Membership associations need to push and pull data between a wide variety of software systems. The core of the operation is probably your Association Management System (AMS)—but it can’t stand alone. Application Program Interfaces (APIs) are the sophisticated tin cans and string that make data exchanges in your member database possible.
For example, perhaps your members need to pay their annual dues on your website. A financial API pushes the data on this interaction from your third-party secure payment gateway back to your AMS, where your finance department can access everything they need for payment reconciliation. For other organizations, financial data from the AMS may need to get out from within the member database, and into accounting software like Quickbooks or Xero. Again, APIs pave the way.
Whether you’re looking for the right member database or the right external software to pair with it, there are a few kinds of APIs that make an outsized difference. Invest in platforms that play well with others using APIs like these:
Single Sign-On (SSO)
Your staff and your members may need to access multiple systems, but they shouldn’t need to log in multiple times (or with different credentials each time). You might have a website, AMS, LMS, abstract submission system, payment gateway, and more all under your tech umbrella. SSO functionality can help all stakeholders move between platforms quickly and efficiently with the same, familiar credentials.
SSO generally comes in one of two flavors:
- Shared Authentication: Essentially, members can sign in to any of the integrated platforms with one set of pre-existing login credentials (perhaps from your AMS or CRM).
- Handshake Authentication: The member is redirected from the system they’re accessing out to the system that controls the SSO login, then back into their destination upon successful login.
Your members will appreciate that they don’t need to remember additional passwords and that every interaction with your organization recognizes them—even if it’s the first time they’ve used that particular portal. In OpenWater, your developers can also build their own SSO.
APIs are at their best when they save users valuable time replicating information they’ve already entered elsewhere. Your member database is a valuable source of information that can pre-populate web forms and login fields for your users. The user only needs to log in once, and APIs can help your database to pre-fill relevant fields wherever else they interact with your organization.
Our OpenWater software does this with SSO for your AMS (such as iMIS)—once you’re validated with your pre-existing login, users are sent into OpenWater with information pre-populated.
Person Lookups (and Other Data Queries)
A member database is, by definition, a collected archive of people (your members). APIs are critical to making the most use of this database. OpenWater uses information lookup APIs to query your member database for all sorts of reasons, such as:
- Accessing pre-existing contact lists, so you don’t have to recreate them
- Making sure the authors associated with submitted abstracts are identified correctly.
- Checking membership status (or other eligibility factors) during online form submissions
Activity Push Back
Your members could be involved in awards programs, conference session proposals, fundraisers, or a variety of other events through your organization. The member database may not be directly involved with every interaction, but you’ll still want to keep its records up to date.
APIs can push back notes and activities on the status of any of these interactions from other software you’re using (like an abstract management system, for example). This keeps your contact profiles current and saves you time rekeying information or cross-referencing between platforms.
And really, that’s what APIs are all about: saving time. A seamless connection between your member database and the rest of your software suite streamlines your workflow and helps your members succeed.