Expert tips: how to find the best AMS vendor for your needs

Gretchen Steenstra | 10.10.14
Topics: AMS - Data - Membership

After you’ve identified and documented requirements for a new AMS, it’s time to find out which vendors offer the best solution for your needs. The most common practice in the association world is to send out a document describing your association’s selection process and your requirements for an AMS. Vendors then respond to this document by providing information about how their solution would address the needs you’ve outlined. Two versions of this type of document are used on a regular basis by associations.


One option is the request for proposals (RFP). Typically, an RFP provides a detailed description of the project, including background information about the association, organizational goals, and core business functionality. System requirements are described, as well as a summary of supporting requirements, such as software licensing, training, timeline, and directions for the vendor’s proposal. 


You should allow up to a month to produce a thorough RFP that includes detailed requirements in addition to information about business process flows, integration needs, and governance for the selection process.


The other option is a request for information (RFI), a more compressed version of a RFP. An RFI is typically used to narrow down the field of potential vendors before sending out an RFP to request formal proposals. It contains high-level information and less detail about business processes and individual requirements. Based on the initial information provided by vendors, the association decides which solutions are worthy of a more in-depth review. 

An RFI takes only a few weeks to prepare since much of the background information about the association and high-level requirements are readily available. 

Choosing between an RFP and RFI

Regardless of the size and scope of the project, an RFI is often the best option for starting initial conversations with vendors. Then, follow up with personalized demonstrations of the solutions that pass muster. The knowledge gained from these conversations and demonstrations will help your association develop a focused RFP for the final 2 or 3 vendors that you want to seriously consider. But, if you’re still not sure, use our cheat sheet to determine whether an RFI or RFP is the right choice for your next step in AMS selection (PDF).

Tune in next week for some final thoughts on AMS selection. If you have questions about any posts in this series, please post them in the comments.

Other posts in this series:

Additional reading:


Flickr photo by Lori Rielly



About Gretchen Steenstra

A PMP and Professional Facilitator, Gretchen has more tricks up her sleeve than she has, well, sleeves! Extremely active in the association community, you'll find her just about everywhere—from ASAE to AMS Fest. Lucky for us, you can also find her here on The DelCor Connection.

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