Here is a Quick Tip that is Helping Churches Increase Contributions

It is common knowledge in the business world that customer retention is much more cost-effective than trying to acquire new customers. The same is true for churches and other nonprofit organizations. Although it is important to attract new members so the church can grow, it is equally (if not more) important to keep the members you already have.

We are coming up on the end of year, which means it is time for churches to send out contribution statements and start focusing on the year ahead. Here is a simple yet effective way to encourage people to donate again next year:

Include a sincere thank you letter with contribution statements.

Recognition and appreciation help motivate people to contribute again. In addition to giving them credit for helping the church accomplish its mission, explain how the gift was used so they can see how they fit into the overall picture. Skipping an evening out and donating the money seems like much less of a sacrifice when they know the donation will help feed hungry children at the local shelter. Also, make sure to share the church’s vision and goals for the upcoming year.

If there are people who didn’t fulfill this year’s pledges or just haven’t donated for a while, check in to see if they are okay and ask when they are coming back. They may be having personal problems (e.g. financial hardship, health concerns, loss of a loved one.) Reaching out lets people know you truly value their relationship with the church and can be a source of comfort during difficult times (i.e. just knowing someone cares and noticed they were gone creates a warm fuzzy feeling.) Sometimes people stop donating because they don’t feel it is making a difference. Let them know how their past donations helped and tell them they are missed – they might just come back.

Want to know the best part?

This is probably one of the cheapest, easiest marketing initiatives ever. The church is already sending out contribution statements, so there is no extra cost* and you already have the readers’ attention. Make the most of it and take a few minutes to draft a genuine thank you letter – it could make a huge difference.

*Save money on postage by sending contribution statements via email. For more information or to register for a free trial, please visit www.iconcmo.com.

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Special Church Management Software Issue of Christian Computing Magazine!

Icon Systems recently had the honor of contributing to another Christian Computing Magazine cover story – you can read the full article here. The 2011 Church Management Software (ChMS) Overview is put together by the magazine’s various ChMS company sponsors. It is an excellent resource for organizations on the market – whether they are purchasing church management software for the first time or simply looking for a better fit.

Make sure to check it out for sure if you participated in our customer feedback survey last month – we included many of your comments! (In case you were wondering – yes, getting quoted in a magazine cover story gives you bragging rights for at least a year so by all means feel free to shamelessly forward the article to everyone in your contact list!)

Unfortunately due to word count restrictions, we could not include all of your fabulous testimonials, but we would sincerely like to thank each person who responded to the survey; every single one of the numerous endorsements and suggestions we received help us continue to deliver affordable, complete church management software solutions to churches everywhere.


Church Software Jargon: Universal App

Definition of Universal Application:

A Universal app is optimized to run on all iOS devices. It’s essentially an iPhone app and an iPad app built as one. (Although iPhone apps can be accessed on the iPad, they tend to be blown-up and distorted.) A Universal app can automatically determine which device it’s running on and provide the best experience for that device. Universal apps can be identified by a “+” symbol next to the price. (Apple)

You can share your apps for free — legally!

Since Italic Software designed IconCMO Lite as a Universal app, one license will cover all of your iOS devices. Not only does the Universal app work on both your iPhone and iPad, but if you purchased an app, you can legally download it on multiple computers and even share with your family without paying for it again. (But if you really want to pay for the app multiple times we won’t stop you!)

Do you own more than one iOS device? Read this:

These steps will work for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch – but for demonstration purposes we will say you purchased IconCMO Lite for your iPhone and also want to install the app on your iPad.

  1. Make sure you are logged into the App Store on your iPad with the same Apple ID (i.e. iTunes Store account) you used to initially purchase the app on your iPhone. * If you use a different Apple ID for your iPad, follow the directions below instead so you will be able to update the app later.
  2. Go to the App Store.
  3. Tap on Purchased from the bottom navigation bar and find IconCMO Lite. * For iPhone or iPod touch, tap Updates from the bottom navigation bar then tap Purchased.
  4. Download the app. You may get a pop-up saying you have already purchased the app and may download again it for free. You will also need to re-enter your Apple ID password.

Do you want to share with other members of your household (e.g. spouse, children)? Read this:

You can share your copy of IconCMO Lite with your family. At least one computer with the latest version of iTunes is needed, but you can authorize your Apple ID on up to five computers. The app can then be installed on any of the iOS devices synced to those computers. Just keep in mind you can sync as many devices as you want to an iTunes library, but you can only sync each device to one iTunes library.

You and your spouse, Jamie, both have iPhones and you want to share an app you purchased with him or her; however, you each have your own Apple IDs and laptops. So total you have two iPhones, two Apple IDs, and two computers.

  1. Go to Jamie’s computer and launch iTunes.
  2. Log Jamie out of iTunes and log in with your own Apple ID.
  3. Under ‘Store’ click ‘Authorize this computer’ and re-enter your password.
  4. Click ‘App Store.’
  5. Click ‘Purchased’ to view a list of apps you have already purchased.
  6. Find the app you want to share and download it.
  7. The app will now show in the Library under ‘Apps.’
  8. Log out of iTunes and log in with Jamie’s Apple ID.
  9. Connect Jamie’s iPhone to the computer and sync it with iTunes. * For detailed instructions on syncing a device, please visit Apple Support.
  10. The app is now installed on Jamie’s phone!

8 Things to Do When You Review Church Software in the Cloud

  1. Define your needs. Make a list of the things you want the software to accomplish and rank them by importance. Getting caught up in all of the hype is easy, so knowing your priorities before you get started will help keep you on track.
  2. Take the program for a test drive. Sign up for a free trial so you can see the system for yourself. It is probably a bad sign if you can’t ‘try it before you buy it.’
  3. Contact the support team. Did a real person answer your call? How long did it take for them to respond to your email? Sometimes software companies forget about the Service part of SaaS. If you can’t get technical help or answers to your questions, it does not matter if the program has all the features you need and more. The quality of service is what is really going to matter to you at the end of the day.
  4. Find out what kind of training is available. Does the company provide training? If so, does it cost extra? Do you have access to training as well as support during the free trial?
  5. Talk to people already using the system. See if anyone you know is using the system and ask the company for customer references (If they refuse, it might be a red flag – maybe no one is using the software or maybe the people using the software are unhappy.)
  6. Analyze the security and compliance. Is the data secure and encrypted? Who has access to your data? How often are backups performed? Can you get a copy of the backup file?
  7. Ask if they have a Disaster Recovery Plan. How often do they test it? Does it work?
  8. Read the contract. Will the price increase every few months if you don’t sign a long contract? How often is your subscription cost adjusted (whether it’s up or down) based on your usage level? Do you own the data?

Church Software for Districts and its Churches.

The evaluation of district software for churches should take into account the various tasks performed at each level of the organization (e.g. Church, District, Regional, National, World Offices).

Capabilities of District Software:

  1. The ability to move a church from one regional office to another.
  2. Communication capabilities both within a single entity as well as between each entity throughout the organization.
  3. Communication is based on roles within the organization – e.g. regional secretaries versus church secretaries.
  4. Adding church plants or multisite campuses.

Using one software system throughout the organization helps simplify day-to-day operations

If the software is capable of handling data for individual churches as well as multi-site organizations, users do not have to learn more than one system and data entry is more consistent. The use of a single system throughout the district also allows each church to uniquely structure its own chart of accounts, contribution funds, etc. while allowing the district office to combine the data from each church into one consolidated report.

For example, a district office could collect the membership data from each individual church and consolidate it into one report to analyze the organization as a whole. An individual church would also be able to track several youth or memorial funds that would show as one youth or memorial fund total on the district office reports. The ability to customize separate structures for both levels is crucial.

Why is all this important?

First, the software needs to tackle head-on the various issues each entity is facing at their respective levels. Having one system reduces errors in reporting, ensures a high level of data integrity, increases speed in data gathering, and prevents the users from having to learn and manage five different systems.

We will use an orchestra to illustrate this concept: if each musician was playing a different musical composition would you expect a well-tuned concert? Certainly not – all the musicians have to be on the same page of the same song. The same is true when it comes to the technology used in churches and throughout the entire organization – shouldn’t the same software be used so your ministry can operate in-sync like an orchestra?

Second, providing data to the district office gives an early indication if certain churches will need help financially or within their ministry staff. It can help to determine which entities are flourishing with donations or declining. Is attendance increasing at one location but not the other? All of these and many more questions are answered objectively with the right software in place.

Third, with a one-system approach, confidentiality across the platform is essential so one church cannot view another church’s records. The system must also allow churches to opt out of sending data to the district office. Most district software packages fail in one or more of these areas: membership, financials, data gathering and confidentiality. But you can rest assured because there is an answer for district offices → IconCMO+ software!


Church Office Software – What Makes it Different?

Church office software has various shapes and sizes. It is appropriate to distinguish between “church software” and “church office software”.

Church Software” – is any type of computer software specifically designed for use by a church”. Church software can encompass different types of software such as: bible verse, media production, donation, accounting, mass emailing, sermon, worship, and music software.

Church Office Software is one of the sub types of church software. Typically, the secretaries and financial staff use it in the office. Examples of this type of software are membership, contribution, accounting, newsletter generation, office communication tools, word processing, and spreadsheet software. The software is the heartbeat of the organization. For example, churches can still do their mission if they did not have music or media production software. Conversely, if they do not pay their bills or record donations the church doors will not be open too long.

Church office software is so vital to the mission of the church in keeping it running and the doors open, would it not be beneficial to ensure you choose one that fits your organization and still obeys government guidelines (e.g. IRS, FASB, etc). If the church could choose one thing to be correct within their organization what would it be? Most churches would choose to have the financial books correct. After all, if the church sings the wrong song on a Sunday the IRS won’t be there on a Monday issuing a violation.

Most churches realize the importance of correct financial books; however this area of ministry comes second to all the other activities in the church. When reviewing software, churches focus on the integration of membership or building a community. While these are important, they will not keep the organization out of trouble like having correct financial records. Choosing software that keeps you in check with government agencies first while building a community is the best way to start looking at software packages. It is safe to say that if the software does not have accounting included it is not worth looking at as a complete Church Office Software.

Churches some times fall into the trap of software longevity. Icon Systems can honestly say a company’s longevity in the market is not a good indicator of following the guidelines for financial reporting. If the church is unsure we recommend they do their due diligence and investigate the financial reporting requirements. A good start is to review the blog about “Fund Accounting Methods Compared“. The post discusses scenarios of incorrect guidelines according to FASB that are used in the church software industry.

While all church software is important, if certain software is not used the organization can suffer dire consequences. An organization can lose their tax-exempt status when audited with incorrect financial statements according to the FASB guidelines. Whenever there is uncertainty about proper financial reporting of money within a church, distrust spreads within the organization’s members. An organization using a FASB compliant system like IconCMO cloud base solution can be assured they are within guidelines.


Church Software Jargon: Legacy System

Legacy System defined:

An old technology, computer system, or application program that continues to be used, typically because it still functions for the users’ needs, even though newer technology or more efficient methods of performing a task are now available. (Wikipedia)

System that has been in existence for a long time and that continues to be used to avoid the high cost of replacing or redesigning them. (Pearson Education)

Most legacy systems use client/server architecture. This means the program has to be installed on each computer and a local server is needed to network the software and data. Hiring an outside IT person to manage the network is typically necessary.

We’re not trying to give Legacy Systems a bad reputation…

Legacy systems are often times great programs that still achieve what they were designed to do. Many Icon Systems customers still use our legacy system, Revelations. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If you currently use a legacy system, just be aware of fresher technological improvements; they may be able to accomplish the same tasks more efficiently – which will save you time and money. Again, we don’t want to discourage you from purchasing a legacy system such as Revelations because it really is a great program and continues to effectively meet the needs of many churches. We just want to make sure you weigh your options carefully when choosing a legacy system for your church management software because it is a long-term investment.


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