Industry Expertise · July 24, 2020

A Quick Guide for Upgrading Your Trade Association Software

Whether your trade association has several hundred members or hundreds of thousands, managing membership requires a lot more than a paper spreadsheet. Trade association software will help your organization run and communicate more effectively.

But not every technological tool offers the capabilities every organization needs. Before investing in a software solution, consider what features your trade association needs and what you hope to accomplish with the new system.

Key functionalities

Trade association management software offers several capabilities to help you better manage your operations. These include:

  • Membership management. Track member dues and renewals so your organization can remain in good financial standing.
  • Member benefits. Organize and administer benefits based on each business's membership tier. For example, your company's professional-level members may get a discounted pass to your virtual conference, while an associate-level member may have to pay full price.
  • Member communications. Send weekly newsletters, monthly news updates and other communications. You can also create different member lists for various targeted communications, draft custom messaging and even send text messages before big events.
  • Continuing education and certification management. If your trade association gives continuing education courses for members, keep track of course offerings, attendance, completion and certifications.
  • Document management. Keep better track of financial records and any necessary regulatory filings.
  • Content management. Update or create new web pages, and use content management tools to organize and update blogs and other posts.
  • Conference and event management. Provide self-service tools your members can use to register for an in-person or virtual conference. This feature also lets you manage all the content related to your event in one place.
  • Job and message boards. Share open positions and job leads exclusive to members, and let users communicate with each other about topics in their industry.

Bringing the benefits to life

Trade associations are generally lean organizations with tight budgets. Your organization may not have as many resources to spare as a large private company. With trade association management software automating your processes, your staff will save time so they can focus on other tasks that drive more value.

Trade association software can also provide more visibility into your data, helping you uncover insights that improve your operations and finances. For example, the system may surface members who are delinquent on their dues or who haven't yet renewed even though the deadline is approaching. With this information, your organization can be more proactive about re-engaging members and driving growth.

Software can also help your trade association deliver a better user experience. Manual processes, emails and spreadsheets can frustrate members who are trying to engage with your organization, whether it's registering for a conference or updating their member profile. It also can make these processes more cumbersome for the employees who must manage them. Trade association management software can streamline these processes, so staffers and members alike have more positive interactions with your organization.

Where possible, integrate

Though a comprehensive trade association management platform should offer most of the capabilities your organization needs, some may not include talent management or accounting tools. If that's the case, you may need to purchase a separate, third-party tool. Purchasing an add-on may mean managing these tasks in another system, which doesn't allow your organization to streamline all its processes.

A better option may be to choose software that integrates well with other solutions. Many companies now have integration partnerships that extend the capabilities of their technology. For example, the trade association management software you choose may plug into your existing HR software. This setup lets you manage all these processes from one interface, without having to log into multiple systems.

Before you choose a software solution, map out your most critical business needs and find a solution that aligns best with them. Ensuring you can cover these key areas will help you realize the main value of the software—more efficient operations.

Trade association management software comes with upfront costs, but making that investment now can produce significant long-term benefits for your organization, saving you time and money. You can then reinvest these resources into making your organization bigger and better.


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