What Is the Difference Between an AMS and a CRM?

What Is the Difference Between an AMS and a CRM?

If you are on the board or manage an association of any kind, you’ve likely come across HOA software programs  aimed at helping keep track of contact information for your members and managing interactions. 

Two common acronyms you may encounter are AMS (Association Management Software) and CRM (Customer Relationship Management). But what exactly is the difference between the two, and when should you use one versus the other?

An AMS is software specifically designed for associations, boards, homeowners associations (HOAs), and similar membership-based groups.

A CRM, on the other hand, is focused purely on managing interactions and relationships with contacts, whether they are customers, members, donors, or other constituencies. Typically, a CRM is not tailored specifically to associations – but offers a variety of use cases.

So, while there can be some overlap in features, an AMS gives you membership management tools purpose-built for an association while a CRM provides flexible contact management that can be applied to many aspects. Let’s look at both and see when your association or HOA should consider each – and how a tailored HOA software can bring both together under one umbrella.



What is an AMS?

An association management software (AMS) is a software platform designed specifically to help associations, HOAs, co-ops, boards, and similar member-based groups manage all aspects of their operations and administration. An AMS centralizes tools to:

  • Maintain member/homeowner data – An AMS provides a database to store and track member contact information, profiles, account status, demographic data, and more.
  • Manage membership renewals and dues collection – Tools automate billing, payment collection, expiration/renewal notices, and adjusting late fees.
  • Facilitate board/group communications – Email and newsletter functionalities to communicate with some or all members.
  • Organize documents and resources – A centralized library to store meeting minutes, bylaws, newsletters, procedures, reference docs, etc.
  • Host online communities and forums – Members can discuss topics, vote, and exchange ideas.
  • Register for events – Event pages allow members to learn about and sign up for events.
  • Create reservation systems – For amenities like pools, gyms, and parks, and share scheduling or usage.
  • Conduct elections and votes – Ballots, voting tools, and vote reporting streamline governance.
  • Access from anywhere – Web/mobile access allows management from anywhere there is an internet connection.

An AMS transforms manual processes into automated, organized systems to save HOA/association boards time and hassle. Instead of a spreadsheet or paper-based tracking, an AMS centralizes data for a “single source of truth” accessible across devices to those who need it. This improves efficiency, collaboration, and decision-making.

What is a CRM?

A customer relationship management (CRM) software is a system to manage all the relationships, interactions, and communications an organization has with its customers or members. The core components of a CRM include:

  • Contact Management A database that stores contact details like name, address, phone numbers, email, organization details, and other info that helps track who constituents are.
  • Interaction TrackingLog of touchpoints, like emails sent/opened, documents viewed, event attendance, purchases, support tickets, calls, etc.
  • AnalyticsCRMs provide metrics on interactions, habits, and trends to enable an understanding of engagement levels.
  • CalendarsKeep track of meetings, follow-ups, deadlines, and tasks related to contacts.
  • Communication ToolsAutomatically personalize and send emails, texts, and e-newsletters to some or all contacts.
  • Integrations: CRMs can integrate with other relevant systems like email, payment processors, telephony, and more to capture more data.

A CRM’s core purpose is to improve constituents’ understanding to maintain lasting, productive relationships. It’s about bringing unified information about customers, members, donors, etc. — helping identify needs, provide better service, tailor offerings, and increase engagement.

While not tailored specifically to associations, CRMs provide robust constituent relationship management capabilities that can also benefit many membership-based groups. The flexible platform allows customization to adapt to association needs like member directories, committee management, document access, and other use cases.

Which is Right for My Association – an AMS or CRM?

When researching software solutions, a key question associations and HOA boards should consider is whether association management software (AMS) or customer relationship management software (CRM) is the best fit. Here’s an overview of key differences:

Purpose-built Specifically for Associations

An AMS is designed specifically with the features and functionalities associations need – member directories, document management for meeting minutes and bylaws, online voting capabilities, integrated accounting for dues management, event registration and communication tools. An off-the-shelf CRM targets sales-driven businesses.

Membership Management

While CRMs manage contacts, AMSs manage members – tracking details like membership status, access levels, committees, and leadership history. This equips you with more robust information on members and families.

Community Portal

An AMS often provides personalized member login portals to access documents, directories, manage profiles, register for events, participate in forums, etc. This sense of community aids member engagement.

Automating Manual Tasks

An AMS automates the manual tasks that keep volunteer HOA/association boards bogged down – creating owner statements and mailing dues notices, for example. The specialized features alleviate administrative workloads.

Industry Experience

AMS vendors catering to HOA/associations have extensive experience addressing industry needs and challenges. They can tailor software and services to best practices for governance and community engagement.

The choice between an AMS and CRM depends on your budget, requirements, and existing software landscape. While AMS delivers purpose-built association management tools, a CRM offers flexible contact management. For many membership-based groups, an AMS checks more boxes in managing members and governance needs.

HOA Software Brings Together The Best of Both Worlds

As an association or HOA board member researching software, you may feel torn between the specialized features of an AMS and the flexible constituent relationship management of a CRM. The good news is you don’t have to choose, thanks to modern HOA management software.

Top HOA software platforms essentially deliver an all-in-one solution combining robust AMS tools for membership, dues collections, document access, resource scheduling, and community engagement with CRM capabilities like centralized contact management, communications tools, and constituent analytics.

This means you get an AMS purpose-built for community associations and home associations with integrated CRM functionality. That adds up to efficient operations, productive administration, and better service for homeowners and residents. 

Rather than taking a piecemeal approach with separate AMS and CRM systems, streamline processes with comprehensive HOA management software. So check out leading HOA software systems and find a solution that fits the bill for your AMS and CRM needs!


What is the difference between an AMS and CRM?

An AMS provides specialized tools to manage HOAs and associations, while a CRM manages interactions and relationships with all member/customer types.

Should my HOA use an AMS or CRM?

Look for HOA software that combines AMS tools with CRM capabilities for comprehensive community management.

What features come with an AMS?

Key AMS features include membership management, dues billing and collections, document storage, communications tools, community portals, and election management.

What are some benefits of a CRM?

CRMs centralize contact management, track engagement history, provide analytics into relationships, and enable personalized communications.

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