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What is an Engagement Management System (EMS)?

Understanding the difference between an Engagement Management System (EMS) and an Association Management System (AMS).

And, how exactly is it different from an Association Management System (AMS)? 

Engagement is the singular mission of an association.  

Yes, associations do many things — from education, to networking, to setting standards, recognizing achievements and so much more — but none of this happens unless engagement takes place.  

And all of it simply happens better when it happens dynamically, digitally, and personally -- which means the member continually experiences instant recognition from the association.  This is the heart of the matter and what an Engagement Management System (EMS) is designed to do.  

Member Sees Value [Arrow] Retention [Arrow] Increased Revenue

The most important consequence is the perception of value by the member which facilitates retention which stabilizes and increases association revenue.  There are also numerous benefits for the staff when all features of the member relationship flow from a single source. 


EMS vs. AMS…what’s the difference?

iMIS takes all of our association expertise gleaned over the years and combines it with the latest technology in an innovative, Cloud-based EMS platform.

iMIS is a purpose-built EMS with CRM functionality, including:

  • Native AMS/association-specific features
  • Native accounting/financial management
  • Native CMS/Website creation and management capability

EMS is made of an AMS, a CMS, and a CRM

An EMS is comprised of an AMS, CMS, and CRM

The iMIS EMS platform fuses database management and web publishing into a single engagement management system that includes events, dynamic dashboards, engagement scoring, certification and educational programs, fundraising, open API and application management, advertising, and much more.

We asked luminaries in the field to contrast an EMS with an Association Management System (AMS), and here’s what they said:


An EMS Provides a Foundation for Guiding the Member Experience

Randy Richter, Partner, Association Technology Solutions:

When I think of a traditional AMS, I think of a tool for staff to use to manage contacts and perform transactions. The traditional model left other functionality such as LMS integration, Job Boards, Email Communication, and Website integration to be handled by third party applications. The net result of those systems was that the member experience was distributed across many different platforms and the history of the member experience could not be found in one system.

An EMS provides a foundation for guiding the member experience as well as to record, in a single place, the totality of the member engagement. The net result is that the EMS knows if you paid your dues, registered for an event, finished an education class, voted in the election, or even opened an email. The recording of this information in a central hub provides the ability to target web content to a person based on their experience. It can also guide future communications by targeting the right message to the right person based on previous engagement.

EMS components - CRM, Financials, Events, Education, Products, Email, Mobile, Websites

An EMS holds all member engagement data

For example, the EMS can deliver different communications to people based on whether they opened a conference promotion, ignored an email, or have already registered. Finally, by tracking engagement, you can find those members and companies that are very engaged and those that are at risk due to lack of engagement. We have seen CEOs use this engagement data when working with their members to determine who to reach out to by looking at their individual engagement scores.


An EMS Provides One Central Member Engagement Portal

Mark Glynn, Performance Improvement Leader, Advanced Solutions International:

When I think about the advantages of an EMS, I focus on how the world has changed, especially member engagement. Members want control of their own data; they want to be able to engage when and how it is convenient for them instead of calling into the association during the hours it happens to be open. They want to register for an event or purchase a subscription to a product while sitting at home after dinner, having a wine, using a cell phone or iPad. And they especially don’t want to go in and out of multiple applications to get it done.

With web engagement now more critical than ever, this means your business system, events and training functions, and your website, all have to be one and the same.  This is the central advantage a modern Engagement Management System has over an Association Management System.

Person Relaxing on Couch, Browsing Events 030822

Members want to engage when is convenient for them


An EMS Fuses Your Database Management and Website Into a Single System

Jeff Spring, Senior Product Manager, Advanced Solutions International:

An Engagement Management System is designed to manage every aspect of your engagement with your constituents. Each interaction, each product sale, the history of events attended, training and certifications received are all in one place for an instant 360-degree view of your member/donor engagement.  An EMS fuses your database management and website into a single system so that you can provide a personalized experience across all customer-facing systems and offer the information, products and services that are most valuable whether it’s website resources, current news, webinars, training and certifications or onsite events.

Since all your engagement, even from external integrated systems, is in a single system you can tailor the experience to meet expectations and give value to each of your constituents. An EMS system provides Engagement Dashboards and other reporting so that you can monitor the performance of your organization and continually improve your processes to deliver for your members/donors the right information at the right time.

iMIS Dashboards

Dashboards make reporting a simple and visual experience


An EMS Provides One Source of Truth for Your Data in Real-Time

David Parkinson, Performance Improvement Leader, Advanced Solutions International:

An Engagement Management System is designed specifically to leverage all data, in real-time, to optimize the personalization of content to members/constituents in a timely and relevant manner.

An organization needs to be responsive to member needs and establish the value perception that will result in high retention and maximum value. How members perceive value is of paramount importance to an organization’s mission and essential to how member engagement is pursued and promoted.

As such, you need to know on what data dynamics to measure engagement and ensure that all data is accessible in real-time from one source of truth. Only an EMS can support this to enable turning relevant measurement of member engagement into an iterative process of providing feedback to improve processes, experiences, outcomes and rewards – and ultimately achieve the key tenet of continuous performance improvement – something that a traditional AMS is not designed to do.


Value Perception

An EMS allows you to learn what your members think is valuable


Elevating Engagement Drives Value

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 the association’s business system, and how it interacts – with dynamic websites. This combination of elements elevates engagement by turning member interaction into a web experience, providing instant recognition of the member, and instant responsiveness to member activity. In this way, it drives home the perception of value which promotes retention and increases association revenue.

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