Many iMIS users are familiar with the iMIS Users Group (iUG), but we know how important it is to spread the word to those who may not be aware of the organization. We, and iUG, believe it’s vital that software users have a voice, and iUG gives them exactly that. We spoke with Michele Morgan, the executive director of iUG, to gather some of her insights into the group and how it helps iMIS users.
iUG is the largest independent, not-for-profit iMIS user group, and it was created to ensure iMIS users can easily connect with each other, share information, and gain knowledge from each other and their solution vendors.
Michele first became aware of iUG as a user, attending local group meetings to learn more about the software she was using in her role as an assistant director of operations. After several of these meetings, she became involved with the group as a volunteer and then moved up the organizational chain to become iUG’s association manager.
When the organization needed to move to a different association management company, Michele was at a crossroads of sorts with her job. She decided to change her career direction and start her own association management company. iUG became her first client.
A few years later, the all-volunteer iUG organization was ready to hire its first paid employee. They offered the executive director role to Michele. It was an excellent decision — in the 15 years that she has been at the helm, the organization’s membership has quadrupled.
Why iUG Matters
We asked Michele why iUG matters so much to the iMIS community. She explained that one key reason is that iUG isn’t just for iMIS administrators, it’s for all users, at all skill and experience levels, as well as solution providers and partners. And the benefits of membership are like nothing else.
- Training: Training is offered for all iMIS users across functions, including database administrators, website administrators, finance professionals, membership specialists, marketing and communications specialists, fundraisers, solution providers, and iMIS consultants. The goal is to show people the myriad of ways in which iMIS can be used, as well as different ways to get the desired results, so users can best utilize the software for their needs. Training is provided through webinars that are free for members, as well as in-person conferences.
- Webinars: Two to three webinars on a variety of topics, each up to an hour long, are offered every month. Topics run the gamut, including some related to IT and events. That gives members up to three hours of training each month, and it’s all included in their membership dues.
- Conferences: There are one to two conferences each year. The Annual iMIS Users Conference offers training for all iMIS users of all skill levels, as well as the tech companies, consultants, and solution providers and others who provide services to them. The TechXchange conference provides more in-depth training for those who have been using iMIS for a longer period of time and are looking to increase their knowledge of the technology involved, as well as those who are highly technical or involved with the operational aspects of iMIS and have recently moved into the association space.
- iMIS Help Community: Also known as a listserv, the iMIS Help Community provides a wealth of information on any iMIS-related topic. Members can ask any question and receive multiple answers from other users at any time of the day or night.
- International Chapters and Local Groups: iUG is international, with two US Chapters, an Asia Pacific Chapter, a Canada Chapter, and a Europe Chapter. Local chapters give members the opportunity to meet face to face more regularly.
- Honest Conversations with Group Leaders: iUG is based on users helping users, and that includes the leadership of Advanced Solutions International (ASI). Leaders want to know what issues members are facing with the software and get answers that help them where they are. Most software developers answer questions in a way that focuses on what the company thinks users should be doing, how they should be using the software, or on where they want the software to go, and that can lead to people being uncomfortable in expressing how they truly feel or what they actually need. At iUG, members can be honest and receive honesty in return. And that makes a huge difference.
While membership in iUG offers the greatest benefits, the group also has a podcast and blog that anyone can access. It’s all about sharing the love people have for iMIS and all those who are interested in learning more about it.
What Makes iUG Special
iUG is different from most user groups, and those differences make the organization special not only to its members but to the industry.
- Independent: Most help communities are offered by the software companies, and that allows them to gear training and assistance toward how they think the software should be used or how they want it to be used. They often focus on upgraded or new features that they want to promote rather than offering users help in a way that is truly useful. Because iUG is independent, there is no agenda other than helping members in the most meaningful ways.
- Volunteer-Run: iUG is run by volunteers who are iMIS users. They aren’t marketers who are paid to promote the software, nor are they the developers with their own agenda. The board of directors, committee leaders, chapter leaders, training and conference presenters, and others are all volunteers who embrace the idea of users helping users.
- ASI is Unique: ASI has differentiated itself in the association software world by selling its software through channel partners instead of directly to customers. In doing so, they let go of some aspects of both sales and support, allowing them to focus on development. Having partners focusing on sales and iUG providing an independent support and help community has greatly contributed to iMIS becoming the leading software in the association industry.
- Passion: People elevate what they’re passionate about to greater heights, and iUG provides an outlet for not only iMIS users, but the solution providers, to express that passion and share their commitment to the software by helping support and educate others.
Why ISG Supports iUG
iUG is committed to ensuring that iMIS users have a voice in the way the software is both used and developed. And as a solution provider, ISG wants and needs to hear that voice so we can serve our clients in the most meaningful way possible. We have supported iUG for more than 20 years.
iUG provides an invaluable service to the iMIS community — both users and solution providers — and we are behind them all the way.