The fusionSpan Blog

Hot Topic – Salesforce Based Platforms

By Linh Hoang |February 27, 2015
Association Management Solutions (AMS)Membership

DivingboardThere has been lots of buzz lately in ASAE’s Collaborate community regarding Salesforce based AMS/CRMs for associations. Since we’ve got our fingers on the pulse of new trends in the association world, we thought we’d share our thoughts and let you hear from an expert in this arena.

Sig VandammeMeet Sig VanDamme, Chief Customer Officer and founder of NimbleUser, whose flagship product is an enterprise level AMS (Association Management Software) built on the Salesforce platform called Nimble AMS. He has over 23 years of association technology experience and has a great understanding of the needs of associations.

So let’s get started! We interviewed Sig and asked him the following questions that our audience would ask.

First off, what is Salesforce?
Salesforce is the world’s leading CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. A CRM enables an organization to manage business relationships and the data and information associated with them.

Can you tell us about the movement for associations to move to AMS systems built on Salesforce as opposed to traditional platforms?
We have seen a strong desire by associations to have their AMS built on a CRM platform versus the legacy proprietary model. There are a variety of reasons and they include:

  • Need for better CRM. Associations today seek a better understanding of their constituents. Legacy AMS systems have always been very weak on tracking interactions and relationships.
  • Need for an innovative platform to better meet their critical mission. For the past four years, Salesforce has been voted the most innovative company in the world by Forbes Magazine. Our customers leverage all of this innovation to deliver a significantly better experience to their constituents.

What are the pros and cons of Salesforce based AMS/CRMs?
I cannot speak to other AMS systems, but with Nimble AMS there are a variety of benefits including:

  • Pros
    • No cost, painless upgrades of both Salesforce and Nimble AMS 3 times a year.
    • Fully responsive constituent self-service portal. We have seen a dramatic rise in the use of smartphones and tablets, and Nimble AMS delivers a great experience to the constituent, regardless of the form factor being used.
    • Easy, powerful and integrated reporting, so association staff can get the data they need themselves. One of our core values at NimbleUser is to empower our customers, and this is a big part of that.
  • Cons
    • Salesforce is delivered thru a browser and this can be a paradigm shift for those either not familiar with browser based applications or have solely been using desktop based software.
    • Salesforce and Nimble AMS are billed similarly to web hosting. This is different than legacy software that is typically purchased and then a warranty or upgrade charge is billed yearly. With these old systems the association had flexibility to go without upgrades (and the associated costs) if economic conditions necessitate it. With cloud based applications failure to pay will result in the service not being available.

Why is Salesforce particularly good for associations?
At the end of the day, professional and trade associations deal with customers (individuals and/or companies), and Salesforce is purposely built to track and facilitate these relationships.Salesforce is also particularly adept at providing actionable business intelligence on an organization’s constituents.

How does implementation compare to traditional AMSs?
For the most part, it is very similar to the implementation of any enterprise software. There are phases for requirements, technical specifications, data conversion, training and support.

How does on-going maintenance and upgrades compare to traditional AMSs?
Hosting, first tier technical support and all upgrades are included in the licensing cost. The upshot of this is that the total cost of ownership is dramatically reduced with Nimble AMS. In a previous life, we sold and implemented a legacy AMS, and we routinely did 6 figure upgrades to keep the customer current.

How adaptable are Salesforce based AMS/CRMs?
By the very nature of being built on the Salesforce platform, it is the most extensible AMS on the market (at any level). Salesforce is the leading cloud development environment. In addition, the Salesforce Appexchange ( offers thousands of applications to extend Nimble AMS. These applications have been installed millions of times. Here is a corollary: the iTunes Store or Android Marketplace have literally redefined what a smart phone is and what it can do. Your phone is now so much more. It’s a web browser, restaurant finder, flight tracker, GPS, note taking social media conduit that is barely even used as a phone anymore. One thing we have noticed is that the Salesforce AppExchange is similarly redefining what an AMS is and how it is being extended.

For the more technical, here is a list of Salesforce APIs and when to use them to help better integrate with Salesforce: What API Should I Use?

Anything else association staff should know?
You should love your AMS, and it should love you back! We use that as a tag line, but it is true.

We really enjoy hearing about Sig’s perspective and have a mutual desire to help associations do more with less. Having a great AMS can streamline processes and help free up your staff’s valuable time to do more than just administrative tasks – such as coming up with marketing strategies, expanding your market or developing programs to better support your mission.

We do want to mention that Nimble AMS is not the only Salesforce based AMS. There is also MemberNation by Fonteva.

Sig’s past experience includes working as a Software Developer with Eastman Kodak. Sig received his BS in Computer Science from Mount Union College. Sig enjoys interacting with customers, spending time with his family, camping, Airstream trailers, fitness and hockey.

Linh Hoang

Linh has been with fusionSpan since 2012 and enjoys working with all of our non-profit clients on their CMS, AMS, website and event management needs. She heads up the professional services department, which strives to provide exceptional support and valuable consulting for projects and staff of any size. Linh also enjoys planning fun events for fusionSpan staff and loves any excuse to get us all together to eat and be merry! Prior to joining fusionSpan, Linh was the Membership Coordinator for the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals and Event Specialist for The Balcom Group. Linh has a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from George Mason

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