Some might tell you the only way to manage your association is through a “one size fits all” Association Management System like NOAH. While these tools have their place, they are not the best solution in all situations.
In this article, we’ll discuss benefits towards assembling a custom Association Management System using open source tools like WordPress.
First let’s dive into the features and capabilities that NOAH has:
NOAH’s Features and Functionality
NOAH boasts an impressive and robust set of features for any association, including:
- Contact Relation Management
- Content Management System
- Membership System
- Governance Management
- Event Management
- Presentation and Paper Call Management
- Exhibitor Management
- eLearning and Certifications
- Job Board
- Document Repository
- E-Mail Automation
- Accounting Integration
Phew! That’s a lot of features, all of which are all valuable that charities and non-profits could take advantage of.
Advantages of using systems like NOAH
Now there are ample benefits to using a system like NOAH.
- You get all of
this featuresin a single, managed package.
cloud basedyou don’t have to host or manage the infrastructure on your own (although this can be achivedthrough WordPress as well)
- They work with a wide range of associations and have refined their solution based on the needs of their customers.
- It can be implemented relatively quickly as they provide a packaged solution.
These benefits are
Disadvantages of using systems like NOAH
To summarize, the drawbacks of using a one-size-fits all solution are:
- If you specialize in everything, you specialize in nothing
- Feature bloat
- Locked into a proprietary system
- Reliant on the continue success of another organization
Let’s go through each drawback in more detail.
Jack of trades, master of none
From a software development standpoint, the more features you have to evolve and maintain the less attention any one feature gets. Much like the old saying, “if you’re a jack of trades then you’re a master of none…”
While systems like NOAH certainly boast a long list of features the truth is each feature falls short of alternative solutions created by companies that put all their effort into a single core feature.
Expect content management that rivals WordPress? Again, not the case.
Want eLearning with the user experience and expertise of LearnDash? Nope.
If your needs are light for then a solution like NOAH is probably a good fit, but if you’re expecting best in class for any given feature you might look elsewhere.
Do you want everything and the kitchen sink?
On a similar note, if you don’t need all of the features that a platform like NOAH has, the vast array of features is likely to make the system harder to understand and use. This is a concept called “Feature Rot” where the ever growing increase in features leads to a decrease in overall experience.
Locked into a proprietary system
As a proprietary platform, your ability to customize the platform to fit your specific needs becomes more limited. In these cases you typically can only hire the platform provider itself to make custom changes and because they have a corner on the market it comes at very hefty prices.
This also makes it difficult to migrate your data to another system. Such efforts require that the web developers write custom scripts to export data. Given said scripts make it easier to leave the platform and hurt revenue, it’s rare much effort is made to create these tools.
Dependent on the success of an outside organization
What would happen if your platform provider went out of business next week? How quickly could you get your association management system back up and running? How badly would it hurt your association?
Most of the AMS platforms are built, maintained, and delivered by private companies. As such, your organization becomes reliant on the company staying in business.
Now that we’ve talked about the pros and cons of each situation, let’s talk about a viable alternative.
Alternative to NOAH (and similar) association management systems
There are several high quality open source alternatives to NOAH and other association management systems. If you’re not familiar with the concept, open source software is simply software without ownership. Anyone can use the software in anyway they see fit.
If you’re not familiar with the concept, open source software is simply software without ownership. Anyone can use the software in anyway they see fit.
The more successful open source software projects have developed massive communities around them, with potentially hundreds of thousands of individuals contributing to a given project in a variety of ways.
The benefits of open source software
There are numerous benefits to the open source model:
- You never have to worry about the parent company “going out of business”
- The software isn’t proprietary. You own and have access to your data without question
- There are potentially tens of thousands of professionals available to help you use and implement and customize the software
- Access to the underlying code means easier customization so you can tailor it to your specific needs
- It allows you to install and assemble the features you need, leaving out the ones you don’t.
Open source platforms you should consider
We recommend considering WordPress and Drupal. Both are Content Management Systems (CMS) with a rich landscape of high quality add-ons that will allow you to assemble a custom AMS that fits your association or non-profits specific needs.
Let’s look at WordPress and see how you could assemble an AMS comparable to NOAH.
WordPress as a NOAH AMS alternative
I’m going to go through each of NOAHs features and describe what comparable capability could be used with WordPress only with more power and flexibility.
Contact Relation Management
Content Management System
WordPress is already the most powerful content management system available, powering over 33.6% of all websites.
There are over a dozen high quality membership management systems for WordPress allowing you to set various user levels, accept and track payments, manage invoices, etc…
Because WordPress is open source you can configure and build upon these systems to match your specific membership management needs (we should know, we’ve done many customizations ourselves!)
Using existing WordPress tools like custom post types you can build a custom governance management systems to fit your organizations specific needs and workflows.
Presentation and Paper Call Management
Integrate with powerful third party software solutions like PaperCall.io or build your own application system to match your specific needs and workflows. (Again, this is something we’ve done before with great success!)
Using existing WordPress tools like custom post types you can build a custom exhibitor management systems to fit your specific event needs and workflows.
eLearning and Certifications
Look no further than LearnDash, one of the best Learning Management Systems in the industry. You can create badges, issue and track certifications, and integrate with eLearning platforms through TinCan or X-Api.
Using existing WordPress tools like custom post types you can build a custom award management systems to fit your specific needs and workflow.
There are more than a handful of powerful job board plugins available ranging from free to premium. If one doesn’t fit your needs? Whipping up a custom board based on your needs is certainly possible as well.
Look no further than WooCommerce, the most popular eCommerce platform on the web.
There are more than a handful of document repository plugins available ranging from free to premium. You could also integrate with an existing file management system like DropBox or Box.com to reduce the amount of places you need to look.
If one doesn’t fit your needs? Whipping up a custom board based on your needs.
We’ve worked with enough organizations to say that everyones needs in reporting are different. There is also nothing more frustrating and useless than a report that doesn’t prioritize and call out the metrics that matter most to you.
With a solution like WordPress you can customize what data you want reported on and how that data is displayed. Similar to other solutions outlined above, you can also integrate with powerful data visualization tools to take your difficult to understand list of numbers and turn it into a live dashboard. We should know, we’ve built a plugin that does this very thing!
Assembling your own association management system using open source software isn’t for everyone, but there are numerous advantages. You end up with an independent solution crafted completely around what you need without the bloat and risk of relying on or being locked into prapriatery technology.