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3 Key Benefits to Using Association CRM Software

8 min read
June 21, 2023
Neon One Staff
An employees uses association CRM software to sign up new members at a trade show.

When you’re trying to engage and retain members at your association, internal software needs may be lower on your priority list. After all, how can something you use for managing internal records help you offer value for your members?

Surprisingly, it can help quite a lot! When you use an association CRM to manage your member relationships, you can drive engagement and retention by overcoming the limitations of your current systems.

In this article, you’ll learn how outdated processes can hamper your ability to engage your association members. You’ll also discover three ways the right association CRM software can help drive membership retention. 

On the hunt for a CRM? Considering Wild Apricot? Click on this image to explore our side-by-side comparison to see which platform would be best for your organization.
On the hunt for a CRM? Considering Wild Apricot? Click on this image to explore our side-by-side comparison to see which platform would be best for your organization.

How Association CRMs Improve Member Management

When you first start looking into software options for your association, you’re likely going to be reviewing member management or association management (AMS) software. While these are useful products, they aren’t quite the same as association constituent relationship management (CRM) software.  

An AMS is designed more for running the day-to-day operations of an organization. That’s why there are no “relationship” references in the title. You’re not managing relationships, you are scheduling and monitoring tasks. 

Association CRMs, on the other hand, will help you reinforce your member relationships to drive retention and engagement. With a CRM that includes membership management features, like Neon CRM for Associations, you can overcome the outdated processes that keep you from using your members’ information to connect with them. 

Outdated Processes Can Cost Your Organization 

When it comes to technology, a lot of associations are stuck with the status quo. They use things like Excel spreadsheets and QuickBooks to manage their memberships. If this is the way it’s always been at your organization, it can be hard to see how these solutions cost you more in the long run. 

Here are a few common problems you may run into when using outdated technology. 

Poor Data Management

Many nonprofits struggle with data management. In fact, only 40% use it to guide decision-making and only 5% use it in every decision. The inability to compile different member data in a way that tells a story is a big problem for nonprofits. 

And that’s a shame! Data-driven organizations are 162% more likely to beat their revenue goals than their non-data-driven counterparts. In the for-profit sector, businesses commonly use their audience’s information to drive sales and reduce operations costs. For associations, it helps deliver the benefits, communications, and relationship-building strategies that keep members engaged. 

Unnecessary Overhead

There are a lot of opinions on how much nonprofits should spend on overhead costs. The simplest answer is “no more than needed to do a good job.” But it’s much harder to control costs when those costs result from a lack of efficiency.

Consider a common process for nonprofits—reporting. The time it takes someone to compile reports from different systems and sources is extensive, and it can sometimes even be the focus of days or weeks of work. All that effort is wasted on something that does little to encourage ongoing membership through benefits and services. You could be spending hundreds of hours (not to mention dollars!) putting together necessary reports.

When your association is looking for a technology solution, keep a close eye on which platforms will free up your staff members’ bandwidth. If time really is money, a system that saves you time will be saving you money as well. 

Ineffective Communication

An association that doesn’t frequently communicate with its members is going to have a hard time proving its value, engaging constituents, and retaining members year after year. But, when you’re dealing with an outdated system, your workflows are going to be antiquated. Something as simple as sending a thank-you email can be a five-step process.

  • A member record is created.
  • Someone is assigned to compile an impact report.  
  • Someone is assigned to create a welcome email. 
  • A reminder is set to send another email about the community and its members 
  • Someone notes the email to avoid duplicates.

Just sending a simple welcome message takes a lot of time—and it also doesn’t account for members who prefer direct mail. The process for sending a physical thank you letter is even longer! While five steps don’t seem like much, multiply those steps across hundreds (or even thousands) of new member sign-ups. That process will quickly get out of hand. Things will get missed, which can result in new members feeling ignored or receiving irrelevant messages. 

New members may not get the information they need about your organization or its communities and resources. Unable to use their membership to its fullest, they may just let it lapse or cancel it entirely. These are the hidden costs of sticking with outdated processes. Luckily, there’s a way to tackle them.  

3 Ways Association CRM Software Improves Retention

Leaders of associations that start using CRM software can often wonder what took them so long to make the switch. While there are dozens of benefits, there are three that are transformational—even though, at first glance, they seem incredibly simple.

1. Flexible Data Fields Support Personalization

There’s more to nonprofit member management than collecting someone’s name, address, and member history. Every nonprofit is different, and you’re going to have a different set of fields to monitor than the organization down the street. A legal association may track state bar admittance of its members; an arts organization may also need fields to track when members lend works of art to their organization and for what cause or program.

For example, let’s look at a scenario for the legal association. By tracking the state bar admittances, they also know what resources to forward to members. The association may publish a weekly newsletter summarizing important cases. With the bar admittance information, they can ensure that the newsletter is specifically targeted to where the member practices law. It’s that personally curated touch that builds their member relationships by providing constituents with valuable and useful resources specifically for them.

2. Automated Workflow Tools Improve Communication

Earlier, we used an example of how simply sending an email could be a five-step, time-consuming process. However, when an association uses CRM software, it can automate that process based on a single triggering event. 

For example, when a new member signs up, the CRM can kick out a customized email welcoming them to the organization. It also schedules and sends a series of welcome emails providing more information, like links to resources and important contacts or dates. Finally, the system sets a task for a representative from that individual’s specific chapter to schedule a welcome call.

All of these steps occur automatically based on the triggers you define in your association’s CRM. Compare that to the first manual email scenario, and it’s impossible to not see the ROI. The automated email takes less time and frees up your staff’s resources so they can focus on other tasks. 

3. Data-Driven Reporting Options Provide Critical Guidance

Data is a great resource for nonprofit decision-makers, but it’s often difficult to make sense of the information you’re given. A nonprofit CRM with strong reporting will allow you to review information on members, donors, and other constituent groups. Using your data well can help you make more effective decisions, but only if you have an association-focused CRM that makes it possible. 

We can return to the legal association example from above to define why. As leaders with the legal organization review member attrition, they don’t just need information on the percentage of lapsed members. They want to understand why they lapsed. An organization that tracks its member’s bar admittance states can break that data down.

They suddenly see that 80% of their lapsed members come from Washington, D.C. That legal organization now knows that the problem is likely related to its federal resources for members. It can either improve benefits for its D.C. members or pull out entirely and refocus on state-level law.

But the organization can only make these discoveries if it’s tracking the right data. If the information they have can tell the member’s story, then the organization can understand why they leave and what it takes to keep them.

Support Your Association With a Nonprofit CRM

An association CRM isn’t just an investment. It replaces outdated processes that could be holding your organization back. By taking advantage of automated tools, intuitive reporting, and flexible fields, you provide value to members while conserving your valuable resources. 

If you’d like to manage your association with CRM software, we’re here to help. Our Neon CRM for Associations offers an affordable, easy-to-implement solution for organizations of all sizes. If you’re interested in learning more, connect with us to get started.

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