The Freedom to Think Like a Startup

Dan Stark, Director of Product Strategy


One of the things that always frustrated me about association management system (AMS) technology when I was leading an association was, rather than being a facilitator of innovation, it was a persistent barrier to trying new things.

I had an incredibly creative team that was always thinking of new ways to provide value to our members, but invariably, adapting our solutions to embrace these ideas was prohibitively expensive.

Instead, we would improvise, using our existing solutions, such as Access or Excel, to track our success. Of course, when it came time to bring all the information together to paint a picture of our overall progress toward organizational goals, we had to jump through all sorts of hoops.


During my career, I have had the opportunity to work for an internet startup during the boom, and now for an expanding AMS company, NimbleUser. Those experiences have reinforced my belief that associations should be free to think like a startup when developing new programs and services. Not only should your technology facilitate your innovative ideas, it should make it easier to bring them to fruition.

Beyond technology, there are other aspects of startup companies that would benefit associations as they think about innovation. One is the development of a Minimum Viable Product. This is a concept used broadly in software development that allows companies to bring products to market that meet customer needs, and then continually improve them over time, based on feedback.

Another is the development of personas and user stories to help understand how what you are trying to build will anticipate the needs of your members. Adopting these two strategies will help your team members immensely as they try to figure out how to bring new products to market.

Regardless of the processes you put in place, if your technology fails to support the innovative ideas your team brings to the table, you will not be able to fully realize their potential. In Part 2 of our eBook series, “Transcending the Traditional,” we discuss how your technology solutions should support your efforts to adopt a more innovative culture. ​

About the Author: Dan Stark is the Director of Product Strategy for NimbleUser. His role is to ensure Nimble AMS anticipates the needs of associations. He has 25 years of nonprofit management experience including more than 10 years as an executive director of two different organizations. He has a wealth of experience in governance, strategic planning and change management. With the rare combination of experience as both an association and technology company executive, Dan inherently understands how to leverage technology to drive innovation. He lives and works in West Chester, Pennsylvania.

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