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What to include in your small-staff association’s tech budget

by | Jun 16, 2021 | Technology

There are solutions out there to help your small staff work faster and smarter. 

Here’s what to include in your budget and how to get board approval for the technology your association needs.

Michelle Schweitz, YourMembership Marketing Manager

By Michelle Schweitz, Marketing Manager, Community Brands

 

 

Running an association with a small staff isn’t easy. You must continually attract new members while keeping current members engaged. You have to find new ways to bring in revenue. Plus, there’s the day-to-day management of the association itself – managing your website, keeping track of member data, handling event logistics. The list goes on. 

You might be aware that there are technology solutions out there that can help your small staff tackle these challenges head-on, saving time and working smarter in the process. But you need the right mix of technology. And you need to budget for it and get approval from your board. 

What to include in your small association’s technology budget 

Here are eight critically important capabilities to include in your association’s technology budget: 

 1.  Website design and hosting

Your website should help you attract, engage, and inform members and potential members about all your association has to offer. It’s the first impression you make on a potential new member, and it’s a valuable tool for connection with your current members. 

To help your small staff build a compelling website, plan to engage with expert designers who can create a modern website that:

    • Tells your organization’s story in a way that strengthens your brand and overall web presence
       
    • Looks good and works well on desktop and mobile devices
       
    • Is built so that it allows your staff to manage and update it easily, without any technical knowledge

2. Membership management

Hands down, members are what’s most important to the success of your organization. But tracking and managing their membership and personal details can be time-consuming. To make things easier on your staff, your budget should include membership management technology that:

    • Lets you easily configure multi-tiered membership models, including individual and organizational memberships 
       
    • Makes it easier to track and manage prospective, current, and lapsed memberships 
       
    • Allows your members to update their own information via an online portal

3. Email marketing

Email marketing is one of the most effective ways to communicate with prospective and current members. Make sure your budget includes email marketing technology that makes it easier to build and send emails. For example, it should allow you to:

    • Easily create emails with a drag-and-drop editor.
       
    • Create and save custom email templates.
       
    • Handle email logistics, such as list segmentation and email opt ins/outs.
       
    • Track email statistics, such as open and click-through rates.

4. Online member community

Connecting members with each other and your organization year-round is vital to keeping members involved with your association. Providing an online member community is the perfect way to get members more engaged and become more of their daily networking habits. 

Be sure to include online member community functionality in your tech budget. This type of technology can help you do things like:

    • Set up online discussion groups so members can easily share ideas and information with each other. 
       
    • Automatically make suggested connections among members based on their similar interests. 
       
    • Automatically connect new members with top volunteer ambassadors, or “buddies” to help new members get to know the organization and feel more welcome.
       
    • Acknowledge and reward active and engaged members. For example, display member activity and participation levels, encouraging members to return, share, and connect.  

5. Event management

In-person, virtual, and hybrid events are valuable tools for delivering learning and networking experiences to your members. Using the right event management tools makes it easier for your small staff to manage the logistics of events so they can focus more on content and one-to-one connections with members. 

Be sure to include event management technology in your budget that helps you:

    • Offer various registration pricing, including early bird rates, coupon codes, and members-only pricing.
       
    • Create registration paths tailored for attendees, speakers, and sponsors that display only relevant tickets and sessions. 
       
    • Automate and schedule confirmation, reminder, and thank you emails.
       
    • Save time by printing event badges directly from the system.

6. Workflow automation

With a small staff, you don’t have time to waste on manual, repetitive tasks. Automating those types of processes can free your staff’s time for higher value work. 

Be sure to include workflow automation tools in your tech budget that allow you to:

    • Schedule automatic email renewal and expired notices.
       
    • Generate and send invoices automatically or with one click.
       
    • Schedule reports for automatic distribution to board and other staff members via email on a regular (daily, weekly, or monthly) basis.

7. Accounting

Accounting processes happen regularly. There’s no point to handling them in a clunky, manual way when you can simplify them with the right accounting tools. 

Set aside budget for accounting technology that allows you to:

    • Accept payments securely with integrated payment process that meets the highest standards for security.
       
    • Use separate bank accounts for various types of payments via the same form, such as event registration.
       
    • Easily manage daily financial batches, invoices, and adjustments.

8. Dashboards and reporting

When you want to work smarter, there’s no substitute for great visibility and insights into your membership base, such as membership growth, retention rates, and member engagement scores. 

Be sure to allocate budget for tools that help you make data-driven decisions. For example, look for tools that allow you to:

    • Track the membership lifecycle, from non-member to retired member.
       
    • Easily configure dashboards based on financial year or member types.
       
    • Generate event reports for all types of registration and attendance.
       
    • Quickly view renewal rates, lapsed members, new members, and other membership data points with customizable start and end periods.

One approach to acquiring the right mix of technology for your association is to track down individual solutions for each of these functions, view demos, get quotes, and combine all of the proposals into one budget proposal for your board. Then, you would need to implement each solution and integrate them all so they share data and work together. You’d also need to work with each individual vendor for product support as needed.  

But there’s a better solution. 

 Save costs with all-in-one association management software (AMS) 

A more time- and cost-effective approach – especially for associations with a small staff – is to use an all-in-one association management software solution like YourMembership AMS by Community Brands. YourMembership AMS includes all of the capabilities listed above (and more) in one system. 

Get board approval for the AMS your small staff needs
As you move toward finding and purchasing the right technology for your association, join YourMembership for a free on-demand workshop to learn how to gain board approval for big decisions, including budget for a new association management software system: The Ultimate Board Approval Checklist – Gaining board approval for new membership management software.

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