How much does an association management system implementation really cost?” This can be a difficult question to answer, but it’s one of the most common ones we’ve heard in the last 25+ years. It is especially hard to say for associations who haven’t updated their AMS in years and aren’t aware of current AMS pricing trends.

We can offer you three things quickly, today.

  1. A ballpark, current-market estimate for what many organizations pay for an association software implementation, along with a sense of the major factors that determine AMS pricing.
  2. Our 2023 Association Management Software Buying Guide. Wherever you are in the AMS selection process, download a copy today. This 51-page resources is our most comprehensive edition. We’ve packed it with best practices and insider questions to ask your team and potential vendors throughout the AMS assessment, research, and selection.
  3. A free assessment and quick consultation with your team. If you already know it’s time to make a change to your association management system, Cobalt can give you a clear sense of what it could cost you, based on the factors and business needs you want to prioritize. Schedule an assessment and consultation now.

    Today’s Average AMS Software Implementation Costs

    We will dig into the major cost factors and questions you should ask in a moment, but here’s the bottom line. If you outsource your AMS implementation, have 10-100 association staff members, and business requirements in the “light-to-medium” range, you should expect to pay implementation costs ranging from $150K – $250K, with ongoing costs of $75 – $150 per user, per month.

    Budget AMS Options for Association Management Software

    Maybe your organization doesn’t fit the description above. Or, maybe it does, but you don’t have the budget for an association management software fitted to your exact business requirements. There are definitely ways to keep this project under the projections we’ve outlined. Here are some quick considerations for your team.

    Remember that both the customer and the vendor drive the cost of association membership software implementations. The vendor’s costs might be out of your control, but you can pay less if you:

    A. Only work with out-of-the-box functionality for whatever system you choose. It will inevitably mean sacrificing some of your team and members’ specific needs or priorities, but it’s possible.

    B. Take on the AMS set up yourself. There are obvious risks to this approach as well, but one of the most expensive costs layered into a vendor’s products and services is their expertise, which should equal a much faster, headache-free transition for your team and members. When every dollar counts, or your budget just isn’t there though, some associations can pull this off with in-house expertise.

    3 Major AMS Pricing Drivers

    Many factors could play a significant role in how much an AMS system implementation costs your organization. However, there are three major considerations that often make the biggest difference: the level of AMS customization, how much legacy data you migrate, and the initial complexity of your new system. Let’s briefly look at what you should consider around each of these issues.

    What Should You Budget for a New Association Management System?

    Given the current average AMS pricing for these kinds of implementations and factors we’ve outlined, what should you plan to spend?

    Clearly, we can’t give you a dollar amount today, but we can offer some free, strong advice after so many years of navigating these vendor partnership conversations.

    Look for a Budget Estimate or Range

    Any software vendor that tries to give you an exact, upfront price for a custom, agile AMS implementation is either not telling the truth, or doesn’t have enough experience to understand a project this complex.

    Outliers are Often Just Liars

    If you start pricing AMS systems or sending out some version of an RFI, RFQ, & RFP to vendors and someone comes back with a much lower estimate, that’s another red flag. Cobalt has been competing in this market since 1996. Vendor prices for an AMS should be within 10 – 20% of one another. Any lowball offer is hiding additional costs the vendor doesn’t want to reveal upfront — or they don’t actually understand what you do.

    Don’t Set Your Budget in a Vacuum

    Arbitrarily setting a budget almost always creates unwanted complications for associations. If you settle on an ironclad number up front, then every step in the rest of the process becomes about trying to see how many features you can get for that price. The hidden problems soon emerge, though.

    The biggest one we run into with our clients is that as we get midway through scoping their implementation, and then they find out we have features and benefits they didn’t know about beforehand but discover they could really use. Then it becomes a painful process of eliminating other items they want or need to accommodate the budget ceiling they were already up against.

    Hold Something Back in Your Budget Conversations

    When you do settle on an estimated budget — keep it to yourself. It might be best to not even tell all of your internal stakeholders, especially business users. It may sound like loaded advice for a vendor to offer a prospective client, but we believe it works better for everyone if you know what you can spend but hold something back in your conversations.

    Based on our long history of working out AMS and CRM solutions for associations, you should hold back 15 – 20% of what you can actually afford to spend. When you set your ideal spend low with your vendor to give you wiggle room as the project develops, and it will go much easier for everyone.

    Any good vendor will include a 10 – 15% contingency in their proposals and estimates. So, this will give you the flexibility you need to adapt to changing priorities and requirements as you navigate your implementation.

    Gain Budget Confidence Early

    When you loop trustworthy vendors into the conversation early, you can be a lot more confident about what you’re paying for and what it will really cost. We suggest that you don’t even go to your decision makers and ask for a budget for this project until you’ve talked with vendors in the market to get an idea of what’s available and realistic.

    Association Management System Implementation Costs: Final Thoughts

    We covered a lot of ground in this article, so let’s quickly recap helpful takeaways.

    Doing all the AMS implementation set up and trading some of your specific business requirements and member priorities are the biggest drawbacks of a cheaper AMS and whatever its out-of-the-box functionality happens to be.

    If you outsource your AMS software implementation, have less than 100 staff members and your business requirements aren’t overly complex, counts on implementation costs around $150k – $250K, monthly costs of $75 – $150 per user.

    There are 3 major factors that will influence the complexity of this project and AMS pricing:

    1. the level of AMS customization to standard functionality ratio
    2. how much legacy data you choose to migrate to your new AMS
    3. the initial complexity of your new system vs. phasing in new or additional features

    Get a Realistic AMS Implementation Estimate

    Whether you are just starting the search for your next AMS and want to have one of those preliminary budget and feature conversations or you are ready to start finalizing your AMS vendor shortlist, we can help. Let’s connect for a quick introduction call and 30-Minute AMS Tour.