There was a time, maybe two decades ago, when your association management software served as a one-stop-shop for all of your organization’s data needs, whether they be member management, accounting, HR, or marketing. And this made a certain amount of sense in an era when most software was operated on-premise and specialization was rare. But gradually over time associations peeled off functionalities as they began to realize that all their IT didn’t need to fall under a single umbrella. At first, they started with their accounting and payroll as this software became more accessible to non-enterprise organizations. And then, with the wider adoption of the internet and the eruption of specialized, cloud-based software, there was a shift towards individual solutions for marketing, website management, and even event planning.

But despite this trend, I still see AMS offerings on the market that are pitching themselves as a single solution across all departments. I recently watched a marketing video in which the narrator derided potential clients for using a dozen different vendors to address the needs of their association instead of choosing a company (i.e. theirs) that offers all those solutions under one banner. And if I were an association executive who didn’t know any better, I could see myself subscribing to this line of logic. Why should I have to pay for and learn several different platforms when this company tells me I could have them all with a single sign-on and a slightly lower price? Sounds pretty appealing, but the logic is flawed.


Not only is this logic flawed, but it’ll also lead to lost time and money as you struggle to use software that isn’t best of breed. Here’s why your AMS shouldn’t do everything:

It doesn’t specialize

MailChimp has more than 500 employees who are dedicated to building and improving one of the best email marketing platforms on the market. That’s all they do. Does it seem logical that an AMS vendor with a fraction of their staff focused on email could build a comparable solution? It’s highly unlikely. Should you trust that their content management system can compete with WordPress when Automattic has spent over a decade refining the CMS functionality with thousands of developers around the world building plugins? The point here is that we live in an age of specialization, and for every functionality an AMS offers that’s not tied to its core product, there’s probably a software company out there that performs that functionality better.

You don’t get locked into a product

Let’s say you use MailChimp as a third party integration with your AMS, but then you decide it isn’t meeting your needs and you’d like to go with a different company. It would be fairly easy to decouple it from your AMS. But if you spent tens (or hundreds) of thousands of dollars on a do-everything AMS and decide you don’t like its email offering, you might be stuck with your decision. That is, of course, unless you’re willing spend substantial funds to find and switch to a new AMS or CRM platform.

The rise of APIs

Third party integrations are getting easier by the day, especially if you leverage a commercial CRM solution like Microsoft Dynamics CRM that has application programming interfaces (APIs). Many of the specialized providers out there plug directly into these platforms without any coding required. With the maturity of APIs and the integrations available, people shouldn’t be as afraid as they used to be to embrace third party options. That’s why they should be shopping around for a software solution, and given the importance these platforms have toward their bottom line, they should settle on nothing but the best.


At Cobalt, we believe that your AMS/CRM system should be the hub of your operations and that you should leverage best of breed applications for everything else. We believe we’re close to a tipping point where this will become the standard for associations leading to a much better experience for your staff and members.

Are you ready to take your association to the next level with cutting-edge association management software? Go here to learn more.