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What is an Engagement Management System (EMS)? A Quick Guide

An engagement management system holds the key to streamlining your membership program and enhancing member experiences. Learn the EMS basics in this guide.

Engagement is at the heart of any membership-based organization, whether you’re an association, nonprofit, or union. While your organization may strive to educate its members, provide networking opportunities, set standards, and so much more, member engagement is vital to meeting these goals. That’s where an engagement management system (EMS) comes in.

With an EMS, your organization can make its member engagement more dynamic, digital, and personal.

In this guide, we’ll discuss the basics of EMS platforms, focusing on the key elements that distinguish them from an association management system (AMS). By investing in an all-in-one EMS, your organization can elevate its perceived membership value, retain more members, and boost its revenue over time.

Click through to book a quick tour of iMIS and learn how this leading engagement management system can streamline your processes.

What does an engagement management system do?

An engagement management system (EMS) is a cloud-based membership management solution purpose-built to meet the needs of associations and other membership-based organizations.

Essentially, an EMS is comprised of:

The core areas of features covered by an engagement management system, as listed below.

  • An AMS
  • A content management system (CMS)
  • A constituent relationship management (CRM) system

As the world’s only EMS, iMIS has helped over 4,000+ organizations unlock a 360-degree view of their members to supercharge engagement, provide personalized experiences, and tailor their membership program to fit their exact needs and goals.

What are the main features of an engagement management system?

Specifically, an EMS includes features, dashboards, and tools for:

Some of the main tools and features included in an engagement management system, as listed below.

To see first-hand how adopting an EMS can revolutionize the way your organization operates and provides value to members, watch this brief video about the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association’s journey:


As the video highlights, transitioning to an engagement management system like iMIS can reduce your staff’s processes from weeks to just a few hours.

Click through to learn how one fraternal organization uses an engagement management system to manage over 25,000 members efficiently and effectively.

Engagement Management System vs. Association Management Software

Associations might be more familiar with using an AMS to facilitate their programs. So, what exactly makes an EMS stand out? Let’s explore the key elements that distinguish an engagement management system from association management software.

1. An engagement management system centralizes the member experience.

A traditional AMS primarily manages contacts and performs transactions. These solutions often leave out other functionalities such as learning management software (LMS) integration, job boards, email communications, and website integration. Because of this, associations have to turn to third-party applications and break up the member experience across multiple platforms.

An EMS facilitates and records all member engagement in a single place. It can indicate whether a member:

Different ways an engagement management system can track member engagement, as listed below.

  • Paid their dues
  • Registered for an event
  • Finished an education class
  • Voted in the election
  • Opened an email

With all of this information in a central hub, your staff can target web content to each member based on their experiences and interests. Plus, it can guide future communications by targeting the right message to the right person based on previous engagement. For example, the EMS can send different communications based on whether someone opened a conference promotion, ignored an email, or already registered.

By tracking engagement in one place, you can identify members and companies that are very engaged and those that are at risk of lapsing. Depending on individual engagement scores, you can prioritize which members to reach out to.

2. An EMS provides a single member engagement portal.

Since enhancing member engagement is a top concern among 45% of associations, it’s important to let members engage with your organization when and how they prefer. Whether they’re looking to register for an event or subscribe to a product, they want to be able to do so while sitting at home after dinner, lounging on their cell phone or tablet.

With online engagement more important than ever, your system, events, training, and website must all be coordinated. An engagement management system allows you to do just that. Simply by logging into their member portal, members can:

  • Update their profile details
  • Renew their membership
  • Browse your online store
  • Sign up for an upcoming event
  • Make donations

The added ease and convenience provided by an EMS increases the chances that members will want to continue interacting with your organization year after year.

3. An engagement management system merges your database management and website.

An EMS is built to manage every aspect of your engagement with members. It fuses your database management and website into a single system so that you can provide a personalized experience across all member-facing systems. This means that members can easily access your website resources, current news, webinars, training and certifications, and upcoming events.

Since all your engagement—even from external integrated systems—is located in a single system, you can tailor each member’s experience to meet their expectations and provide individualized value. Additionally, engagement dashboards and other reporting capabilities allow you to monitor your organization’s performance and continually improve your processes to deliver the right information at the right time.

4. An EMS provides one source of truth for your data in real time.

With an EMS, you can access all of the data at your organization’s disposal in one place, in real time. After all, you need to be responsive to member needs and personalize content to fit their expectations. In doing so, you’ll heighten how valuable members perceive their membership to be and retain their investment in your organization.

An engagement management system provides an instant 360-degree view of your members by recording every:

  • Communication
  • Profile update
  • Product sale
  • Event attended
  • Training participation
  • Certification

By leveraging your EMS’s data, your organization can turn relevant member engagement measurements into an iterative process of improvement.

2-Minute Tour of iMIS

See an Engagement Management System in action.

Learn how iMIS can help you streamline processes, automate mundane tasks, unlock new opportunities, and grow your business.

Elevating engagement with an engagement management system

An EMS is designed to illuminate, consolidate, educate, and above all, to engage. Unlike a static AMS, a modern EMS concentrates all data into a single view by collapsing the distance between your organization’s system and how it interacts—with dynamic websites.

By adopting an EMS, you can turn member interactions into a seamless web experience, providing personalized attention to each member and adapting based on their activities in the portal. Ultimately, this means your organization can tap into stronger tools and features to engage and retain its members.

For more information on how you can upgrade your technology and leverage tools to enhance the member experience, check out these additional resources:

Click through to book a demo of iMIS and discover how this top engagement management system can support your membership goals.


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