’s Co-Founders, Bob Alves and Don Robertson, have compiled the latest insights they’ve learned from our thousands of our association clients around the world. You can now find the hands-on tools, resources, and step-by-step advice you need all in one place. And they show you how to create an environment in which you can learn from every member touchpoint, which then helps you achieve continuous performance improvement.


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Make sure your business strategy drives your technology investments.


In this article:


Why This Edition is So Different

The Association Exec’s Guide provides a detailed blueprint for using technology to increase your results and better prepare for future challenges. It can help you:

  • Learn from every member interaction 
  • Improve your operational efficiencies 
  • Increase revenue, including non-dues/non-membership fee revenue 
  • Ensure continuous performance improvement


What You’ll Learn

The guide is a quick read you’ll want to dive into for specific insights that will help you: 

  • Benchmark your current situation
  • Get organized and ready for a new system search process
  • Assess available technology on the market that will support your goals
  • Evaluate possible systems — before you commit
  • Optimize your association software to meet your specific needs


Top 7 Takeaways From the Association Software Guide:

Put these strategies in place to make the most of your association’s performance:



1. Rank Your Association on the Digital Maturity Scale

ASI has identified key areas to consider when assessing where your organization stands and the Association Exec’s Guide helps you understand what these areas are and how to successfully address them.

The first step is to take the Digital Maturity Self-Assessment. This is a short 7-question quiz that will tell you where your organization falls on the Digital Maturity scale:

The five possible results of the Digital Maturity Test: chaotic, defined, optimized, agile, and predictive.

From there, we can help you dig down further with our full assessment (you can find it in the Appendices of the eBook). We can then help you interpret your answers and put together a plan to get you to where you want to go.


2. Put Together an Ongoing Digital Transformation Plan

Digital Transformation Defined

For associations and non-profit organizations, digital transformation:

  • Helps you successfully adopt cloud-based business systems, CRMs, websites and learning systems for your entire organization
  • Breaks down barriers between departments
  • Provides a great opportunity to create a more intimate experience for members and donors, inevitably leading to more engagement.

Digital transformation must deliver data as a Single Source of Truth (SSoT) for management decision making. Only then can your association begin to accurately learn from your member and donor interactions and create a sustaining path to continuous performance improvement.

Digital transformation must deliver data as a Single Source of Truth for management decision making.

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Successful Strategies

The most successful digital transformation plan helps you:

  • Look at your organization with fresh eyes and encourage you and your staff to challenge the status quo
  • Continually evolve your strategies to meet changing needs. It should be a living, breathing document that is regularly reviewed and updated to ensure you’re ready for future challenges. In the guide, we refer to this ongoing process as “digital evolution” — you can learn more about it beginning on page 18.


3. Ensure Your Association Software Addresses the Key Issues You’re Facing

Focus on a Single Source of Truth (SSoT)

A Single Source of Truth (SSoT) is designed to eliminate data silos and bring all interactions with your members and other stakeholders together in one database. An Engagement Management System is a good example of this: because it’s cloud-based, you can always access real-time data from anywhere with even greater security than you could likely provide on your own in–house server.

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Start with the Right Core Platform

It needs to be a member management system that’s purpose-built for associations so you can build your tech stack on a solid foundation with a 360° view of your members. The core should include:

  • Member Management
  • Member Engagement/Web Portal 
  • Accounting and Finance


Add the Departmental Modules You Need

When you start with a strong, flexible, best-in-class association software platform, you can easily add the best-of-breed modules that address your organization’s unique needs. These might include:

  • Application and Review Management
  • Learning Management Systems (LMS)
  • Advertising, Sponsorships and Expo Sales
  • And many other specialty apps — with the right core, your options are virtually limitless 

Learn how to build your personalized tech stack on page 44.


Choose the Right Implementation Tools for Your Association 

Your association software should support no-code, plug-and-play integrations with the most popular application exchanges. In this case, you can trigger cloud-friendly system data updates and easily manage all of your automated workflows in one place. And you can do all of this yourself — no IT or coding experience required.

This allows you to access the applications that meet your particular needs while still maintaining a Single Source of Truth and not compromising your association’s upgrade path.


Take these insights with you

Download your complimentary copy of The Association Exec’s Guide to Improving Organizational Performance.


4. Do a Real-World Preview of the Member Management System Before You Commit

Many non-profits are required to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP), Request for Information (RFI), or Request for Quote (RFQ) or some form of competitive bidding process when purchasing new technology. But, as we all know, RFPs and demos alone are not always a great predictor of success when choosing new association software.

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The advantages of RFPs include:

  • Your entire organization is already familiar with the RFP process
  • They allow you to compare apples to apples
  • At the end of the process, you have documented justification for your decision

Yet, there are plenty of drawbacks: 

  • It’s probably the same process you used to find the association software you’re trying to replace now
  • It can be expensive and time-consuming
  • Vendors answer your questions but may not tell you what you need to hear
  • The “price” may not be the real price


Explore System Previews for Your Next Association Software

In a system preview, you test the solution provider’s offering in a real-world environment using your own information and processes to determine whether the system will work for you before you make a commitment.

These previews can be very cost-effective. And testing the association software will give you a much more accurate view of whether the system is right for your member-centric organization. 

A system preview process can include:

  • Determining your most pressing issues and challenges
  • Saving you time and money by using proven best practices
  • Identifying new technological advances on the market
  • Lowering your risk of investing in the wrong technology
  • Clearly documenting your needs

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Or, Think About a Hybrid Approach

A system preview is the most effective way to find your next association software. But if your organization requires the traditional RFP and demo, you might want to consider a hybrid process that can enhance this approach. As part of the system preview, a detailed requirements document is created; you can use this document to build a highly targeted, streamlined RFP that will:

  • Speak to your specific needs
  • Increase the quality of the responses you receive because requirements will be more specific to your organization’s needs
  • Result in a better association software decision that will support your organization long-term


5. Don’t Forget to…

There’s more to consider than just the platform and modules to ensure the system can truly support your organization. The average association software will be in place for five to 10 years, so you need to choose a solution provider that will provide long-term stability and flexibility.

Choose the Best Partners 

You’ll want to ensure your system can keep up with changing technology and is agile enough to take on unexpected challenges. For ASI, the choice was clear. Microsoft Azure is the world’s #1 cloud-computing platform. We’re also a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner so we can demonstrate the highest level of competence and expertise with Microsoft technologies. Look for a solution provider with similar partner relationships.


Look for an Extensive App Store

Your organization is unique and you’ll undoubtedly need a specialty solution. You should be able to easily extend your platform with best-of-breed add-on applications. You’ll need an app store with: 

  • A searchable collection of association-specific solutions
  • “Point-to-point” integrations with the most popular solutions on the market
  • Tailored and comprehensive solutions that do not require IT support
  • No proprietary lock-in — don’t let the solution limit you to just one app store or app exchange

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Insist on Top-Tier Security 

You know the importance of protecting and securing your data. Look for solution providers that adhere to the most rigorous industry standards. The company should monitor all production operation environments with immediate remediation using:

  • Monthly vulnerability scans 
  • Third-party supply chain monitoring 
  • Malware script monitoring 

Learn more about operational layers of protection and security testing protocols on page 65.

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Optimize Non-Dues Revenue Generation

Non-dues/non-membership fee revenue is vital to the success of your organization and your association software should help you increase it, such as through:

  • Advertising Management 
  • Sponsorships and Expo Floor Sales 
  • Certification Management 
  • Learning Management
  • Product Sales
  • Event registrations


Understand the Training Plan and Learning Paths

Ideally, your solution will offer a “Train the Trainer” model and will help you develop a flexible, comprehensive plan that includes:

  • On-demand training 
  • Certifications 
  • In-person and virtual conferences

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Ensure You’re Getting Great Support from Your Association Software

A good member management system can transform into a disaster if it doesn’t offer excellent support that doesn’t stop at Go-Live. Be sure to look for:

  • Online ticketing system with phone and/or screenshare support 
  • 24/7 support portal
  • Extensive help documentation
  • Video tutorials
  • Independent user group
  • A large network of trained, certified and authorized partners you can call on

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Look for Proof 

When considering possible software vendors, ask them to back up what they say with demonstrable proof, including:

  • Extensive experience with associations and other non-profits
  • Satisfied, referenceable clients
  • Adherence to industry standards
  • Reviews on independent client review sites

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Download your complimentary copy of The Association Exec’s Guide to Improving Organizational Performance.


6. Use Your Association Software to Become a Learning Organization

Continuous Performance Improvement is the systematic process that focuses all of your organization’s efforts on achieving the goals you’ve set. A true learning organization leverages a Single Source of Truth (SSoT) to study every member touch-point and uses that information to better deliver on its value proposition.

By following the advice in The Association Exec’s Guide to Improving Organizational Performance, you can create a real learning organization that puts your member-centric organization on the path to Continuous Performance Improvement.


7. Create Your Own Action Plan

The Association Exec’s Guide provides a wealth of information you can use — but you need to have a well-constructed plan. The guide helps you with this as well — with checklists and tips to consider. Keep these items in mind as you build your strategy:

Create a Single Source of Truth Your Association Can Rely On 

A Single Source of Truth (SSoT) eliminates data silos and brings all interactions with your members together in one database. It provides 360°, real-time view of all member interactions that you can use for analytics and predictive modeling. And because it’s in the Cloud, you can always access real-time data from anywhere.


Determine Your Digital Maturity Level

You need to measure where you’re starting so you know how far you’ve progressed. The guide offers both a quick self-assessment as well as a more in-depth review.


Develop Your Digital Evolution Plan

You probably have a digital transformation plan but you should look at it as an ongoing, evolutionary process. Make sure to review your plan regularly and adapt it to your organization’s changing needs to ensure you’re delivering optimal value for your members.

People Discussing with a Tablet 


Document the Problems You Need To Solve

Keep your goals and most pressing challenges top-of-mind when considering new association software, instead of the most popular bells and whistles. Your business strategy should drive your technology decisions — not the other way around.


Conduct a System Preview to Ensure Your Success

If foregoing an RFP is too much for your organization, consider a hybrid approach that combines the benefits of a system preview with an RFP process to satisfy your procurement requirements.

Be sure to take a look at the system “must-haves” checklist on page 98.


Wrap Up

  • Take advantage of the guide’s resources to set the stage for success 
  • Assess your current situation and develop a plan forward
  • Above all, choose association software that creates a Single Source of Truth (SSoT) you can rely on
  • Be open to new ideas and ways to increase your rate of success



Make sure your business strategy drives your technology investments

Filled with tips, checklists, self-assessments, and other hands-on resources, this guide provides a blueprint for benchmarking your current situation, identifying your needs, exploring solutions, and optimizing the system to meet your organization’s distinct needs.

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