AMS Selection: A Quick Reference Guide

Keep this information handy when you’re looking to upgrade or replace your existing tech solutions.

For many association execs, selecting the right AMS can be overwhelming—but it doesn’t have to be. With a clear understanding of your association’s goals and a thorough review of the marketplace, the process becomes surprisingly manageable.

Before reaching out to vendors, start by putting pen to paper.

“Write three things your association does to exist—these are part of your mission, the DNA of your organization,” said Gretchen Steenstra, director of client strategy at DelCor Technology Solutions. “Then describe one thing you’re tapering off and one you’re growing.”

This document doesn’t need to be extensive, she said. Instead, focus on providing a contextual foundation so solution providers understand what your association aims to accomplish through an upgrade or migration.

“Understand why you’re going through the process, how the process will help your association, and the questions you need to ask, and you’ll be much stronger as a consumer,” Steenstra said.

After documenting requirements, research the market for vendors that have the experience and expertise you’ve outlined. Touch base with industry peers, explore various options, and send out requests for information (RFIs) to whittle down your choices. Afterward, send a Request for Proposal (RFP) to the vendors that meet your requirements.

But don’t get overwhelmed. Keep your RFP simple, communicating core needs in an organized manner so that a vendor can understand the scope of the project, estimate costs, and determine an appropriate strategy.

Define Internal Roles

Business leaders, IT directors, and CEOs/executive directors should take on specified roles in the AMS selection process.

“The business units’ role is that of the driver; these are not IT projects,” Steenstra said. “They need to be right in the front to state what they need. Their job during demos is to look at feature sets, evaluate them, and say, ‘Yes, I can see this fitting into my organization,’ or ‘No, I can’t.’”

While business leaders focus on functional requirements—i.e., a product’s features and functions, tech leaders should focus on non-functional requirements and system properties like scalability, reliability, performance, and integration capabilities.

Finally, the CEO or executive director should ensure the process is continuously aligned with the association’s vision and mission.

“When people get into the details and begin the decision-making process, they tend to lose sight of how the system will help them run as an organization,” Steenstra said. “I think leadership plays a powerful role there.”

She also recommends that association execs get to know their vendor’s leadership team. “Knowing each other before there’s an escalation is an important piece that I don’t think we see nearly enough of in our community.”

Partner Up

It’s becoming common practice for associations to move from a system-only AMS selection approach to basing their choice on systems and the potential partnerships that come along with them.

“We’re seeing a natural evolution toward partnerships, and that’s a good thing,” Steenstra said. “Many organizations start with their AMS and outgrow one set of functionality. But instead of changing the entire AMS, they’re going out and seeing what’s in the market and how, through a partnership, they can integrate new solutions with what they have.”

“That is very doable for small- to medium-sized organizations. It’s not scary if you’re very clear on what each partner is going to do and how the systems will talk to each other,” she said.

Finally, leave a little wiggle room in your budget for potential adjustments. “Take the proposal as a proposal, not an exact dollar level you provide to your board,” she said.

For more information on how to master the AMS selection process, Visit DelCor’s AMS Selection Quick Look page.

DelCor works closely with associations and nonprofits to offer outsourced IT support, CIO services, technology assessments, and digital workplace consulting. For more information on DelCor’s digital workplace consulting services and association technology solutions, visit While you’re there, check out Reboot IT, a podcast exploring all things association and nonprofit tech!

(Handout photo)