A Beginner's Guide to Buying a ChMS
Good and Bad Reasons to Buy a ChMS
A ChMS may or may not be what you need right now. Let's review some of the basics before you move on.
You're most likely ready for a ChMS, but keep studying the material so you're 100% prepared.
You're totally ready! Skip ahead to Chapter 2 and get started!
A lot of churches don't necessarily have registration for events, have a school, or have a large number of volunteers. But that doesn't mean that a small church doesn't need software! Even if you have a small number of volunteers and only have a few children at Sunday school, you may still be able to benefit from a ChMS.
Also, even if you have a small number of members and don't plan or anticipate much growth any time soon, you could still benefit from a ChMS, as many churches that want to remain small still need an easier way to handle the members that they have.
Keep in mind that there are other stand-alone and other “church software” products that do not cover the functionality of true church management software: Take the time upfront to define the type of software you need.
Other non-church specific software may include some functionality like day care management, scheduling, facilities management, or contact management but are not specifically for churches.
If you are struggling to run your church and are worried about it failing, you are not alone. The reason that 32% of new churches fail within 4 years is because they lacked the tools, training, and resources to grow.
Your church doesn't have to be a statistic. Church Management Software can increase the amount of money you raise, help you coordinate dozens of volunteers and employees, and track financial and stewardship goals. The next chapter will tell you exactly what to look for in a ChMS so your church can survive, thrive, and prosper.
ChMS Plan and End Goals
Now that you've taken the assessment test and know that you're ready to buy, it's time to dig deeper and truly identify your ChMS needs. With so many ChMS options and features available, clearly establish your requirements to ensure that the ChMS that you choose really does what you need.
First, to figure out which features you need in a ChMS, your church needs to define its management strategy.
Consider the culture of your church and develop examples of how and who will use your church management system, how you will track members, and what kind of information you want to track.
Virtual Church Service: Church service broadcast online via ChMS software.
Web-based: accessible anywhere with an internet connection, can be used on most computers/devices, maintenance and upgrades are handled by the vendor, lower initial investment, easier integration with other online systems, often more user friendly.
On-premises: greater ability to customize, greater access to data (there is more control), easier integration with other installed systems, greater flexibility with deployment, potentially lower lifetime investment.
*Based off of Capterra ChMS buyers in 2013.
Now that you know what you're looking for, it's time to start shopping around. But be forewarned…you won't be able to necessarily just live by “ask and you shall receive” when it comes to finding the right ChMS, so if you want to get exactly what you want in a system, you've got some work to do. Your first task to prep for the ChMS search is to create a list of possible software solutions for your church.
The Last Judgement
Capterra's ChMS software directory has all ~200 church management solutions listed in one place. Use the filtering tool to check off your must-have features and narrow down the list to a much more manageable size.
The goal is to create a list of 3-5 ChMS solutions that you'll evaluate more closely. But if your requirements are pretty basic, narrowing your results could still leave you with 15, 20, or even more viable options. Alternatively, your needs could be so specific that after filtering the list down, you're only left with 1 result. That's why in Chapter 2 we said to only focus on your top 10-15 features… hopefully those should leave you with a manageable number of options to evaluate. If they don't or if going through this process is overwhelming—or even just a pain—we're happy to do the work for you. Just use the filter on our directory to narrow down the church management software options based on your needs.
Now that you have your handful of options, it's time for the fun part-- demos! Software demonstrations are the best way to determine which Church Management software fits your needs. Some of these demos happen one-on-one with a sales person (perhaps like spiritual guidance with your pastor), while others are webinars with groups of potential buyers (like a homily at church). Either way, the demos and conversations you'll have with each software company should answer the following questions about your remaining ChMS contenders:
When you're demoing and selecting a ChMS, make sure to gather answers to the following questions from each involved party:
There's no simple answer when it comes to ChMS pricing.
Solutions with This Pricing Model:* Basic: Donarius, PowerChurch Software, CCIS. Mid: Church Windows, Excellerate. High: Shelby, ACS.
Additional pricing models you may run into include pricing per family or household (ex. IconCMO)..
The great thing about the ChMS software search is that it doesn't have to feel like a trial in the wilderness! Keep this guide close as you go through the buying process, and you'll be sure to make the right choice. Asking yourself the right questions and taking the time to examine your church's specific needs will ensure that you end up with a Church Management system you love today and in the years to come.
Decide if you're willing to fit your processes to the ChMS or if you need a ChMS that fits your processes. That means you have to know your processes first.
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