How Much Does an AMS Really Cost?
If your organization is in the market for a new Association Management System (AMS) or if you’re comparing different membership software systems, the first question you’re asking is, “How much does it cost?”
There’s not a lot of information out there about this—I’m sure you’ve noticed that most vendors will want to set up a call with you before they give you any substantial information. The main reason for this is that the answer isn’t cut and dry:
AMS pricing is largely dependent on six factors:
- How will you select it?
- How will you pay for it?
- What do you want it to do?
- How will you implement it?
- Who will be using it?
- How long do you plan on using it?
Answers to each of these questions are as diverse as the organizations that are tasked with them. And that’s why the answer to the bottom line question—How much does an AMS cost?—isn’t necessarily a simple one.
The Costs Outside the Cost
Aside from the price of the software are the costs associated with the process of choosing a new system and then getting it working the way you want it to. You may chose to work with a vendor selection consultant or you might bring in someone to help you write an RFP. If you decide to make the decision independently, you’ll also need to consider the cost of using in-house staff to spearhead the project.
The same applies to implementation costs and in-house project management. It’s incredibly important to dedicate personnel hours to both of these as the process matures. Asking existing staff to manage an AMS implementation on top of their day-to-day jobs can easily burden the most optimistic and efficient teams. This might mean you’ll need to upstaff during this time or reallocate internal resources, which will impact project costs.
The Software Itself
Whether you’re buying something as simple as a pencil or as complex as membership software, you aren’t going to make a final decision to purchase until you know what you’re buying will do what you want it to do.
Do you need the AMS to manage all your activities, from education and events to inventory and fundraising? Are you using your software to run your online store? How many people are using it daily?
There are so many variations of discrete business processes within systems that even defining the requirements can get complicated quickly. As with any buying decision, the more complex the requirements are, the higher the ultimate price tag.
The Impact of Price over Time
The investment you’re making now will have a direct impact on how much you spend—or have to spend—in the years to come. The cost to maintain your AMS at the level required to run your business can quickly increase over time if the software you choose today can’t adapt to changing needs.
When setting a budget for a new membership system, consider how you’ll use it in the future as well as today. Is the system you’re considering built with a guaranteed upgrade path? Will you need to rebuild the system with your specific modifications each time there’s a new release? Will you be able to scale up as your membership grows?
For a more in-depth walkthrough of AMS pricing, check out the Pricing Guide. This includes closer looks at the six factors that impact software costs and an overview of what you can expect to spend on an AMS.
About David Frick
David Frick is a trusted Aptify Strategic Advisor. He has the unique opportunity of assisting organizations to dream by asking "What if?" and then delighting them beyond expectations. With more than 20 years of experience working within the non-profit world, David currently has the pleasure of serving the community as the immediate past Chair of ASAE’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee and strongly supports the notion that everyone deserves to have an equal voice. David is training for his first full Ironman competition with a goal of qualifying for Kona in 2018. He will share his journey and how training for an Ironman so closely resembles achieving success within his professional capacity.