Association management software (AMS) solves many long term and day-to-day challenges of association managers. Whether billing members, organizing conferences, viewing trends, or connecting members to each other, association software is up to the task. Association websites process the bulk of membership and event transactions, so choosing the best association management system couldn’t be more important.
The goal of this top 10 guide is to help you gather information to make an informed decision about which AMS is the right fit for your organization.
In this Guide:
- What is the best association management software? (with Comparison Chart)
- What is association management software?
- How do you choose an AMS?
- The Top 10 association management software
What is the best association management software?
Who uses association management software?
Trade associations, professional associations, service organizations, neighborhood associations, and other nonprofits use AMS. A good fit for one type of association may not be ideal for another. For example, some association management systems are designed to work with an existing website while others will require you to use their content management system (CMS). Some organizations may need to deliver continuing education units through a learning management system. Others may need features to manage a homeowners association (HOA).
|Price per month starts at||$0; paid plans start at $35/mo.||Starts at $24/mo.||$200 per admin user||$0; paid plans start at $48/mo.||starts at $259/mo.||starts at $292/mo.||starts at $250/mo.||starts at $200/mo.||starts at $83/month||starts at $50/month|
|Setup Fee||$0||Starts at $150, + fee for website design in their CMS ($600 – $2400+)||varies||$0||$1500 for supported onboarding; $3500 for website build||varies||$3,000||varies||$779 and up||Minimum of $1,800|
|Additional per-transaction charges (beyond payment gateway fees)||$0||$0||$0||Must use their affiliated payment gateway which has higher fees for nonprofits than other choices **||Higher monthly fees unless you use their payment gateway.||$0||Must use StarChapter Pay which has a monthly fee and higher transaction fees than other choices||$0|
|Member Only Content||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Event Calendar / Registration||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Job Board||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes, but with revenue sharing||Yes||Yes||Yes, but with revenue sharing||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Announcement Board or Forum||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Shopping Cart||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||via Ecwid||Yes||Yes|
|CMS compatibility||WordPress, Weebly, Squarespace, Wix, Duda, WithoutCode, Drupal, Joomla, Spacecraft, HTML5 sites||Requires their custom CMS||iMIS EMS, WordPress, Drupal||Custom CMS. Uses iframes to embed widgets on other platforms||WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Concrete5, LiveEdit, LiveCMS||Requires their custom CMS||Not applicable. They build your website.||Custom CMS, WordPress, Squarespace||Requires their custom CMS||Requires their custom CMS or use a member portal|
|Key Integrations||MailChimp, Quickbooks Online and Desktop, Xero||Sakai LMS, Quickbooks||HigherLogic, Top Class LMS, Zapier, iMIS Bridge, Zoom, SSO and many more||Quickbooks Desktop, Make (connects WA to other apps)||MailChimp, Quickbooks, LMS, Zoom, Go To Webinar||Quickbooks online, LMS||Higher Logic, Hubspot, Salesforce, Learning Management System||MailChimp, Ecwid||API, MentorEase||Quickbooks|
|Payment Gateways||Stripe, Authorize.net, PayPal||Stripe, Authorize.net, PayPal||Payflow Pro, iATS, iMIS Pay Central||Affinipay (Paypal and Authorize.net at an additional cost)||Stripe, Authorize.net, GrowthZone Pay||Affinipay, BluePay||Authorize.net, Bambora, CardPointe, PayPal||Stripe, Paypal, Wordline and Authorize.net||StarChapter Pay||Large list of gateways including Authorize.net, Stripe, Square|
|Support||Phone, email, live screen share||Email, phone, paid training ($120/hr)||Forum, chat, email||Phone, chat, email||Phone, email||Email, phone, forum||Email, phone||Email, phone, paid training|
|# of Admin Seats on paid plans||Unlimited||Unlimited||Pay per seat ($200/mo)||Unlimited||3 admin seats at lowest price||Unlimited||2; additional admins are $15/mo. each||Unlimited||Unlimited||Unlimited|
** Wild Apricot adds 20% to its monthly/annual fees if you don’t use their affiliated payment gateway. Nonprofits can often find lower transaction fees with other payment gateways like Stripe, but the 20% fee increase comes into play if you go that route.
What is association management software?
Association management software provides a membership database along with a connected set of tools that help association staff streamline operations, deliver member value, and engage members. Its capabilities often include dues collection, event management, ecommerce, forms, a member portal, member only content, and reporting. As the main focus of an AMS is members, it’s also known as association membership management software.
How do you choose an AMS?
While there are many nuances that go into the selection process of an association membership management system, these are the key considerations:
- Price – Consider the total cost of ownership, which may include: setup fees, base price, integration fees, fees for additional features, the cost of any necessary integrations, support and training costs, added transaction fees, and payment gateway charges. Also inquire as to whether outside consultants will be needed to support your setup or use of the platform.
- Features – A homeowners association will have completely different needs than a trade association. Make a list of “must have” features and/or problems you are looking to solve with a new AMS. Keep an open mind as to how each AMS addresses your challenges; insisting on replicating your current processes may not be the most profitable or efficient.
- Support – Note if there are extra fees for support and inquire as to how staff training will be handled. See what support methods are available. Ask if there are extra “per seat” charges if you have more than a couple of staff members who may need to contact support with administrative questions. Ask how quickly support requests are resolved. If you are a volunteer-run association, factor in the AMS’s cost of training new volunteers each board cycle. Some association membership systems will charge for this service while others will not.
The Top 10 Association Management Software
Associations using MembershipWorks enjoy a full-featured, all-in-one AMS at a fair price. While some association platforms have built in email marketing systems that are slow to add new features and are difficult to use, MembershipWorks provides integration with MailChimp, a best-in-class email provider. Associations transitioning to MembershipWorks appreciate the opportunity to keep their existing website due to integrations with popular content management systems. Nonprofits with regular staff or board turnover appreciate unlimited phone, email and screen share training support.
Cost: Pricing starts at free; first paid level is $35/mo.
Setup fee: $0
Per-Seat charges: $0; admin seats are unlimited on all paid plans
Additional transaction fees: $0
Top additional features: Event registration, online calendars, member directory, restricted content, donations, job bank, shopping carts, classified ads, announcement boards, forms.
Key integrations: Quickbooks Desktop, Quickbooks Online, Xero, MailChimp, Stripe, Authorize.net, PayPal Checkout, PayPal Pro
ClubExpress targets a wide variety of organizations — clubs, HOAs, professional groups, trade associations and more. The platform is good at serving associations with multiple tiers; it offers the ability to create separate websites for each chapter if needed. While ClubExpress is focused on providing a lot of features, there is often an additional cost for integrations. When comparing prices with other systems, it’s important to see if there is an additional charge for any of your association’s “must have” features.
Cost: Starts at $24/month
Per-Seat charges: unknown
Additional Transaction-Related Charges: $0
Setup Fee: Starts at $150, plus additional fee for creating your website in their content management system ($600 to $2400 and up)
Key Features Beyond Membership Management: Volunteer signups and tracking, events calendar and registration, ecommerce, continuing education unit (CEU) tracking, e-learning, multi-chapter features, mobile app, HOA features
Key Integrations: POS system integration, LMS
Support: Email, phone; screenshare training incurs a fee ($120/hr)
iMIS is the granddaddy of AMS solutions. It offers an extensive range of features with a very high level of customization and integration possibilities. It is ideal for large organizations with multiple chapters such as unions, faith organizations, clubs and charities. iMIS customers will often engage consultants to help them with the system for purposes of reporting and configuration as the capabilities and options can feel overwhelming for those without dedicated IT staff or developers.
Cost: $8,500 for iMIS Professional (for smaller organizations and teams)
Per-Seat charges: $200/month per user
Additional Transaction-Related Charges: $0
Setup Fee: varies; you may need a consultant to help you with setup/ongoing use of the product
Key Features Beyond Membership Management: Committee management, certification tracking, events calendar and registration, ecommerce, member communities, multi-chapter features
Key Integrations: HigherLogic, Top Class LMS, Zapier, iMIS Bridge, Zoom, SSO and many more
WildApricot has a long track record and has a large installation base. It offers multi-chapter features and Organizations will need to shift away from their existing website and instead use WildApricot’s website builder and provided themes if they want to access all of the system’s features. WildApricot offers limited function mobile apps for both members and admins. While some competitors may not offer an app, their platforms may be mobile-responsive and work well from both an admin and member perspective on small devices like phones and tablets.
Cost: Pricing starts at free; first paid level is $48/mo.
Setup Fee: $0
Additional Transaction-Related Charges: Wild Apricot adds 20% to its monthly/annual fees if you don’t use their affiliated payment gateway. Nonprofits can often find lower transaction fees with other payment gateways like Stripe, but the 20% fee increase comes into play if you go that route.
Key Features Beyond Membership Management: Website builder, multi-chapter capability, event calendar and registration, directory, member only content, forum, online store, mobile app, HOA features, API
Key Integrations: Make, Affinipay, Website Widgets
Support: Chat, email, forums
GrowthZone (also known as ChamberMaster) is an all-in-one association management system focused on tracking and communicating with members. Given that they were formerly known as ChamberMaster, they have a special focus on features for chambers of commerce. In addition to chambers, they tout serving real estate associations, bar associations, as well as construction and trade associations. They offer integrations with Learning Management Systems, which is useful for professional associations that offer continuing education.
Cost: Starts at $259/month
Per-Seat charges: 3 admins are included at the lowest level plan.
Additional Transaction-Related Charges: Higher monthly fees unless you use their payment gateway, GrowthZone Pay.
Setup Fee: $3,500 one-time design fee for your membership website
Key Features Beyond Membership Management: Mobile staff app, events, forms, donations, job postings, directory, CE tracking
Key Integrations: Zoom, Elevate LMS, Blue Sky ELearn
Support: Email, phone
YourMembership integrates many aspects of association management into one tool. For organizations that want someone to design their site for them, they offer this service.
Cost: starts at $292/month
Setup Fee: varies
Key Features Beyond Membership Management: Online community, job board, event calendar and registration, directory, member only content, online store, mobile event app
Key Integrations: Career center, Learning Management System (LMS)
Support: Email, phone
MemberClicks is designed for associations as well as association management companies. Organizations can pay them to build their website. Available add on services include an online community, job board and LMS.
Cost: Starts at $238/month
Setup Fee: $1,500 or $3,000
Per-Seat charges: $15/month beyond the first two designated admins (ASAs) for their MC Professional product
Key Features Beyond Membership Management: Online community, event calendar and registration, directory, member only content, online store, email marketing
Key Integrations: Higher Logic, Hubspot, Salesforce, Learning Management System
Support: Email, phone, online forum
SilkStart provides a website as part of its service. They will either create a portal to integrate with your existing site or create a association website for you. At a higher price point, they offer multi-chapter features. Their integration with Localize allows the website they build for your association to be automatically translated into multiple languages.
Cost: Starts at $200/month for up to 500 members
Setup Fee: varies depending on website needs
Per-Seat charges: $0
Key Features Beyond Membership Management: Multi-chapter features (higher price point), job board, member communities, bilingual/translations, email marketing, events, member forum
Key Integrations: MailChimp, Ecwid, WordPress, Squarespace
StarChapter is an all-in-one association management platform that comes with a new membership website. StarChapter offers multi-chapter features including chapter websites. You’ll need to use StarChapter Pay, their proprietary payment gateway, to process credit card transactions.
Cost: Starts at $83/month
Setup Fee: $779 and up
Per-Seat charges: $0
Additional Transaction-Related Charges: You’ll need to use StarChapter Pay, which has higher rates than nonprofits can get through Stripe. Pricing begins at $9.99/mo for a 3% + $.30 per transaction rate and rises up to $29.95 per month for a 2.7% + $.30 per transaction rate.
Key Features Beyond Membership Management: Ecommerce, events, email marketing, multi-chapter features
Key Integrations: API, MentorEase
MemberLeap offers either a custom website or a member portal that you can connect to your existing website. They have a very large list of payment gateway integrations. You can use their custom website builder or have a member portal created. They are suited for homeowners’ associations with features (available at some plan levels) such as resource reservations an email listserve.
Cost: Starts at $50/month
Setup Fee: Minimum of $1,800
Per-Seat charges: $0
Key Features Beyond Membership Management: Broadcast texts, message boards, email listserve, multi-chapter, event app, classifieds, announcements, HOA features
Key Integrations: Large list of supported payment gateways including Stripe, Authorize.net, Square, PayPal Pro, iPay, Quickbooks ($875 one time fee plus $35/mo)
What is an association system?
What’s the difference between an AMS and a CRM?
Note that pricing and features may change from the information we have gathered here. Providers regularly evolve their product offerings and price points.