Whether you’re investing in membership software for the first time or replacing your existing AMS, it’s one of the largest purchases your association ever makes. Of course, there are basic must-ask questions around budget, features and timelines. But, these are not the only important questions you want to ask your potential AMS provider.

Before you purchase an AMS, here are four questions you should always ask.

1. What’s your mission?

Ask your provider what their mission is; what’s their “why?” This is important because you want to make sure the provider’s values resonate with the values you, your fellow associates and members hold close to your hearts. An association management system (AMS) provider not motivated to maintain and develop its software tools, as well as improve them on a regular basis, winds up not aligning with your organization’s goals.

Look for an AMS provider focusing on its core capabilities – technology and software development specifically for member-based organizations – and clearly wants your team to succeed using their tools.

2. What makes you stand out against the competition?

The AMS provider should demonstrate their knowledge and experience, knowing exactly how they currently stack up against the competition. Don’t rely solely on the company’s own marketing information. Consult trusted colleagues who have used AMS software before and have at least an overview of the state of association management applications.

If a vendor can’t answer questions about the competition, it’s a sign they are not serious about their business. They have no idea if what they are offering is superior or inferior to the software developed by competitors, or if their AMS is more appropriate for you than any other system. A potential provider will explain in detail why their software is more suited to your needs, instead of you relying on generic software that just makes lists of customers or members.

3. How can your system help us fulfill our mission?

One of the chief things you need to look at is what features of their association software will help you achieve your mission and grow your organization. For example, members join your organization for networking opportunities. Your AMS provider should include an online community for connecting with peers and sharing content.

From email capabilities supporting membership drives to analytics, which provide you a pulse of your organization’s health, make sure the system has all the features you need for fueling growth.

4. Why do we want to do business with you?

You want to find out why you should work with them instead of someone else; why they deserve your business. It’s important to understand if a provider has a good track record quickly fixing bugs, developing new features, and upgrading to meet new security regulations.

Not only do you want stellar software developers, you should check their customer service and training. It would be unfortunate if you went with an AMS provider and then learned you must hire a consultant to bring your staff up to speed, because the vendor didn’t have training to offer.

Of course, you’re devoted to helping your members. So, chances are you have a philanthropic element to your organization. Accordingly, you need to find an AMS provider actively giving back to the community, supporting worthy charities.

Now, this is just a starter to your conversations with potential AMS providers. But, determining the answers to these questions will help make sure you’re selecting a trusted partner. It’s a big investment, and you will work with this partner every day. So, it’s vital you find the perfect match.