Understanding ongoing association management system costs to reduce your budget

Beth Farrar

March 10, 2020

    How do AMS implementation costs grow beyond the budget?

    AMS sticker shock? It may be time to embrace change to lower the price range of your new system. Here’s how.

    A new association management software (AMS) system is a major investment in your organization’s future. While several factors — from the number of licenses to implementation to staff training — determine the price of the system’s cost, there are strategies to keep your AMS price from escalating beyond the budget.

    True Cost of AMS Built on Salesforce

    There are several additional cost factors related to an association management system (AMS), and it’s essential to keep Salesforce association pricing in mind when choosing the best option. With all factors considered, the AMS software price range can vary more than you might expect. 

    So, how much does membership management software cost? The cost of association management software depends on key factors, including how you select it, the capabilities you want from it, how you’ll implement it and who your users will be. The duration you’ll use the system for and how you’ll pay for it also play a role. Overall, you need to address some significant ongoing costs, such as implementation, maintenance and upgrades.


    The duration and requirements of implementation are critical factors in your overall AMS cost. First, you need to handle integration and customization requirements as part of your implementation process. The amount of data you need to convert to the new system will also affect your cost.

    The other part of implementation to consider is your staffing. Will you handle implementation in-house or need third-party services? The three primary team roles you need to fill are for training, project management and testing. Ensure you have the right professionals to take on the sizable responsibilities of handling implementation smoothly.

    Ongoing Upgrades and Maintenance

    If you’re looking at the cost of fundraising software and other member management solutions, ensure you know how potential systems handle upgrades. Will you need to pay for upgrades? Will it cause downtime or operational issues whenever you need an upgrade? Know what to expect for upgrade requirements and how much they’ll cost.

    You should also find out what ongoing maintenance requirements your system might have before you move forward. Explore possible regular servicing needs and evaluate the AMS’s future operational potential. Can the AMS scale to your requirements and grow with your association?

    How to Cut Costs in Your Association’s Budget

    When you’re looking to get the best Salesforce association pricing for your requirements, begin by considering how you can trim down your budget. The right strategies can lead to significant cost savings. To get started, understand your fixed costs and figure them into your accounts. Make sure you know all necessary expenses and requirements that you can’t negotiate. When you begin to work in additional costs, you’ll have a clear picture of what you can and cannot adjust.

    One fundamental way you can save on costs is to cut down on tech tools and ensure you’re not pouring your resources into technology you may not need. Consolidating your operations into a more efficient system rather than spending money on multiple tools can significantly lower your operational expenses. Looking into software changes can be an investment that changes how you spend your money. If you integrate software that can help you accrue revenue, you’ll be able to balance your budget more efficiently.

    Here are eight ways to lower the price of your new AMS:

    1. Prepare for change by following best practice.

    The key to keeping AMS pricing manageable is following best practices. Implementing your AMS the way others have done it (successfully) means there’s no recreating the wheel, and the lower your implementation estimate will be.

    Following best practices, though, is directly tied to being ready for change. Chances are, what you’ve always done in the past isn’t the best way forward. After all, if you’re only looking to do what you’ve always done, how can you expect different (and better) results?

    Be open to change when your implementation team suggests a best practice. This might mean you’ll need to prompt those in senior management to accept something new. Or, it might mean you’ll need to have a conversation with the board about changing policies and bylaws to adopt a new process.

    Just remember: The result is a system that best helps you achieve your organization’s goals. There may be new paths to get there, but the result will be better — and less costly — in the end.

    2. Know what features your platform provides.

    Selecting an AMS system built on an enterprise platform in the true cloud can reduce costs, as platform and AMS upgrades are included and happen on a regular cycle. For example, Nimble AMS is built on the Salesforce Platform and is upgraded six times per year at no added cost — 3 updates from Nimble AMS and 3 updates from Salesforce.

    These platforms also feature no/low cost training options (like Salesforce Trailhead) and an app store (like the Salesforce AppExchange) that empower associations to extend the AMS with thousands of applications without paying for complex integrations.

    When you select your new AMS, be sure to find out exactly what your platform provides —and what you can expect to spend — for upgrades, training, and application integration.

    3. Extend your contract.

    Should you select a software as a service (SaaS) solution, consider opting for a multi-year contract. By committing to and paying for multiple years (typically three years) up front, your organization can lock in pricing at the current level and typically gain savings of up to 10 percent, reducing your ongoing costs.

    4. Configure, don’t customize.

    Customizations of the AMS to alter base functionality are a major cost driver. Most AMS systems follow best practices and conventions. If your organization can adjust business practices to match base functionality, the savings can be huge. Alternatively, selecting a highly configurable AMS will allow you to have flexibility without complicated customizations.

    5. Work in phases.

    When you set out to gather requirements for your AMS, the list can get very long, very quickly. The best way to tackle this while keeping costs down is to work in phases and focus first on a subset of needs. For example, plan to implement half of the requirements in phase one, then the next quarter in the second, and remainder in the third.

    You might think this is more of a cost-delay model than a cost-reduction model, but it’s not. Organizations that implement in phases typically find that once they go live with phase one and get comfortable with the new system, they end up needing to implement less in the long run.

    This relates directly to being prepared for change. Associations that are open to change often find that with phase one fully implemented, there are new ways of doing things that eliminate the need for additional configurations that were originally planned.

    Familiarity with the new system after phase one is also beneficial because you and your implementation team will find it’s easier to work in a system that’s already up and running. Releasing incremental functionality after you’re live will save more time and money than if you converted everything all at once. Plus, you’ll be able to stop paying maintenance fees to your previous vendor once you go live with the new system. A phased implementation will have you doing that much sooner.

    6. Reduce the amount of data to be converted.

    Minimalism with data conversion can save considerable labor costs in the implementation process. Consider how much data you really need converted from your old AMS. For each piece of data, ask yourself if your organization will ever really use that data. If the answer is not a solid “yes,” consider not moving it to the new system. Also, be sure to ask your technology partner to help you make the right decisions when it comes to migrating data.

    7. Avoid scope creep.

    We’ve all been there: It’s halfway through a home remodel project and we figure, as long as everything is ripped up and exposed, why not also redo the floors?

    It can be the same for an AMS implementation. You may have been detailed in your requirements gathering, but once you get into the implementation, “little” add-on requests start popping up. Managing scope creep is one of the biggest ways to keep costs down. And, the bulk of this management takes place right from the start.

    That’s why the Nimble AMS implementation team spends a great deal of time in open discussions with clients, gathering every piece of information, no matter how exhaustive the RFP is. That’s not necessarily because the RFP is incomplete, but rather because these discussions tend to reveal deeper requirements. Additionally, the implementation team can bring to light the needs and best practices of similar clients. They may be able to suggest requirement you’ll need for processes that will save you time and dollars down the road.

    8. Double down on training.

    Training carries an upfront cost, but it leads to effective use of the system. The result: better usage of the system, staff productivity, lower cycle times, and lower support costs. Additionally, training helps with staff buy-in and improved adoption of the new AMS. These outcomes make training a time and cost saver that shouldn’t be ignored.

    It all comes down to change.

    You might have noticed a recurring theme in this blog article: No matter what stage you’re in with your AMS selection and implementation, staying open to change is your best cost-saving tactic. The less time it takes to go live with streamlined requirements, the smaller your overall scope will be. When you define everything you need from the start, you’ll keep surprise costs from sneaking in.

    As you and your team open yourselves to new processes, you may find that you can do more with less, leaving you with a system that stays within budget while helping to achieve your goals.

    Choose an AMS That Fits Your Organization and Budget

    The right AMS option can deliver many benefits to your organization, so it’s crucial to analyze your options and find the best fit. An excellent starting point is to explore case studies and client reviews of different products as well as the experiences other organizations like yours have had with AMS versions.

    There are specific features you may need to handle your requirements successfully. Whether you’re looking to manage a complex member dues system, automate a labor-intensive process or enhance data management best practices across your organization, make sure potential options have the capabilities to address your needs. Then, analyze AMS pricing guides for the features you require. 

    Consider some key points and explore your options with different vendors:


    • System platform: Explore what type of platform a potential AMS is built on — ideally, it should be a modern customer relationship management (CRM) system rather than more legacy technology.
    • Upgrade costs: Find out if upgrades will cause any interruption to your operations and if they are free or come with additional charges.
    • Total cost: Knowing your total expenses, including ongoing costs and your base price, is critical, so make sure you have a provider that won’t spring hidden fees on you.


    If you’re looking for the right membership management software, consider Nimble AMS. We offer an intuitive system built on Salesforce, the CRM industry leader. Our goal is to help your association reach your goals and achieve success, and we consider ourselves your partner. We’re here to work with you on pain points and develop solutions that fit your unique applications — with solutions that meet your budget. 

    Whatever your requirements, we can come alongside you and help you find ways to optimize your processes, keep members happy and engaged, and maintain seamless data management across the organization.

    Nimble AMS offers a leading association management solution. Learn more about how Nimble AMS can help your organization.

    Nimble AMS offers a leading association management solution with low total cost of ownership. Learn more about how Nimble AMS can help your organization.

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