This post was last updated on May 8th, 2020 at 08:27 am.
IconCMO is a powerful but simple to use software package for any size church. It’s a great alternative to the Breeze Church Management System (ChMS). Read on to see why.
This article offers facts and opinions regarding IconCMO and Breeze. We will attempt to show both products in an honest light. We hope you find this article helpful while comparing the two packages. For additional information, read more about selecting a church management system.
Introduction — Simple vs Robust Church Software
The Breeze church management system, while simple to use, overlooks some of the basic requirements for churches. These oversights are the Achilles heel of making things too simple.
Icon Systems believes the best mix for church software is keeping processes as simple as possible while providing a robust, uncomplicated compliant software system. Having a software that is both simple and robust simultaneously gives an awesome user experience and professional look. It’s this melding of simplicity and robustness that gives IconCMO the best of both worlds.
After 28 years in the church software business, we’ve seen extremes in both directions, simple or robust, but very few solutions that answer both needs. IconCMO was developed to address both needs – precision with simplicity. This delicate balance is a much higher hurdle to overcome development wise. The system that can strike that balance offers the most flexibility to their users.
1. Breeze ignores IRS Publication 1771 for Donated Goods
Donations to an organization can take several forms. It can be cash, check, stocks, donated goods, and so on. Donated goods are what they call a non-cash donation. According to IRS Publication 1771 non-cash donations are not allowed to have an assigned dollar value. Additionally, they must include a description of the donated goods. For example, if a donor gives the church a computer, their contribution statement should list, “donation of a laptop computer model xyz” and the dollar value should be $0.00.
Why zero dollars? Two reasons: first, the church did not receive any money, and second, it’s not the church’s responsibility to assign a dollar value to the donation. The IRS publication 561 guides the donor and/or accountant to determine a non-cash donation value — not the church. In fact, when the church is forced to assign a value within Breeze’s software, they are assuming the liability as an appraiser. Does the church want to assume this liability when they have no expertise in it? Probably not. Unfortunately, Breeze ignores these important IRS rules, so the donor’s statement is not in compliance. Worse yet, the donor can’t take the deduction. Below is a screenshot of the IRS publication 1771 standards, and item #3 is the specific standard for non-cash donations. It states “a description (but not the value) of non-cash contribution”.
Below is an example of a contribution statement from Breeze’s church management system. It shows an assigned dollar value of $1.00 for “Donated Good” with no description listed. If you try to assign a zero dollar amount, as the IRS publication 1771 describes in Breeze’s donation system, the user receives an error. Thus, the software forces you to use a random dollar amount, going against the IRS publication regulation.
IconCMO is compliant with the IRS publication 1771
IconCMO follows the IRS publication 1771 for donated goods (non-cash) and allows you to provide accurate contribution statements that pass IRS scrutiny. Feel free to give IconCMO a try or call us. Below is an example of contribution statements that IconCMO can produce for your donors. The donor statement shows a zero dollar amount for the donated item dated 02/12/2020 with a detailed description of the item listed below, per the IRS publication 1771.
2. IconCMO has More Robust Reporting than Breeze Church Management Software
Let’s start with a baptism list report that your church team needs. An overly simple reporting system may use the same report style for all of its reports. At first glance this user methodology would seem like the best option.
However, a report’s style is an important consideration. For example, should the baptism list have the same style as a two column church directory? Probably not. So using the same style for all reports simply won’t work for a list report vs a directory report.
The Breeze options shown below are Excel, Directory, Mailing Labels, Name Tags, and Letter. In Breeze the Excel version is the only option for this baptism list. The Excel version gives you a bunch of information you don’t need and have to sift through.
When a church explores new software, the exploratory team must answer the question: should these list reports be nicely formatted? Or is the church okay with Excel for their report list as seen above? It’s an important consideration, because in most cases, Breeze’s church management system relies on Excel exports for any kind of data list. Some examples of other data lists you might want are names, ages, gender, confirmation dates, relationships, tags, statuses, and so on. Or a donation list of people that have given. In Breeze, these lists can only go to Excel.
IconCMO reports — robust yet simple
In IconCMO the generated reports come in a variety of styles to address this issue. IconCMO can create directories in their own style. It can create baptism and confirmation report lists in their own style — PDF’s, HTML, or Excel. Our PDF reports have a finished, organized look with headers, titles and footers. Nicely formatted PDF reports are missing in Breeze.
There’s a specific area within IconCMO for exporting complete data sets to Excel. These complete exports give a wide range of data that can be used and manipulated as needed.
So, if you are looking for a nicely formatted list, IconCMO doesn’t rely on Excel. These go to a nicely formatted PDF report. If you need such a report but in an Excel format, you have that option, too.
See the following examples of PDF and Excel where the formatting is similar in both.
IconCMO report capabilities has significant advantages over Breeze
All this to say that IconCMO can both export full data sets to Excel and create nicely formatted PDF lists for baptisms, donor lists, and so on. IconCMO can also send these nicely formatted reports with the subset of data to Excel. We use various processes to create reports and exports, which can make the system appear hard to use at first, but it increases the system’s capabilities significantly.
Having a robust system, layered with simplicity, does not have to be complicated.
3. IconCMO simply cost less than Breeze and Does More!
We have to compliment Breeze on their pricing model, at first glance. After all $50.00 per month for church software is reasonable for even the smallest of churches. However when you calculate the cost of Breeze and the other required software needed, Breeze’s cost is 2.4 times higher than IconCMO.
Breeze’s target market is small to medium size churches. First let’s define what a small to midsize church is, so we can better understand pricing. Midsize churches, according to USA Churches, have under 300 people (individuals) in average weekly attendance. This translates to about 100 families using the average USA family of 3.14.
IconCMO sets prices on families — not individuals — to further reduce church cost. For a 100 family church, it would be $35.00 vs Breeze’s $50.00 per month. While both are great prices, we suggest that price is only skin deep and a more complete analysis is required. Purchasing software on a bottom-line number like cost is silly. Avoid this mistake.
In IconCMO the next level is the 101 – 250 family tier, which is $49.00 and comparable to Breeze’s $50.00 per month. This means the church could grow to 750 individuals, and still pay less than Breeze, for a full membership, donation and an accounting system! This size is well above the medium size church. While both systems can handle that size and larger, IconCMO is definitely a better price for the smaller to midsize churches.
Why Tier Pricing Instead of One Price?
Contrary to popular belief, it does cost more to provide software support to larger organizations.
According to the following statement, Breeze suggests overhead cost doesn’t increase significantly when the church is larger.
Our question — How can overhead stay the same when the demand changes?
Larger organizations have more users, thus more demand. While the infrastructure and hardware overhead is similar, the technical support increases with larger organizations. A church that has ten staff members, using a kid check-in module, will have more questions than a church that has two staff members using the same module. It may sound good now for the churches to pay one price and get all the support they need no matter their size, but it’s unsustainable in the long term. Long term sustainability is an important consideration; Breeze has six years of software development vs Icon Systems’ twenty-eight years.
4. Beyond Breeze Church Management — Accounting is Included in IconCMO
Now before you skip this section because you aren’t the accounting person, you may want to take time to know the importance of it. Think how much more is involved with supporting and designing an all-in-one solution, that is better priced than Breeze’s $50.00 per month. The IconCMO solution is an all-in-one solution that has membership, donations, and accounting for the smallest to medium to large organizations, and IconCMO beats Breeze’s non-accounting solution’s price.
BUT we already have Quickbooks, and don’t need accounting…
This is the response we sometimes get when we bring up IconCMO’s accounting solution to churches. It comes up when comparing IconCMO’s software to Breeze’s church management system or other software companies. Our response is two fold.
A. Don’t lose your tax exempt status! — Quickbooks is not FASB compliant.
We highly suggest you not compromise on accounting because you can lose your tax exempt status. As stated in the Journal of Accountancy:
“All tax-exempt organizations, whether officially recognized or not, are required to maintain records of employees and donors, books of accounting and other records necessary to justify their claim for exemption in the event of an audit or to accurately file federal tax and information returns.”
First, Quickbooks (QB) no matter how you set it up, isn’t a fund-based accounting system. Therefore, QB fails to follow the Financial Accounting Standard Board’s (FASB) guidelines. FASB is the governing body for the majority of all accounting principles and practices. They develop the generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP) within the USA. In other words they are the authority, and to not follow the guidelines is to take a serious and unnecessary risk. FASB authored the Topic 958, that all churches need to follow, regardless of church size. If your CPA says QB will work, we strongly suggest you find a CPA or an enrolled agent that knows the difference between for-profit and not-for-profit accounting.
A note about good stewardship: Aside from the tax exempt status ramifications, churches are held to a higher standard in the public’s eye. How can they live up to that standard? Through good stewardship! The church’s books should be open, transparent, and above all follow the rules — which are FASB and GAAP.
B. Cost saving by using one software
Second, think about the cost savings IconCMO provides the church with integrated accounting. IconCMO, a $35.00/month system, combines your accounting system with the member and donation system. If you are using Breeze, and decide to use QB, then add Breeze’s $50.00 and QB $35.00 minimum monthly cost together, totaling $85.00 per month. This is approximately 2.4 times the amount that IconCMO costs.
The additional cost of a separate accounting / payroll system is a hidden cost that the church has to absorb. Churches need additional packages like accounting and payroll, but fail to take this into consideration when purchasing a church membership and donation system.
And remember, you are using a non-compliant accounting system that jeopardizes your tax exempt status! Breeze’s church management system simply can’t offer you these savings. Breeze can’t offer you compliance for donations (see subheading 1) or accounting.
5. Awesome Support Staff, Developers and Training
Breeze and IconCMO have support via email and phone. However, there are a few differences. If you have an issue in membership, donations, payroll, or accounting with IconCMO, you call us. When you are using the Breeze church management system in conjunction with an accounting package, then support gets a little harder. For example, if you have an issue with membership and donations with Breeze, you call them. For accounting, you contact QB or some other company. Have you ever tried to get through to QB support and reach a live person? Is your payroll through someone else other than QB, like ADP? If so, that is a third company you are contacting. We propose the question: is this any way to form a relationship with your software vendors? Do you like to be tossed around? With IconCMO, you have one point of contact — us.
Our live training webinars are awesome! Not many church software companies host weekly live training webinars for their users. We, on the other hand, host one on one or large group webinars. Breeze does offer webinars if you ask them and that’s great. But we go the extra mile and allow you to self schedule them when it’s convenient for you. The self schedule is located right inside the IconCMO application. We go out of our way to educate, train, and support our clientele.
Our developers actually listen to clients
We kept the best for last. Where else do you know of where you can call support and actually talk to a developer? Our developers take calls from clients. Many will say, “Why in the world would you do that?” As any IT person can attest, developers are very much fenced off from client interaction in most software companies. Then, why would we allow our developers and clients to discuss issues? So our developers can learn firsthand the issues that come up every day for our clients and develop a better product for them.
There are no “levels” of technical support with IconCMO. For example, you don’t talk to the first line technicians, then when they can’t solve it, work your way up through the technical support chain.
We’ve had this support model for 28 years in business. Why? We like to offer personalized support. Describing your problem many times working through the support chain is a drag. This is why we keep users partnered with the person they originally talked with.
Years of expertise in helping churches
Since our founding in 1992, we have helped churches with their database management needs. As an independent and investor-free company, we have decades of unmatched experience in the church software industry. This is especially true when helping our clients navigate the complex regulations of donations given to the organization from their donors to following accounting principles. Longevity in the market is one indicator of how healthy and sustainable a company’s model is. Breeze’s business model and short time in the market (since 2014) may be of concern.
We’ve no doubt after comparing products that IconCMO is the better choice for the majority of churches. We recognize every church is different in their mission, goals, and operation.
What churches need is church software that adjusts to these differences as the church grows and has to accommodate new processes.
And most important of all, church software must follow the regulations put forth by the IRS and other authoritative entities. IconCMO is the only one that follows all the IRS and FASB guidelines not only in contributions but in accounting. Using a non-compliant software is similar to having vehicle roadside assistance where when your car breaks down, they don’t come out to tow you. Your roadside service leaving you on the side of the road is no different than your church management software vendor leaving you to explain to the IRS why the organization is using non compliant software. On the other hand having IconCMO, which was vetted by a top 25 CPA firm for compliance, stands behind their donation and accounting software.
In summary given the facts shown here, we hope you come to the same conclusion that our long time clients did and chose us. These long time clients have stayed with us for decades. Yes we have business relationships with clients that are longer than the six years. We hope to develop that same relationship with you. Give us a call, do a trial request, a sales webinar, or email us.