This post was last updated on March 30th, 2021 at 09:00 am.
We are going to discuss why your church membership software should be online. If your church is still struggling to get online with a church membership software in 2021, then it’s now or never. Web-based applications have been out since about 1999.
In the early days of church software, all of the programs were either DoS-based or Windows-based. So the evolution of the church software went from DoS to Windows & the occasionally MAC counterpart, then the Internet-based or hybrid models. The exact way this happened isn’t important, but what is important is the software on the market, today. The majority of software solutions today are created as a true web-based package. There are a few holdouts that adapted the hybrid model which isn’t as advantageous.
Fast forward to 2021, where one in three people are on a social media platform, one in two are on the Internet, and in the USA the Internet saturation is about 90% with 313 million active Internet users worldwide. In other words, if you are just thinking about going online with the church’s data for easier accessibility, the church is really late in the game. So it is time if the church is not yet there to get the church membership online.
Why Isn’t The Church Online, Yet?
Getting online with church software is quite easy today even if you have to enter a lot of the data. Data conversions can make this process easier provided your current data set is clean and updated. The real question is why isn’t the church online yet?
Initially, in the late ’90s, many organizations didn’t go online because the technology was new. That’s a very feasible reason for anything new, especially with newer technology. Typically, the vast majority of churches adopt newer technology at a slower rate than other industries.
For some churches, putting personal data online is a scary thought. Churches are very protective of their donors and church members, especially when it comes to their donations. Early on, we would get a substantial number of questions regarding the security of the software. However, as the general population became more familiar and comfortable with other online apps such as banking, these questions have diminished.
Another possible reason might be accessibility. Many times church leaders, staff, and volunteers are accustomed to going to church to do their work. They don’t mind driving 10-15 minutes to work on the church’s computer. This is especially common in smaller towns in the US where they don’t encounter rush-hour traffic with congestion and parking restrictions.
All these reasons and possibly more could be why churches aren’t online in 2021. However, these reasons are minuscule in 2021, and why churches should be online now. There’s no reason to not have 24-hour access to the church’s data.
Work Less On Your Church Database
One of the biggest advantages of having an online church membership system is that the church allows its members to update their family profiles. The updating of the member profile typically happens through the church’s member portal. Having 24-hour accessibility allows the church to give their church members the power to update their data anytime that is convenient for them.
There are other benefits that aren’t often realized right away. When the church gives church members the ability to update family data, it frees up church staff and volunteers to do other things. For example, the church may save several hours a month on updating member profiles when church families take this on themselves. Another time-saving feature would be family members printing their own donation statements for their annual taxes.
There are processes that the church should always have their staff or volunteers complete such as entering weekly donations, writing checks, entering deposits, and so on. However, by offloading appropriate processes to church members like printing their own statements, the church can save valuable time and use it elsewhere.
More on donation statements self service
We briefly touched on the ability to print a member’s donation statement via a church software’s member portal. As most people know the donation statement is needed for filing taxes and it’s only required once a year. However, there is another reason to have this information throughout the year. It allows donors to track how they are doing with their donations in regards to their pledging. Another reason is to ensure that every donation that a person gave is accounted for. It’s far easier to fix donation errors throughout the year than wait until after donation statements have been mailed out at the end of the year.
Enhanced Communication Between Church Members
The church member portals have another benefit in that many of them include an online church directory. An online church directory helps ensure your church members have accurate, up-to-date information so they can connect with each other. If members grant permission, their address, phone number, and email information can be listed, so if they would like to get together for coffee they can via the church member portal.
Email addresses included in an online church directory helps church members to communicate in a different manner. Maybe a church member is having a birthday party for their child, and they want to send birthday invitations via email. The online church directory has this information so parents can easily send the birthday invitation.
Online Donation Integration Works Better
Most churches know that the ability to receive online donations is extremely important, especially since Covid. Churches are relying more on donations through online payment platforms. When the church’s data is online, the payment processor and the church software can easily integrate.
When the church software is not online, the online payment processor must create a file for the church administrator. The administrator then downloads the file and import that data into the church’s software. They may even have to do further manipulate the data or apply the donations manually to their donors in the software. All because the church database is offline. Now let’s contrast this offline system to what we will call a complete online system below.
When the payment processor and church database are both online, the entire process becomes far less complicated. Because both systems are online, they can communicate and send data back and forth. The communication between the payment processor’s server and the church’s software database can be automated. This means a software database like IconCMO can be set up to communicate directly with the payment processor on a scheduled basis and then automatically post the donations to the correct donor’s statement.
Church Membership Online Summary
Having the church’s membership online provides so many advantages for both the administration and the members. And the church doesn’t have to feel like it’s giving up any control of their data when reports document member changes. It’s a win, win for everyone, saving time, money, and processing online donations easier. An online system also allows church members to review their profiles and contributions to ensure everything is correct with the church database.