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Organizational Management

Association Management Company vs. Software: Which One Is Right For You? (+ Our Top 5 AMS Picks)

Author: Sayana Izmailova
May 20, 2022
🕑 6 min read

Thinking of starting an association? Save yourself the headache and outsource your association management to a company or a software tool.

In this post, we’ll take a look at both options, talk about why investing in association management software (AMS) may make more sense for smaller organizations, and share our top 5 software picks.

Let’s dive in!

What Is Association Management?

Association management is the process of starting and operating an association. It involves things like attracting new members, providing them with benefits, managing finances, and much more.

If you’re thinking of starting an association, it may seem overwhelming. But don’t worry, you won’t have to do all of it on your own.

Most associations rely on one of two things to help run their association smoothly:

  1. Association management companies (AMC)
  2. Association management software (AMS)

Both options will require a bit of an investment, but they’ll save you time and money in the long run. Not to mention, they’ll prevent you and your staff from experiencing burnout, and help your association thrive for years to come.

We’ll go over each option in more detail in just a moment.

Why Is Association Management Important?

Even if managing your association is your full-time job, you can’t do it all by yourself. There are simply not enough hours in the day. Not to mention, why waste your time on tedious administrative tasks if they can be automated or outsourced to someone else?

To truly make the most of your time, you should be spending it on things only you can do — setting a vision for your association, making a plan for how to achieve it, and engaging with your members to build a community.

Outsourcing some (or all) of your association management tasks to a company or a software tool can help you effortlessly take care of things like:

  • Member services: onboarding new members, collecting member dues, and providing member benefits and support.
  • Finances: managing revenue and expenses, preparing reports, and staying compliant with the IRS.
  • Events: organizing events, promoting them, and managing registrations.
  • Marketing: promoting your membership in print media, on your website, on social media, etc.
  • Communications: sending out emails to lapsed, current, and prospective members; managing your website and social media.
  • Professional development resources: providing your members with resources, courses, webinars, and events to help them advance in their careers.
  • Leadership and mentorship: helping your members develop leadership skills and connect mentors with mentees.
  • Sponsor management: finding sponsors for events and programs, and raising funds to help run your association.

What Is an Association Management Company?

An association management company (AMC) is a for-profit business that your association can hire to help manage your day-to-day operations and get you closer to achieving your long-term goals.

Hiring an AMC is a great option if you don’t have the time or the expertise to run your association on your own. Chances are, the AMC has worked with dozens of associations like yours in the past, so they know exactly what works, what doesn’t, and how to tailor their approach to your specific needs.

Association management companies typically provide two types of services:

  1. Full Service: the AMC would take care of absolutely everything, including providing experienced staff members and an office space.
  2. Outsourced Services: you would take on as much as you feel comfortable with and outsource more specialized tasks (ex: marketing, financial management, public affairs, etc.) to the AMC.

The right option for your association depends on your level of experience and how much you’re willing to do on your own. Of course, the full service option is more expensive, so the best choice might come down to what you can afford.

What Is Association Management Software (AMS)?

While hiring an association management company is a great choice for larger, more established associations, it’s likely not feasible for organizations with a smaller budget or ones that are just starting out.

That’s where association management software (AMS) comes in. AMS is a tool you can use to help make managing your association easier and more efficient. It’s much more affordable than hiring a company, but can save you just as much time.

It works by automating most of your administrative tasks like data entry, processing member dues, sending out emails, and much more. What’s great is that you still get to retain control over your association’s day-to-day operations, but with a little help.

Read More: What Is An AMS? Understanding Association Management Systems

What To Look For in Your AMS

At the very least, AMS tools offer a membership database where you can keep track of and manage relationships with your members. Others include many more features. If you’re new to association management, definitely look for an all-in-one solution that includes the following:

  • Website builder: A drag-and-drop solution is best if you don’t have any tech experience. Your website builder should allow you to create a membership sign up form that integrates seamlessly with your member database, as well as a password protected members-only area.
  • Communication tools: You should be able to send automated and manual emails to your members to update them, remind them about paying their dues, or confirm event registration.
  • Payment tools: You should be able to automatically collect member dues, send out late notices, and restrict access to member benefits for anyone who hasn’t paid them.
  • Event features: You should be able to promote upcoming events on your website, invite people to register, collect registration fees, and send out event-related communications.
  • Reporting and analytics: You should be able to use the data from your AMS to improve your practices, communications, and programs, so you can grow your organization.
  • Integration with other software: If you already use another website builder, for example, your AMS should integrate seamlessly with it to collect data about your members.

Top 5 Association Management Software Options

1. WildApricot


Best for: Brand new and small associations


  • Pricing starts at $60/month
  • Free basic plan and free 60-day trial


  • Drag and drop website builder
  • Built-in emailing system
  • Automated member payments and renewals
  • Mobile app
  • Member directory
  • Members-only area
  • Online store

2. MemberClicks


Best for: Small to mid-sized professional associations, trade associations and chambers of commerce.


  • Price available upon request
  • Demo available upon request


  • Member management
  • Websites and content management
  • Email marketing
  • Financial processing and reporting
  • Personalized member profiles for personalized experiences
  • Job board

3. 123Signup


Best for: Professional and trade associations, healthcare associations, clubs and societies.


$299 setup fee + one of two options:

  • $49-189 per month + $0.30-0.35 per member
  • $1.50 per transaction + 2.0% of transaction amount


  • Membership Management
  • Event Registration
  • Member Self-Service
  • Targeted Email
  • Real-Time Reporting
  • Flexible Add-ons

4. MemberLeap


Best for: Any membership organization looking for an easy-to-use all-in-one solution.


  • Pricing starts at $50/month, plus website setup packages start at $1,800
  • Demo available upon request


  • Member database
  • Virtual events and Zoom interface
  • Volunteer management
  • Committee and chapter management
  • Text messaging

5. Raklet


Best for: Any membership organization looking to mix and match AMS features.


  • Pricing starts at $49/month
  • Free basic plan


  • Contact database
  • Email and SMS communications
  • Social network for members
  • Job board
  • Mobile app

Read More: 18 Association Management Software (AMS) Options to Transform Your Org

Try the #1 Association Management Software For Free

Here at WildApricot, we’re proud to be the #1 association management software used by thousands of new and established associations.

Create your free account today and see for yourself how it can automate your day-to-day tasks and save you both time and money. In just an afternoon, you can build your entire website and upload your contact database all by yourself.

If you have fewer than 50 members, you can even keep using your account forever, for free. When your organization is ready to grow, you can upgrade to the next tier and have your AMS grow with you.

Click here to create your free account and start your 60-day trial.

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