How to Choose a Church Management Software (ChMS) Solution!

How to choose a church management software solution:

  1. Know your requirements and search for a package that meets these expectations.  A bloated system can hinder rather than help. No software can provide everything so find one that meets your needs.
  2. Try before you buy if possible. While this may delay the decision process it will certainly ensure you get what you need. 
  3. Call the support department and have high expectations.  There are many church software companies on the market today that have fantastic support for their products.  Getting a resolution within minutes rather than days should be a requirement.

Each church is unique, but there are four fundamental benefits software should provide:

Saving Time:

Installing updates and making backup copies of the database can be confusing and uses valuable time. Software that automatically takes care of these tasks allows you to focus on what really matters – ministry.

Technology available today offers the ability to access a database whenever and wherever you want. Technologies such as email and text messaging are also available to help you communicate with your congregation quickly and easily.

Volunteer-friendly software makes setting up user accounts easy so volunteers can help from home. People are more likely to volunteer again in the future if the experience is relatively stress-free or even enjoyable.

Saving Money

All of the time-saving features already mentioned will also save you money!

Efficient software will give you a positive Return on Investment (ROI) rather than draining your bank account. You can read our previous post about ROI. Church software shouldn’t cost thousands of dollars, so why is some software overpriced?

  • The software is difficult to use so a large number of support personnel are needed to keep up with customer questions/problems.
  • The product is poorly developed and needs frequent maintenance.
  • Venture capitalists are trying to recoup their initial investments in the company.
  • The sales department is receiving a generous commission.

Keeping Accurate Records

A membership database can get cluttered by excess records when individuals are only tagged as no longer with the church. When they are removed and stored in an archived area the names no longer appear when viewing the entire list of members, creating a cleaner, more accurate database.

Each contribution fund needs defined start and stop dates, even if a fund is used every year. This makes handling prepaid contributions, printing pledge statements, and correcting errors much easier. It also serves as a way to track progress by comparing the campaign from year to year.

The ability to create and print an Income Statement and Balance Sheet for each individual fund helps illustrate an accurate picture of the church’s financial position. An example of this would be printing the Statement of Activities and Statement of Financial Position for the General Fund.

Ease of Use and Recovery

Is the process clear on each screen of how to enter, change, or delete data? How natural does it come to the user when they are on the system? Does the software vendor recommend going to a fee based user training class? Can you go to one screen and enter in the entire member’s data into the system, which then is disseminated in other modules: small groups, spiritual gifts (talents), attendance, contributions, etc.? Most importantly can the user extract the needed data easily into various formats? These questions should be answered when looking for an easy to use system keeping in mind what one person thinks is easy it not always another person’s opinion.

Again, automatic updates and backup means less time spent at the computer and more time working in the community. Having user-friendly software means you don’t need to hire an IT employee to manage user accounts and take care of maintenance, which also saves you money.

Has the organization thought about what it would take to recover data? Theft, a hard drive crash, or even a computer virus can result in lost data. Starting over and re-entering the data from the past few months would cost significant amounts of time and money. In the event of a fire or natural disaster, the paper records may also be destroyed so this wouldn’t even be possible. Even backup disks or drives can get lost or damaged and ideally the disks/drives should be kept hundreds of miles apart. The right software not only backs up the database automatically, but also keeps copies of it hundreds of miles apart. If a catastrophe happens, you can have peace of mind knowing the church won’t lose any data.

Bill Gifford
Icon Systems, Inc.

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