Your association management system has the power to amplify your impact and simplify your operations which gives you more time to focus on building relationships and furthering your mission.
Kenjie The AMS Guy, is an Associations Management System (AMS) guru with over 13 years of dynamic experience selecting, building, managing, enhancing, and increasing the impact this critical software has on an organization.
With his technical background and history with nonprofits, Kenjie is the perfect person to help you with your association management systems.
3 Tips From Kenjie
- Keep it Simple: Especially when it comes to your dashboard the simpler the better.
- Stay True to Your Data: The numbers don’t lie and if you are not getting the results you want it may be time to have hard conversations with your team. The only way to truly change results is to change the strategy you used to achieve them
- The sign-up process should be easy and visually appealing: Members don’t want to spend hours filling out forms, so make sure they are quick and easy to implement in order to keep retention high
Our Favourite Quotes
[13:30] The simpler your process, the more prone people are to complete. Right. If you're joining an organization. It's not like you're filling out your taxes. Have you ever filled out an application or even a survey and you don't have that ball across the top that tells you your progress and it looks like you have a million steps to complete? You get frustrated, right?
[15:16] You can’t address your problems if you run away from them. You know, tucking away the data away doesn't change you. So you have to stand in your truth, accept where you are and fight like hell to change your circumstances.
Today, we talk with the one and only AMS guy, Kenji Davis.
Hi and welcome to Driven's Fundraising Superheroes podcast, I'm your host, Sabrina Sciscente, and as an innovator and non-profit technology, our team at driven is determined to help you unlock your true fundraising potential. We do everything from volunteer donor and member management, so make sure to give us a visit at trust driven dotcom to learn more. Your association management system is the foundation of your organization, and in order to grow and improve on your organization, you have to get that foundation in place.
You know, it really is what drives success and can help you unlock the true power of your data. Kenjie, the AMS guy is an AMS guru with over 13 years of experience selecting, building, managing, enhancing and increasing the impact that this critical software has on organizations. He is a true professional. He's got a ton of amazing resources on his website and I'm very excited to have him on the show. So thank you for joining us.
Thank you for having me.
So can you start us off by telling us a little more about yourself? How did the AMS guy come to be?
Well, I'm a physicist and an engineer by training. I know it seems pretty weird and way off base for me to end up in the nonprofit sector. But while pursuing my degree, I was highly involved in organizations and extracurricular activities. And after graduating and teaching high school math for a short stint, I ended up joining the headquarters staff for one of the organizations I was a part of. And I became a part of the membership department. Now, unlike some other organizations, our membership department was charged with the association management system.
So, with my technical background, I quickly became the resident AMS guru. So then I moved on and manage the membership department for another organization where I also became the AMS guru as well. Then I decided to make that fateful leap and started a consulting practice on my own. Now, I started my practice offering a plethora of membership services because membership development was my background, but all of the clients I landed asked me to do one thing and one thing only, can you guess what that is?
Is it association management?
It was helping them with their AMS, so I saw the writing on the wall and our focus, my practice on no longer doing a full list of membership services, but only AMS services. And I changed the company name logo, branding everything, and hence the AMS was born.
That's fantastic, because you really have such a unique set of skills, like being a physicist and an engineer, like how that's like a ton of knowledge for one person to have. So must be really helpful with that background, to give that advice to non-profit organizations and how to better their systems.
Yes, it is. And I think that once again, you know, just from having that background and working in technology, it helps me to understand technology on a deeper level. It helps me to learn technologies very fast. And really, I like to tell individuals that I can look at a system and tell you what the developers were thinking when they designed the system, just because I can understand the system on an intimate level.
And, yes, it does help because it allows you to also find other ways to create solutions within those systems.
And we'll talk about this later, but even just the data, like understanding what the system is telling you is so important. And it seems like, you don't just understand how to read the data, but you understand the ethics and the morality of the data, which is incredibly helpful to nonprofits. Speaking of nonprofit leaders, executive directors, boards, these are all people who really emphasize the numbers when it comes to reporting.
There's really big pressure for people who are reporting to present those facts on the spot when they need to when looking for an AMS system, how important is having that admin based dashboard?
Well, I think not just the board or the executive director, because, you know, those individuals are not actually doing any work in the AMS. By admin based., what I believe that means is that every staff member has their own dashboard, and what this allows each individual to do is present the data that is most relevant to them. Right, because what's important to the membership director is different than what's important to the marketing manager, which is different than what's important to the event's manager, right.
So this data will guide their day and it can also provide motivation which will lead to more productivity.
Yeah, having that customizable feature can really help, because if you don't have that, I mean, it's like the vendors telling you what they see is important, but they don't know your organization, like they don't know what you do in the day to day, even though you have a strong group of reoccurring donors. Maybe you want to go into the major guest pool and that needs different reporting. So would you recommend that nonprofits look for software that is very focused on customizing it to their needs?
Well, I think it is becoming industry standard, at least I hope is becoming industry standard, because I marked the admin based dashboard as one of the best in class features that an association management system provides. Because it does those particular things right. It allows for each staff member to have the data that they need in front of them, because a lot of times, you know. Even as staff members, we can speculate based on our experiences, but the data is what backs that up, right?
It fortifies our beliefs so that we can understand what we're doing, where we're focusing our time, if that's where we need our time to focused. For instance, if I'm a membership director and I'm trying to spend a lot of time recruiting individuals, but I see my retention numbers are really falling. All right. I'm spending a lot of time recruiting people, and I may see that's coming through very, very well.
But if I'm not paying attention to those numbers that showing me that I need to spend more time in recruitment and I don't think we're going to have some huge issues with continuing to keep individuals engaged in the organization. We can go out to get friendly new individuals all the time, but for some reason we can't get them tp stay right. So the data helps give you that that fortification to understand that there may be you know, we don't need to spend much of our time here.
We need to go look over this area, too.
So what are some tips that you would give to nonprofits when they are organizing their dashboard? Is there anything they should keep in mind?
Well, you have to have the data that's relevant to you front and center on your dashboard, because not only does the dashboard give you that information, it gives it to you easily so that you can quickly access it, let it guide you and get on to doing the other work in the organization. I think that what the dashboard solve is it stops you from having to go in and create a report, run a report, pull the data out and maybe mine the data to try to get to the information that you need is always there in a snap, one click away and there the data is.
I would also say that. It wouldn't hurt to have some big picture data on your dashboard as it can help you understand how you affect the overall mission.
So kind of make sure that you have like a few of those basics and then a few of those that really dive into what you specifically are looking to achieve.
How would a person who is going through the system, how do they differentiate between having it in a report or making sure it's a part of their dashboard?
Well, remember what? Your dashboard is a quick hit of information. So it should be surface-level information and not deep dives. So you can do the deep dives in the report. Right. So it should include information that you have to frequent by the membership numbers. You may have to frequent that. For instance, if your director has a habit of calling you to get the latest membership numbers, you have that information ready to go on your dashboard so that you can get it to him or her very quickly and continue to move on about your day.
So save the reports for the big pictures. But, you know, I guess the stuff that, like you're saying, you need regularly keep it.
We'll save the report for the deep dives, right. So if it's something that you do maybe once a month, then maybe that can be a report, right? If it's something that you. If you know, you need every other day definitely put that in your dashboard, right, if it's like when I say deep dive like if you want to know. How many female members are marketing majors at the schools in Georgia, then you probably don't need that every single day, right?
So that could be a report, but you could do just the overall breakdown of membership, male versus female, that could be on your dashboard.
Talking about the overall systems. You mentioned on your website that the ideal membership application has three pages. You got the general information page, the membership information page and then the payment page. So can you explain the importance of these three pages? How did you, boil it down to these three as the most important.
Well, when I break down a page it really only comes down to these three sections The first one once again is the general info page. And this is where you collect the contact information of the applicant or any other general information that you ask of all of your constituents. Right. So in my perfect application also, this will be now limited to be the first page. Right. But it would also save the data that is entered. And the reason that you wanted to do that is that if something goes wrong and the person is not able to complete the application, you know, could be a power outage.
Internet goes down, site crashes, these things happen, right? You will at least be able to capture that contact information, know that this person has attempted to process. Then you can reach out to that person, right, and try to get them to try again to complete the process so that that person isn't completely lost. In a perfect world, and there are some Americans that do this, they do capture that information and they allow you to be able to reach out to those individuals if anything should happen to them within their application process.
The second page is where you capture data that is specific to the membership type that they've chosen. So they choose their membership type. And then you have specific questions that you need of them, for example, to capture the same information from a professional member that you do from a student member. A professional member may have, you know, a job or profession. It might be an entrepreneur, may have their own business, but you don't particularly expect your student members to have all of that right.
So they don't need to provide that type of information. So you can ask them those specific questions for that. Right. And this particular page will specify those questions. And then after those two pages. You should have captured all of the data that you need. So at that point let's just get them to pay and get them out of there, right? So. Yeah, after those two pages, you got all your data. Make the payment work on the membership.
Is there a benefit to keeping it minimal because it sounds like so simple that I can see people itching to add more, they want to add more information on themselves or they want to get more out of them. Is it better to just keep it minimal?
Yes, because the simpler your process, the more prone people are to complete. Right. If you're doing organization. It's not like you're filling out your taxes. So have you ever filled out an application or even a survey and you don't have that bar across the top that tells you your progress and it looks like you have a million steps to complete. You get frustrated, right? So your membership application is one of the first impressions of your organization to that prospect.
So let's make sure it's a good one.
So one of my other favourite blog posts on your site is the data you don't report where you explain how your mentor. Yeah. That one was like really set out for me. You talk about your mentor, Dr. Carl Mack, and how he always encourages organizations to face the facts of their data and the way that you wrote it, and for those listening I will link the blog and the description box, it perfectly explained not only the importance of breaking down the numbers, but the morality behind the numbers and staying true to them, not only for your organization, but for your audience.
So this mentality helped the organization that you were both working on achive. Incredible milestones. You doubled your membership during your tenure and you earned zero dollars in debt over multiple years, which is insane. Why is this approach so powerful? Why is the data you don't address the data that dooms you?
I think we've all heard the phrase men lie, women lie. Data doesn't. So well, if you haven't this is the first time hearing it, but it rings true in this particular situation.
That blog post was about organizations shying away from their data because it made them look bad. Right. But you can address your problems if you run away from them. You know, tucking the data away doesn't change you. So you have to stand in your truth, accept where you are and fight like hell to change your circumstances, and that's what this particular blog post was all about, because I saw it in action. Right. So we did it.
As you said, we had gotten some really, really, really great results because we stood in that truth. We attacked it head on. We didn't shy away from it. We didn't try to pretty up the data. None of that we just saw where we were and find our way out of it.
Yeah, I remember, I believe was your mentor who wanted it to be like the data being presented to like the decimal point to be accurate as possible and as somebody who's super data focused. How does that, small detail, make a difference? But I guess it does.
Yes, it is. So, you know what, that piece was a very interesting story, because at that time, you know, I was just a student member of the organization and I met this guy at the annual convention for the organization that he was a speaker and he was presenting. In his presentation, he had put together this calculation and the way he did it, though, was I think, very, very effective.
So he put together this calculation for what he was speaking on was the amount of money that he believes that America owes, you know, a portion of his people for reparations. Like we don't have to get into that because that's not what was most important in this aspect. But what he did was he put up this formula had this calculation and then it popped up this big, huge number, like thirty six trillion. It was a huge number.
Right. And then he added to the dollar point at first, and then slowly he had that decimal point creep up to like 54 cents to appear on the screen. And when I say the crowd went absolutely wild, like the crowd went absolutely wild, we did that because it was just a very, very compelling way to present that particular information, which was, like I said, this was my first impression of him. Then when I went to work for the organization.
Right. And he became my boss or my boss's boss because I was at a lower level at the time. But just working with him and and remembering that experience and understanding when he talked about, you know, standing in your truth like the men lie, women lie data does not actually got that from him. That particular statement was the first time that I heard it is because he used it. And that just helped me to understand just, you know, how big he was on standing in that truth, because you really can't change the data or answer it this way.
It's all right. You can change the data. Right. There is the unethical way and then that's the ethical way. Right. So the unethical way is running from it, it's masking it is trying to round it up and make it look better. Right. So all of those cosmetic ways that you try to change the data, that's the unethical way of doing it. Right. The true value way is to actually go in and create changes to the circumstances that create the data.
Right. And then you change that because you change the people that you are ultimately affecting. And that's what changes the data in a positive way.
So it's less about actually changing the numbers, but the perspective around those numbers as well.
Well, it's no, it's about changing the cause to create a different effect. Right. So if your cause is you want to create more engineers, right. You want to produce more mechanical engineers. Right. Then you may have to go back and start at a baseline area to understand what is stopping them from being successful in getting their engineering degree. Where are we lacking on getting individuals to even pursue mechanical engineering? Right. So if you go back and you affect those areas, then ultimately you're going to change the amount of individuals so you can put more people in the pipeline.
And then if you can affect the pipeline and make sure people that are successful going through that pipeline to come out the other end with an engineering degree, then you don't have to go and say, you know, we had seventy five individuals graduate with an engineering degree, we got rounded up to one hundred and say we had about one hundred, right. That's the unethical way of doing it. But if you go in and you can put let's say you put 30 more people in the in the program and out of those 30 people that you put in, you can get twenty five of them to actually graduate.
Then you also reach 100. Right. But you do it the more ethical way. And I think the more impactful way because you're actually producing more engineers.
Yeah, because you're really like you're getting to the core of the issue, right? You're not just looking at it and saying, OK and finding the reason why
I would say this is what I would say, which is what organizations are supposed to do, that's what your missions are. Your mission is not to round up numbers. I mean, there may be an organization out there called the rounding up organization that maybe this is what they do, they just go around and round up numbers all over the place. But that's not what most organizations do. You actually trying to affect people, industries, communities. Right.
And then out, out that you're getting a more positive outcome.
Mm hmm. Yeah, when I was reading it, like, I just I had to stop and think about it for a second because it was a really powerful example that I'm sure a lot of organizations relate to, because at the end of the day, like you're dealing with people, you're dealing with humans, you're not dealing with numbers. So you have to find a way to translate that into real life examples.
The hard numbers, like the reason why you were guys, were so successful in using this mentality, do you think it's because it doesn't leave any room for second guessing, like it kind of pushes you to face the hard facts and question every single thing you do?
Right. And it also gets you to focus on, like I said, actually making that change versus just masking it. This is real world change, like, for instance, what was actually pretty surprising to me when I actually learned about it, because, you know, I don't work in accounting. So this is not my area of expertise. However, when I saw them continuing to do this every single year was just amazing.
Right. Zero dollars in debt. From my understanding, no one does that right. And so what happened was, you know, our CFO went to the executive director and presented the executive director with this data, and the executive director was like, just like, why is that? I don't get that. We have to change that. This needs to be a focus. I need this gone. Right. So everything. So he told them every time we meet, I need this number again.
You let me know where it is. And so and also, I have to say this, right? We did have the right people in place because our team, our finance team really, really took this initiative and they ran with it. You got to get on the phone and you got to bug people and bug people and bug people about getting your money right. And then there are some individuals that we actually had to because they were like recurring sponsors, like a lot of this debt information was sponsorship.
So you want to come and sponsor us for the next year. You need to clear your debts first before we sign that new contract. So that was one of the things that we held against him, like we had to get mean on some people to get the books clear. But, look, they did and they did it and kept it running that way for years. I have to say, I believe it was that way, until I left.
It was like a real example of a dream team as I was like everyone was working like one hundred percent. Well, before we go today, I would love to give you the space to kind of explain to our audience, like, what is the benefit of having someone like you come in there? What can you do to help transform people's approach to their systems?
What I like to say about what I bring to the table is there are two scenarios that I really solve. And those two scenarios is you don't have the manpower or you don't have the expertise. Right. A lot of associations, they have a great CFO that can handle the money, get the books right, you have inspirational leaders that can work in membership for people, excellent customer service. Some people have the marketing down, and that's probably what you hired them for.
And that's where they're good at, right? That doesn't mean that they're good at using, you know, a particular set of software and getting the most out of that particular set of software, so that's where I come in. I come in with the experience of working in various different systems. And like I said, having that deep understanding and also having a out of the box mindset where I can see out of the box type solutions, even in systems that seem to be very, very stringent.
So they don't allow you to do much. Right. But there are still some ways that you can actually utilize your system and out of the box ways. So that's what I bring to the table. And the other piece is I think that a lot of organizations. The amount of work that they may need in the system. Or just their budget overall? Does not give them the space to hire somebody full time, so then they can come to an individual like myself, a consultant, and still get the work they need, but not have to pay full time, plus all of the other things that you have to pay for a full time.
So they don't have to do those things and they can get the expertise they need and they can take their systems, like I like to say, take their system from being a burden to being a booster of their mission, which is what is supposed to be right, is supposed to help you to succeed with it within your mission a lot greater than if you didn't have one of these systems. Right. But if you get the system and you don't use it, you can't use it to its capacity and you're not going to be able to do that.
So that's what a lot of consultants like myself, they don't want the market. We do. We just bring that level of expertise and that that ability to fit within your needs and your constraints. And get the most out of your system for you.
Oh, definitely getting the most out of your system is like so important, it's like it's the foundation of your organization, really.
Ya that would be number one, because when you do get the most out of that system, right, then you are moving much closer to your mission success and, I think the other stuff will fall into place, right? So sometimes it may be a constraint on your budget, but if you truly can see the value in what the individuals providing, you find the money. Right. So and sometimes, you know, you just you don't have the manpower where everybody is already stretched, especially for small, smaller associations.
Everybody's already stretched thin with the work that they have to do. But if you can give just a little leeway for somebody to get into the system, it makes everybody's job much easier.
Exactly. Well, thank you so much for joining me on the show, and I hope to have you on again. That was really insightful advice you gave.
Thank you. Thank you. I enjoyed it and would definitely love to be born again.
Well, thank you again, Kenjie, for coming on to the show. For those listening, if you really want to dig deep into your association management software and fully understand the tool that you're using, Kenjie really is the person to work with. He is a true tech wizard and can help you get the most out of your system. So make sure to reach out to him at the AMS guy dot com. He also has a blog called Amazing Resources that can help you better understand the system that you are currently using or what to look for when shopping.
You can visit our website at trust driven dotcom. Be sure to like, subscribe where you listen to your podcasts. And thank you so much for watching. We'll see you next time on Fundraising Superheroes.