All posts by Joanna Pineda

Joanna Pineda

About Joanna Pineda

Joanna’s business card reads CEO/Chief Troublemaker for a reason. She relishes a challenge and introduces change wherever she goes. She knows anything is possible and that clients come to Matrix to hear "Yes", not "No." Matrix is purple because of Joanna. Staff like to call her JP.

Top 10 AMS Implementation Tips from Bruce Moe, ED at Missouri State Teachers Association

brucemoe-medLast week, I attended AMS Fest, an event organized by ReviewMyAMS that brought together a half dozen association management software (AMS) vendors and association execs exploring new systems.


One of the speakers was Bruce Moe, Executive Director of the Missouri State Teachers Association. MSTA recently went through an AMS implementation, and Bruce shared his top ten implementation tips. I loved his list so much I jotted them down to share.

  1. Put together a cross-functional team to be in charge of the implementation. A diverse team will bring different perspectives to the project, and team members can report back to the rest of the organization.
  2. Spend on technology as needed. For example, don’t limit the spending to the AMS project. You may need to upgrade laptops so staff can take advantage of new AMS functionality. You may need to upgrade your office connection to the internet.
  3. Invest in training and don’t stop. Staff who are trained in the system will be able to do what they need to do, and satisfaction with the system will increase.
  4. Make data hygiene a priority. Staff and members will trust the database only if it has good data. So put systems in place to make sure good data goes in from Day One. Get your vendor to put in good validation. Develop good policies and train to them. Audit data entry regularly.
  5. Ask for robust APIs. No single system will handle all of your membership needs, which means you’ll need APIs to connect all of your systems together. Develop use cases and ask your partner or potential vendor if they can accommodate your needs.
  6. Bend business process before bending the AMS. This is my favorite tip, btw. This is a fancy way of saying, “Rethink your processes and try to use baseline functionality before asking your AMS vendor to customize their system.” And please don’t try to replicate the databases and workflows from the old, broken system that you are trying to leave behind.
  7. Insist on “one truth” or the master database. Bruce said that when they started the migration process, they found a lot of rogue databases in Excel and Access. It’s hard to truly measure member engagement if data is not in one place, so he and his staff have worked hard to eliminate the rogue databases.
  8. Decentralize data entry. It’s impossible to have accurate, complete data if only a couple of people are responsible for data management. MSTA allows members to edit their own records. More importantly, every MSTA staff member has full access to edit individual and organization records because Bruce wants good, accurate data, and he expects staff to update the database when they learn of a change.
  9. Standardize processes and document them. You can’t have an effective staff training program unless you have defined your procedures and documented them somewhere.
  10. Stay current with upgrades. If you don’t stay current with your AMS, you’ll end up needing a major upgrade or reimplementation in the near future. Besides, keeping current means you get the latest security patches and new features.

Many of these tips sound so obvious but when followed, they will result in a really great, effective, low-drama implementation. How about you? What implementation strategies have worked for your organization?

Integrating Google Analytics With Your AMS for Better Tracking

We all know that Google Analytics (GA) can give us valuable insight into WHAT people are doing when they visit our websites. We also know that our member/customer databases contain information about our prospects and clients. Wouldn’t it be great if you could integrate the two systems to gain more insight and knowledge into WHO is visiting your site?

Well guess what? Using custom dimensions, you can integrate your CRM with Google Analytics and send demographic data to Google Analytics. 

But first, let me be clear that GA does not allow personally identifiable data to be sent to GA. Doing so is against the GA Terms of Service. What you can do is send demographic information that tells you about the categories of people who visit your site. Here’s an example:

I’m working with several trade associations that want to know if members are visiting their website. They can certainly track traffic to the members-only portions of their sites, but most organizations make the bulk of their content and services public. So how does it work? Using custom dimensions, we modify the login on client sites so that we make additional web service calls to the AMS or CRM. This information is then stored in a cookie that GA checks whenever people visit the website. For most associations, I recommend pulling back:

  • Member Type
  • Organization Type
  • Size or Segment
  • Is Board (i.e., is this person a member of the Board?)
  • Is Committee (i..e, is this person a committee member?)
  • Is Primary Contact (i.e., is this person the owner of the relationship with the association, probably the person who approve membership? this applies mainly to trade associations)
  • Individual Role (e.g., CEO, Assistant to the CEO, CMO, CFO, CIO, etc.)

Once this tracking is in place, when looking at a report, you click on the Secondary Dimensions dropdown, then click on Custom Dimensions. You then select the custom dimension you’d like overlaid on whatever report you are looking at. For example, I like to look at the home page traffic, then find out what percentage of home page traffic came from logged in people, the breakdown by member type, org type, is primary, is board, etc. One trade association gets virtually no CEO traffic on their website, while another gets quite a bit.

Integrating Google Analytics With Your AMS for Better Tracking | MatrixMaxx Membership Matters Blog

A few things to note here: the data must be in your AMS, it must be structured enough to send properly to GA and it needs to be populated. We can do all the tracking in the world but if your AMS is not properly tracking individual role or org type, it’s not worth trying to pull this data to send to GA. Second, if your members are not bothering to login, you won’t have custom dimension data that is useful. So devote yourselves to getting members to login so that you have useful information about who they are and what they do when they visit your website.

How can Google Analytics help YOU understand your stakeholders better?

Wes Trochlil’s Data Management Tips for Organizations of Any Size

Image of businessperson pointing at document in touchpad at meeting

I had the pleasure of attending #AMSFEST last week. #AMSFEST was hosted by ReviewMyAMS, which is an online directory of association management software (AMS) providers and reviews of their software. The entire site is user-generated. I love it! Anyway, back to #AMSFEST.

The last session of the day was by Wes Trochlil, CEO of Effective Database Management, and he shared his Top Data Management Tips. As I’ve come to expect from Wes, the session was packed with good information for all organizations, no matter what their size or AMS.
  1. Establish data entry guidelines and user guides. Your users need to understand what and how information should be entered. Example: do you use St. or Street or STREET? Data that is entered inconsistently will give you inconsistent data.
  2. Create a user guide. This guide details the steps that staff should follow when members interact with your association. Example: how do we process a new membership? What do we do when an individual leaves a member company and goes to work for a non-member company?
  3. Have formalized training for new staff. It can be done in house, or it can be outsourced. Have a schedule for your training. Have repeat training for important functions or tasks that get done infrequently.
  4. Train senior management on the database. Don’t train them on HOW to use the database. Tell them what’s IN the database so they know what data and reports they can ask for.
  5. Eliminate shadow systems. Every organization has files in Outlook, Word, Excel that house member and transaction data. If this data is maintained separately and never goes back into your database, you have a shadow system.
  6. Don’t manage to the exception. Example: You have eligibility rules for membership so you don’t process payments until prospects have been approved. If most prospects are approved, go ahead and accept payment up front.  That way, you’ve already collected the money and you only have to send out a few refund checks a year.
  7. Capture all contacts in your database. Some organizations only capture member information or just the primary contact at member companies. Wes says (and I totally agree) that this is a mistake. You should be capturing non-members who attend your conference, membership prospects, press, legislative and regulatory contacts, etc.
  8. Track non-financial transactions. It’s easy to focus on the financial ways members engage with you. But non-financial interactions often represent deeper forms of engagement. Examples: committee participation, speaking at conferences, writing articles for the magazine, etc.
  9. Run data integrity reports regularly. It’s inevitable that you’ll have invalid or incorrect information in your data. So run data integrity reports regularly to catch the problems. Examples: company members with no primary contacts, individuals with no emails, records with invalid emails or web addresses, etc.
  10. Start an internal users group. An internal users group will help staff share database tips and tricks, facilitate cross-training, and be a source for database improvements.
  11. Practice database PR. Tell your staff regularly about what’s going on with the database. Tell them about what’s working. Talk about improvements. This way, the conversation isn’t always about how the database sucks.
  12. Pursue success, not perfection. Since perfection costs too much and is a moving target anyway, let’s pursue success. Instead of focusing on getting 100% of your records to be accurate and clean, how about a goal of 20% fewer bounces in your next email campaign?
This is a great list to review with the person or persons who manage or oversee your database. In honor of #12, what two or three things can you do differently in the next six months that will make your database better?

How Adding Photos to Your Database Can Give Your Association a Human Touch

MatrixMaxx, Matrix Group’s Association Management Software (AMS), allows clients to upload photos of the individuals in the database. We put this feature in place many years ago but recently, it’s been getting a lot of use. I asked clients why this new interest and here’s what I heard:

Individual profile

  •  They want the auto-generated rosters of the Board of Directors and committees to have photos. The rosters looks nicer with photos and makes the leadership more human and more accessible.
  • One President likes his staff to become familiar with what the membership looks like (especially leadership) so that when members come to meetings, they can welcome them by name. Imagine how special members feel when a staff person says, “Hello, Mr. Smith, welcome to the annual meeting” without the member having to introduce himself.
  • One client adds photos to their membership directory. Think about the importance of profile photos in social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn. Member directories are great networking tools for members. Photos add a personal touch, especially when another member is trying to recall the name of someone she met at a conference.

If you are a MatrixMaxx customer, we’ve made the staff view of the Manage Profile form mobile-friendly. There’s a big button to upload photos and when you click it, you can access photos from your smartphone’s camera roll. One client routinely takes photos of members during Board meetings or while they are in line at registration. Once the photo is taken, she types their name into MatrixMaxx, clicks Edit, and then uploads the photo. Super simple and what a terrific way to make your organization more high touch!

Data Management is Everyone’s Responsibility

Data ManagementI meet with lots of clients that have staff assigned to manage the database. Membership or IT tends to have the responsibility for keeping member records up to date, updating contacts, maintaining demographic information, etc.

Most organizations limit what staff can access and edit because they’re afraid that records will be messed up. I say that data management should be everyone’s responsibility. This means:

  • The receptionist should be able to change company and individual records when he receives changes via phone or email.
  • Any staff member who interacts with members (and non-members) should take a moment to review the person’s record and verify data or request additional information. Imagine how much more information you’d have on members if every single staff asked members for a current title and their special interests.
  • CEOs and Senior Staff should be trained and empowered to make changes to the database, including updating key contacts and entering notes about their conversations and interactions with members.
  • Meeting staff can update member phone numbers and emails, not just registration data, since they talk to so many people!

So how do you ensure your data will be correct? You can’t ever have perfect data but you’re more likely to have good, accurate data if:

  • You allow more staff to correct the database when they see errors or outdated information.
  • You provide regular training on how to use your database.
  • You have data integrity standards that you train to and reinforce on a regular basis. For example, one of our clients provides training on all the salutations used in their field, how to spell them properly, and when to use them. (I remember a former boss saying to me, “once an Honorable, always an Honorable.)
  • You run reports regularly that show you changes to the database so you can both spot check AND identify changes that should be kicked upstairs. For example, if an admin gets a call to remove X person from the company roster and X happens to be the company’s primary contact, that change should be kicked upstairs to the membership department or a senior staffer.

Isn’t it time to make data management a company-wide initiative and responsibility?