The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

Membership Management Software vs. Association Management Software

You’re searching for software for your organization, but two different types of software keep coming up—Membership Management Software and Association Management Software (or AMS). They seem to be similar, but why do they have different names? What are the differences?

While there is not a clear cut distinction between the two, an AMS normally implies a system that has more features, is a little bit more expensive, and targets mid-large associations.


An AMS, like a Membership Management system, has features such as member management, event management, and website management, but, unlike a Membership Management system, can have other features such as campaign management that allows for the creation of targeted marketing campaigns, certification management, in depth subscription and publications management, and awards management. While some membership management systems may contain some aspects of the more robust features involved in an AMS, these features are typically much more involved and in-depth in an Association Management System. A couple of examples of Membership Management systems are Wild Apricot and MemberClicks. Examples of Association Management systems include Aptify and SharePoint AMS.



Both types of systems can range in price, but typically Membership Management systems are cheaper, while an AMS tends to be more robust and can easily go up to the thousands per month.

For Membership Management, cost drivers include members, member profiles, and number of e-mails. For Association Management solutions, cost drivers are typically number of users, gross annual budget, number of members, number of annual events, and whether they offer subscriptions or products.

Target Market

While an AMS is geared towards larger companies with the need for robust functionalities, Membership Management software is commonly used by social groups, or shared interest groups, as well as other small organizations that don’t need enterprise features but just a place where they can simply organize and manage their members.

So Which is Best?

Understanding the differences between these systems, while not necessarily dictating which software you absolutely need, will help you choose between the two. Are you a smaller organization with basic needs? Consider a Membership Management solution over an AMS aimed at larger players.

Know of any other important differences between these two systems? Add them in the comments below!

Leah Merrill Leah Merrill

The preceding is a guest post by Leah Merrill, a Software Analyst for Capterra, a company that connects buyers and sellers ofbusiness software. She specializes in membership management software along with several other software directories. When she’s not helping software buyers, she is, among other things, reading, writing, and spending time with her family and friends.

Topics: Products and Services