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Why a CRM Might Work Better for Your Association Than an AMS + Our Top 11 Picks

Sayana Izmailova Avatar
Sayana Izmailova
Published on March 18, 2020

2 years ago, Janine and her two colleagues started an association for environmental professionals, providing them with guidance, networking and professional development opportunities.

Since then, the group has grown quite a bit just through word-of-mouth and now includes people from across the state.

Janine saw that their association was offering a real benefit to their members, and started looking for ways to impact growth even further.

However, with a staff of 3, each of them with full-time jobs, there’s barely enough time to keep up with their regular activities, let alone work on attracting potential new members.

To save herself some time, Janine started looking into software to take on the task.

The only problem is, the world of association software can be a confusing one. When she Googled “software for associations”, terms like “AMS” and “CRM” started jumping out at her, without any explanation of what they meant or how they’re different.

Looking for a software tool to help manage your association? Find out why WildApricot is used by over 7,000 associations. Start a free 60-day trial now.

The Difference Between an AMS and a CRM

AMS stands for Association Management Software. It’s an all-in-one tool to help manage your association’s administrative activities. Most common features include a contact database (so you can finally stop using that Excel spreadsheet!), an email system, a website builder, a system to manage payments and event registration.

Because all of these activities are integrated within one software, an AMS can save association managers a lot of time by virtually eliminating tedious and repetitive administrative tasks.

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It is used by organizations across all sectors — from charities, clubs, associations and other nonprofits, to sales teams in business-to-consumer and business-to-business companies. Anyone who’s focusing on constituents — whether it’s customers, clients, donors or members — will benefit from using a CRM.

The main feature offered by a CRM is the ability to analyze and report on your constituents’ engagement. While a traditional AMS will simply keep track of your members’ data, a CRM will help you analyze their relationship with you — their participation, correspondence, likelihood to sign up, renew or upgrade. Therefore, it is also great for keeping track of potential new members and strategically marketing to them based on how engaged they are with your association.

The Pros and Cons of Using a CRM for Your Association


  • The obvious benefit of using a CRM is the ability to track constituent behaviour and analyze relationships, so you can use that information to drive marketing. If you want to intentionally grow your membership, this is a must-have.
  • Because traditional CRMs have a narrow focus on customer relationships and don’t offer features like a website builder or an email system, a standalone CRM will typically cost less than an AMS. Of course, that will depend on how customized you’d like it to be, but generally, the upfront licensing costs are lower.
  • CRMs are much more widely used across a number of industries. This means that there are more choices and more competitive pricing, as well as more documentation on best practices and support. Most popular CRMs are created by big companies, so they spend more in R&D and use more sophisticated software, while also consistently upgrading it to enhance the user experience.


  • The largest benefit of traditional CRMs is also where they fall short when it comes to their use by associations — most popular CRMs don’t offer the same features that an AMS would provide to help manage association specific administrative tasks. This means that instead of choosing one or the other, many associations would try to invest in both. However, this is only an option for larger, well-established associations. If your association is like Janine’s, you probably barely have the budget to pay for one software, let alone two different ones.

What Should Association Managers Use?

So, what should smaller associations like Janine’s do?

Luckily, the worlds of AMS and CRM systems have been blending over the past few years. AMS providers are recognizing that customer relationship management is an important aspect of running an association and have been trying to implement CRM features into their programs.

Similarly, and perhaps with a little more success, CRM companies have noticed that associations make up more and more of their client base, so they’ve been working to provide association-specific features alongside their main CRM functionality.

In the next section, we’ll go over some of our top choices (in alphabetical order) for CRMs that work perfectly well for associations and eliminate the need to invest in a separate AMS.

Hopefully, one of these will be the right solution for Janine’s association — and yours! — and will help strategically grow membership while staying on top of the regular day-to-day activities.

Top 11 Association CRMs Your Organization Can Investigate

Here are 11 popular association CRMs that might have the features your organization needs, listed in alphabetical order.

1. EventBank

  • Pricing: quote available upon request
  • Demo: available upon request
  • Trial: N/A

EventBank provides a Chamber & Association Management Software featuring everything you need to manage an association and its members, including an events module, email marketing system, payments manager and website builder. Their CRM module is designed for both nonprofit and for profit organizations, so it is created specifically to track a potential member’s engagement from their introduction through to sign-up, much like a sale.


Standout feature: Members can engage with each other through the Member Engagement Hub or through the EventBank mobile app.

2. Fundly CRM

  • Pricing: starts at $75/month
  • Demo: free daily scheduled demos available
  • Trial: free trial available after signing up for a demo

NonProfitEasy by Fundly is primarily geared toward nonprofits focused on fundraising, but its specialty in tracking interactions and building relationships is what makes it a great choice for associations. Its features include member management, event management, marketing tools and reporting.


Standout feature: In addition to standard CRM features, this program also offers a grant manager where users can track the progress of their grant submissions.

3. Member365

  • Pricing: starts at $149/month
  • Demo: free demo
  • Trial: free 60 day trial

Member365 is geared towards any membership based organization and boasts a number of features perfect for associations, such as a CRM module, event management, email marketing, member portal and analytics.


Standout feature:
Member365 offers bonus features, including a committee management functionality, where users can track committee members, roles, start dates, share files and have discussions.

4. MembershipWorks

  • Pricing:
    • Free basic plan
    • Integration with your existing website starting at $29/month
    • Fully hosted website starting at $39/month
  • Demo: Live and scheduled demos available
  • Trial: N/A

MembershipWorks is a web-based membership system that can integrate with your existing website through HTML or a plug-in. Alternatively, MembershipWorks can host and manage your website. Both options offer CRM functionality, an event calendar, member directory and donation processing.


Standout feature:
MembershipWorks makes it easy to see a timeline of a member’s interactions with the organization at a glance – a snapshot of all payments, donations, event registration or attendance, membership renewals and notes.

5. Mission Suite

  • Pricing: one-time setup fee starting at $400, then a monthly fee starting at $30/month
  • Demo: live demo available upon request
  • Trial: N/A

Mission Suite is a CRM built around the idea of unified marketing, an approach to marketing that brings all revenue generating activities into one system. Though it’s created with for profit organizations in mind, its focus on customer relationships makes it a great choice for associations.


Standout feature:
Mission Suite includes a number of great marketing tools like a website/landing page and form builder, blogging tools, SMS marketing capability and more.

6. NeonCRM

  • Pricing: Plans start at $49/month
  • Demo: Video demo or personalized demo available upon request
  • Trial: N/A

NeonCRM is a cloud-based software designed specifically for nonprofit organizations and focused on membership management. Its features include standard member data tracking tools, customizable forms, a member portal and directory, as well as a suite of marketing and communication tools.


Standout feature:
NeonCRM includes a volunteer management module where users can create sign-up forms, coordinate volunteers, communicate with them and track their time.

7. NetForum Enterprise

  • Pricing: quote available upon request
  • Demo: available upon request
  • Trial: N/A

NetForum offers over 30 member management features, specifically catered to associations and nonprofits, focusing on member engagement, marketing and driving revenue. The all-in-one platform provides all standard features, including CRM capabilities, payment and donation management, accounting tools, event management and reporting.


Standout feature: NetForum takes tracking member engagement to the next level with their proprietary A-Score™ member engagement scoring tool. This scoring system leads to better understanding of members’ interests and more personalized communication.

8. Raklet

  • Pricing:
    • Free basic plan
    • Other plans start at $59/month
  • Demo: Personal demo can be scheduled upon request
  • Trial: N/A

Raklet is a member management platform focused on creating and engaging with a community through web-based and mobile apps. In addition to standard features like email communications and payment processing, Raklet provides members with their own social network where they can create a profile, make payments and connect with each other.


Standout feature:
Raklet allows membership managers to send communications to their members via e-mail, text message or push notification in the mobile app in just a click of a button or automate them with a set schedule.

9. Salsa CRM

  • Pricing: quote available upon request
  • Demo: available upon request
  • Trial: N/A

Salsa CRM is an all-in-one tool for nonprofits with a focus on member management, digital marketing and online fundraising. It boasts a comprehensive performance dashboard to help users visualize progress at a glance.

Salsa CRM

Standout feature:
Salsa CRM offers a suite of online advocacy tools to help organizations promote their work, including online petitions, targeted actions, social media integration, and more.

10. WildApricot

  • Pricing:
    • Free basic plan
    • Other plans start at $48/month
  • Demo: N/A
  • Trial: Free 60-day trial available

Thousands of associations use WildApricot to manage their members every day. Features include a drag and drop website builder, a built-in emailing system, a mobile app, a member directory, a member-only area, and automated member payments and renewals. WildApricot has an open API, which allows you to customize the software to your specific needs, plus integration with WordPress and Quickbooks.


Standout feature: WildApricot includes an online store, so your organization can easily sell merchandise and other items to supplement membership fees.

Start a free 60-day trial of WildApricot now.


  • Pricing available upon request
  • Demo available upon request


While WildApricot is perfect for many small organizations, MemberClicks builds integrated membership management software solutions specifically for small-to-midsized professional associations, trade associations and chambers of commerce.

MemberClicks offers intuitive association management systems, learning management software, event management solutions, and job board software, built to save time, save money, grow membership and increase revenue.

Click here to learn more about MemberClicks can help your organization by connecting you to connected solutions.



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