February is IT ‘Love Your Team’ Month!

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2018 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

February is the month we celebrate Valentine’s Day – you might say it is the Month of Love! How does that look in church and ministry IT?

The IT Challenge
IT is often perceived by those not on the IT team as “The NO Guys”. Some of us have worked hard to earn that title and enjoy it! Most of us in church and ministry IT, however, are often caught by surprise when reminded by other ministry team members that we’re perceived as The NO Guys.

There are at least a few reasons why we’re often perceived that way. One is that we try to enforce good IT policies, and few outside of our discipline understand the need for some of those policies. A second is that we typically lean towards being introverts vs extroverts. That characteristic has a number of side effects, like that we don’t often communicate as warmly as others, talk in acronyms, and so on. And a third is that we have a difficult time with certain people of the ministry team, and grow passive/ aggressive styles with them that can communicate inflexibility.

Okay, enough psychological analysis.

Why We Should Try
The answers are obvious to us. We’re commanded to love one another, and we’re told that by doing so, observers will know we are Christians. If you’re like me, you find those kinds of verses encouraging, but also a little frustrating. It’s hard to express love in our professional discipline sometimes!

But Jesus is not surprised by technology, and he understands the need for order. So, it’s worth coming up with ways that our non-IT team members will know that we love them. And that we love serving them. And that we are their ministry partners.

What Are Some Things We Can Do in February?
February is thought of by many as the month of love. In it we celebrate Valentine’s day– a universal day of love! So, it seems like a good time of the year to ask our fellow ministry team members to ‘be our Valentine’ through our actions. Which James tells us is necessary (see James 2:14-17).

Here are a few very practical, tactical ways to show your team members that you love them:

  1. Clean their monitors/ displays, mice, and keyboards. After hours, go through the offices and clean the gunk off those devices! If your organization’s team is too large for that to happen, organize some volunteers to help you! There are members of your congregation who would love to join you on this.
  2. Pray for those on your organization’s team, and send them a handwritten note or email or text saying simply that you prayed for them: for protection from the enemy–for them and their family–and for their effectiveness in ministry.
  3. You could even combine the two! Encourage the volunteers helping you clean monitors/ displays, mice, and keyboards to pray for the team member while at their task, and to leave behind a brief note saying they were prayed for.

You may even want to add this to your task list as a recurring task every February!

This seems so simple, but even so, it can have a huge impact on how those on the ministry team perceive those in your IT Department. Or you, specifically. Maybe it’ll help get beyond the prevalent misperception that the IT Department is where The NO Guys are.

Church & Donor Management Software – ChMS

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
Ministry Business Services, Inc. President
Reprinted from inSIGHT

Solutions from church and donor management software providers keep improving in their ability to help churches and ministries fulfill their mission! Their features to track and communicate with people, their web and mobile device interfaces, and their powerful database tools make this category of software a big help and a valuable asset for today’s ministries in reaching many with The Gospel and discipling them.

Church Software Historical Perspective
In the mid-1980s the number of these programs had grown to 262! Then some merged, some consolidated, and some went out of business, reducing the number to only 34. In the 1990s the Internet made it so easy for those writing solutions to share them that the number of solutions has since more than doubled! Our research this year found 58 solutions focusing on the church and ministry market, of which 40 qualified for this article (requirements include active marketing, minimum growth, and active development of their solution).

We always include new providers (those three years old or less) to give them a chance to build some momentum and compete with ‘the big guys’. It also keeps all of the providers ‘on their toes’ as the up-and-comers sometimes develop new technologies that benefit many churches and ministries in a new way.

Why Church Management Software?
The solution providers on the following pages meet the sophisticated and complex needs of churches and ministries. Tracking more than just names, addresses, and phone numbers, many of these also help build community and track traditional and modern family relationships, spiritual gifts, talents, interests, attendance, nursery security, contributions, fundraising campaigns, volunteerism, small groups, and more.

Church and ministry offices can be stressful workplaces because of the many deadlines that must be met by an administrative staff that is typically smaller in number than what would be found in a similar-sized secular business. Church management software, if well written, can be a soothing balm. If it’s powerful, capable, fast, and stable, the ministry team can rely on it to help them get the most possible work done– efficiently and with minimal stress. And if its abilities are broad enough, every ministry in the church or ministry can focus on just one database, increasing synergy and minimizing cost.

Church Management Software Defined
Some time ago Steve Hewitt, then Editor-in-Chief of Christian Computing Magazine (recently re-branded as MinistryTech Magazine), labeled the software category tailored to meet the needs of churches as Church Management Software, or CMS. More recently some began calling it ChMS to help prevent confusion since there are now so many software categories called ‘CMS’. Parachurch ministries need to track similar data, so we invited those solutions into this article too. Following is a well-researched list of the leading ChMS providers at the time of this writing, with each stating at the top of the feature chart whether their focus is church, parachurch, or both.

Not-for-Profit Accounting
Churches and ministries exist in a unique accounting niche that most software (and even most CPAs!) can’t help with. But many ChMS packages can help in this area.

One of a ministry’s most vulnerable areas is finance. All too often we hear about churches and ministries that have suffered embezzlement by a trusted team member. One of the best protections is an accounting system that has a good audit trail, tracking the detail of every transaction and whose data cannot be altered in any way. For these reasons, some ChMS providers have written their own fully-integrated accounting system.

Some churches and ministries want a ChMS that has a fully-integrated accounting system, and we list the functions they look for in the chart. Others may not care if the ChMS provider has written its own accounting system, and for them it’s good to know that most ChMSes can interface with ‘third-party’ accounting systems such as those in the chart that only provide nonprofit accounting solutions.

Feature Chart
We’ve tried to give you the most comprehensive and quickest format possible of those ChMS database and accounting functions ministry teams request most. We removed features provided by all ChMS providers to help focus on solutions’ distinct feature sets.

The chart lists solutions by the name their providers use to market them rather than by the company name. We include the company name in the section following the chart in which we give information on each provider such as how to reach them, how long they’ve been making their solutions available, how many organizations they currently serve, their support hours, and how often they update their software. All of the information in this article was provided by the software companies.

The chart uses two symbols:

  • The ” 1 ” symbol indicates features ChMS companies provide directly, and
  • The ” 2 ” symbol indicates needs they meet through an outside (third party) source.

Happy Hunting!
Shop wisely. We recommend that you do your due diligence and check with current users of the software you’re interested in. Ask questions like:

  • Does the software do what was promised?
  • Is their support team capable and available?
  • If you were faced with the same decision today, what would you do differently?

Feel free to contact any of the providers listed.  They would love to help you in your ministry.  Happy hunting!

CLICK CHART IMAGE TO MAGNIFY

chms-chart

 

List of ChMS Providers in Chart

ACS
by ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  39
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  10,000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  9-8 Eastern, 9-6 Fri
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  8

Iglesia HOY
by JRSoftware
Phone:  52.1.664.251.5478
Email:  informacion@iglesiahoy.com
Web:  www.iglesiahoy.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3,060
Number on Team:  6
Support:  8-6 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Jan, 2017
Updates per Year:  3

AgapeWORKS
by AgapeWORKS
Phone:  760.718.3273
Email:  info@agapeworks.org
Web:  www.agapeworks.org
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,421
Number on Team:  5
Support:  9-5 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  12

Intacct
by Sage Intacct
Phone:  877.437.7765
Email:  info@intacct.com
Web:  www.sageintacct.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2,000
Number on Team:  500
Support:  6-5 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

Aplos
by Aplos Software
Phone:  888.274.1316
Email:  sales@aplos.com
Web:  www.aplos.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing ChMS:  6
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,000
Number on Team:  40
Support:  8-4 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Ministry Tracker
by Faithlife
Phone:  360.450.3542
Email:  support@ministrytracker.com
Web:  www.ministrytracker.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  14
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  600
Number on Team:  20
Support:  9-5 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Jun, 2017
Updates per Year:  52

Breeze
by Breeze
Phone:  888.320.6030
Email:  support@breezechms.com
Web:  www.breezechms.com
Company Founded in 2012
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3,582
Number on Team:  27
Support:  9-5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

MinistryPlatform
by Think Ministry
Phone:  678.404.2467
Email:  info@thinkministry.com
Web:  www.thinkministry.com
Company Founded in 2007
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  545
Number on Team:  15
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Jun, 2017
Updates per Year:  20

CCIS Shield CMS
by CCIS Church Management Software
Phone:  800.295.7551
Email:  sales@ccissoftware.com
Web:  www.ccissoftware.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing ChMS:  37
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,722
Number on Team:  60
Support:  8-4 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Mar, 2017
Updates per Year:  3

Parish Data System (PDS)
by ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  39
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  9,000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  9-8 Eastern, 9-6 Fri
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  8

CDM+
by Suran Systems, Inc.
Phone:  877.891.4236
Email:  sales@cdmplus.com
Web:  www.cdmplus.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  30
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,500
Number on Team:  30
Support:  8:30-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

PowerChurch Plus
by PowerChurch Software
Phone:  800.486.1800
Email:  info@powerchurch.com
Web:  www.powerchurch.com
Company Founded in 1984
Years Marketing ChMS:  33
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  38,500
Number on Team:  16
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Nov, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Church Community Builder
by Church Community Builder
Phone:  866.242.1199
Email:  support@churchcommunitybuilder.com
Web:  www.churchcommunitybuilder.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,421
Number on Team:  121
Support:  7-6 Mountain
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Raiser’s Edge NXT/Financial Edge NXT
by Blackbaud
Phone:  404.323.0274
Email:  michael.blanton@blackbaud.com
Web:  www.blackbaud.com
Company Founded in 1981
Years Marketing ChMS:  20
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,050
Number on Team:  500
Support:  8-8 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Church MemberLink
by CAA Software, Inc.
Phone:  706.864.4055
Email:  support@caasoftware.com
Web:  www.churchmemberlink.com
Company Founded in 2005
Years Marketing ChMS:  3
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  60
Number on Team:  2
Support:  9-5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  Monthly

Realm
by ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  info@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 1978
Years Marketing ChMS:  39
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  5,000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  8-5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  23

Church Windows Software
by Computer Helper Publishing
Phone:  800.533.5227
Email:  sales@churchwindows.com
Web:  www.churchwindows.com
Company Founded in 1987
Years Marketing ChMS:  30
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  12,000
Number on Team:  25
Support:  9-6 Eastern, 9-5 Fri
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2016
Updates per Year:  3

Roll Call
by By the Book
Phone:  800.554.9116
Email:  info@bythebook.com
Web:  www.bythebook.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  25
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,600
Number on Team:  6
Support:  8-5 Central; 7-1 Sun
Last Major Release:  Dec, 2016
Updates per Year:  Monthly

Church360°
by Concordia Publishing House
Phone:  800.325.2399
Email:  softwaresales@cts.cph.org
Web:  www.church360.org
Company Founded in 1869
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,100
Number on Team:  25
Support:  7:30-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Seraphim Office
by Seraphim Software
Phone:  855.681.6160
Email:  sales@seraphimsoftware.com
Web:  www.seraphimsoftware.com
Company Founded in 2012
Years Marketing ChMS:  5
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  300
Number on Team:  20
Support:  8-4 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Quarterly

Churchteams
by Churchteams.com, Inc.
Phone:  817.405.9750
Email:  info@churchteams.com
Web:  www.churchteams.com
Company Founded in 2001
Years Marketing ChMS:  9
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  900
Number on Team:  8
Support:  8:30-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Servant Keeper
by Servant PC Resources Inc.
Phone:  800.773.7570
Email:  sales@servantpc.com
Web:  www.servantpc.com
Company Founded in 1994
Years Marketing ChMS:  23
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  30,000
Number on Team:  30
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Feb, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

ChurchTrac Online
by ChurchTrac Software, Inc.
Phone:  877.704.0222
Email:  support@churchtrac.com
Web:  www.churchtrac.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  13
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  7,500
Number on Team:  7
Support:  8-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Shelby Arena
by Shelby Systems, Inc. (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  10
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  640
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7-6 Central
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

COMS for Windows
by Specialty Software
Phone:  800.568.6350
Email:  sales@specialtysoftware.com
Web:  www.specialtysoftware.com
Company Founded in 1982
Years Marketing ChMS:  35
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,800
Number on Team:  6
Support:  9-5 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

Shelby v5
by Shelby Systems, Inc. (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  42
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  8,400
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7-6 Central
Last Major Release:  Jul, 2017
Updates per Year:  2

ConnectNow
by ParishSoft (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  866.930.4774 x131
Email:  parishsoftsales@parishsoft.com
Web:  www.parishsoft.com
Company Founded in 1998
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  11,673
Number on Team:  78
Support:  8-8 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

ShelbyNext
by Shelby Systems, Inc. (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  800.877.0222
Email:  sales@shelbyinc.com
Web:  www.shelbysystems.com
Company Founded in 1976
Years Marketing ChMS:  42
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,500
Number on Team:  95
Support:  7-6 Central
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Monthly

Donarius® Church Management Software
by Nuverb Systems Inc
Phone:  888.479.4636
Email:  question@nuverb.com
Web:  www.donarius.com
Company Founded in 1993
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2,300
Number on Team:  1
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Apr, 2017
Updates per Year:  20

Shepherd’s Staff
by Concordia Publishing House
Phone:  800.325.2399
Email:  softwaresales@cts.cph.org
Web:  www.shepherdsstaff.org
Company Founded in 1869
Years Marketing ChMS:  24
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3,400
Number on Team:  25
Support:  7:30-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Sep, 2017
Updates per Year:  Quarterly

Excellerate Church Management
by Micro System Design
Phone:  888.371.6878
Email:  info@excellerate.com
Web:  www.excellerate.com
Company Founded in 1989
Years Marketing ChMS:  19
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  2,473
Number on Team:  2
Support:  9-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Feb, 2017
Updates per Year:  12

SimpleChurchCRM
by SimpleChurch LLC (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  866.392.1744
Email:  sales@simplechurchcrm.com
Web:  simplechurchcrm.com
Company Founded in 2010
Years Marketing ChMS:  7
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  3,335
Number on Team:  25
Support:  9-6 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  25

Faithful Steward
by Diakonia
Phone:  800.325.6642
Email:  info@faithfulsteward.com
Web:  www.church-software.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  23
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,085
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Apr, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Software4Nonprofits
by Cooperstock Software
Phone:  416.423.7722
Email:  info@software4nonprofits.com
Web:  www.software4nonprofits.com
Company Founded in 1999
Years Marketing ChMS:  18
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  6,500
Number on Team:  3
Support:  9-9 Eastern
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  6

FellowshipOne
by FellowshipOne (Ministry Brands)
Phone:  844.459.8525
Email:  sales@fellowshipone.com
Web:  www.fellowshipone.com
Company Founded in 2004
Years Marketing ChMS:  13
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,000
Number on Team:  60
Support:  7-7 Central
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

The City
by ACS Technologies
Phone:  800.736.7425
Email:  solutions@acstechnologies.com
Web:  www.acstechnologies.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  1,000
Number on Team:  395
Support:  9-8 Eastern, 9-6 Fri
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2017
Updates per Year:  4

Fresh Vine
by Fresh Vine
Phone:  888.708.1905
Email:  contact@freshvine.co
Web:  https://freshvine.co
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  6
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  330
Number on Team:  3
Support:  10-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Mar, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

TouchPoint Software
by Pursuant
Phone:  901.654.5750
Email:  andrew.triplett@touchpointsoftware.com
Web:  www.touchpointsoftware.com
Company Founded in 2008
Years Marketing ChMS:  8
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  300
Number on Team:  15
Support:  8-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Oct, 2017
Updates per Year:  12

IconCMO
by Icon Systems
Phone:  800.596.4266
Email:  sales@iconcmo.com
Web:  www.iconcmo.com
Company Founded in 1992
Years Marketing ChMS:  16
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  4,500
Number on Team:  12
Support:  8-5 Central
Last Major Release:  Jun, 2017
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web

Web Church Connect
by Web Church Connect
Phone:  800.516.7800
Email:  info@webchurchconnect.com
Web:  www.webchurchconnect.com
Company Founded in 2009
Years Marketing ChMS:  6
Ministries/Campuses Currently Using:  863
Number on Team:  6
Support:  7-5 Pacific
Last Major Release:  Aug, 2016
Updates per Year:  Ongoing via Web 

 

How Do I SPAM Thee…

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

SPAM email can be dangerous and painful to the recipient and to any data they have access to. Whether it’s ransomware, phishing, pushing of malware, or impersonation, a strategy is needed to protect ourselves. I’ll address these different types of SPAM, and how each should be strategically managed.

SPAM Comes in Many Flavors
In addition to what many think is a tasty lunchmeat, SPAM also refers to unsolicited email, and those emails are usually intended to do the recipient harm. Sometimes the pain is small, but often it is big and costly. The most costly to an organization are usually ransomware and business email compromise; the most costly to an individual are usually phishing scams.

Here are some categories of email SPAM and how to respond to them:

  • Business Email Compromise (BEC), a.k.a. Impersonation Emails
    • Form: These SPAM emails used to only target businesses working with foreign suppliers and businesses who use financial wire transfer methodology. But in the last year we have seen many occurrences hit churches and ministries using checks! The form of the attack, as it affects churches and ministries, is usually an email supposedly from a pastor or executive in the organization directing the recipient to immediately transfer funds or cut a check. These attacks are usually well researched (we are welcoming and friendly environments, and we give them all of our staff structure and names on our websites!), and can feel legitimate.
    • What To Do: Never comply with the request. Always, require a live voice confirmation of the request in person or via live telephone call.
  • Ransomware
    • Form: Ransomware is malware installed on your computer that usually gets introduced through a SPAM email, compromised website, or even through a bot (internet program) that looks for Remote Desktop Protocol vulnerabilities. Once infected with the ransomware malware, data is encrypted and held for ransom.
    • What To Do: One of the best defenses against ransomware is to keep multiple days (we prefer a full month) of full data backups so your system can be ‘reset’ if an infection gets through your defenses. In addition to ensuring good backups:
      1. Never click on a link or graphic in an email you weren’t expecting. Even if it came from someone you know, do not click any links. If you think the email and its links may be legitimate and want to click them– before clicking on them– hover your mouse pointer over the link without clicking. Doing so should show the destination of the link. I recently did this on an email I received from Microsoft that looked legitimate, but the link would have taken me to a very different location than what I expected. Best rule: if you’re not sure that it’s okay to click, do not click!
      2. Make certain your computer has a good anti-malware program running on it. That’s true whether you’re using a Windows or a MacOS computer. The solution my firm recommends is www.thirtyseven4.com… doing so will help prevent you from accessing most compromised websites.
  • Phishing
    • Form: Phishing has a few forms, almost all of which happen through email SPAM. Phishing is the attempt to get the recipient to provide personal information about themselves that could be used to accomplish some form of identity theft. Phishing is sometimes referred to as clone phishing (a previously legitimate email that has been recreated with malware embedded or in links and re-sent to the same list of recipients as the original), whaling (phishing attacks aimed at executives and high-profile targets), and spear phishing (attacks targeting specific individuals that may even contain information about them discovered through websites, social media, and other sources.
    • What To Do: Never respond to a request for personally identifying information in an email without first confirming the source. I even take this a step further if I get a phone call from my bank about possible fraudulent activity in my credit card account! In the call they ask for my password to prove I am who they intended to reach. I decline their request and tell the caller they need to tell me my password to prove they are who they say they are since they initiated the call! They’re not allowed to tell me, of course, so that’s when I disconnect and call the number on my credit card– that way I know I’m talking to my bank.

These are a few SPAM categories. It is imperative that every organization use a high-quality SPAM filter on its email server to eliminate most of the SPAM from being delivered to email account holders. There are a lot of SPAM filter solutions available; our favorite is from Barracuda. They are the gold standard and best-of-breed in that industry.

Just an fyi… we host SPAM filtering for churches and ministries nationwide using a Barracuda SPAM Filter 600. We process more than 90,000 emails daily, and it blocks about 80%. That means about 80% of the email pointed toward your email inbox is unwanted! And some of it is dangerous!

Using a solid SPAM filter won’t stop all SPAM from getting to users’ email inboxes, but doing so will stop almost all of it. That reduces the likelihood that someone will click on something they shouldn’t. But the best protection will only come from repeated training to all team members. I recommend reminding the team of the danger on a monthly basis during all-staff meetings. And if you know a story in which an organization was hurt as a result of SPAM, tell the story! Doing so will help those who don’t take threats and threat-mitigation seriously to re-consider.

Helpful Computer Hacks

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

I grew up in an age when a ‘hack’ was someone who was incompetent. In those days there were no personal computers or mobile devices. Now everyone has access to multiple computers and various mobile devices. And wouldn’t you know it– ‘hack’ has a new meaning! Today a hack can be a clever way to get things done well.

Following are some hacks that can really help improve your efficiency on a computer!

Hacks for Computer Users
The following hacks are especially helpful for computer users.

Keyboard shortcuts. In today’s world of Windows and Mac operating systems we have become dependent on pointing devices. Granted, those devices are very helpful. But before these current operating systems, we used keyboard combinations to do some of what we now do with a mouse or track pad. Those keyboard shortcuts are still available to use, and they can save time! Here are six I still use often:

Function

Windows

Mac

Print

Ctrl + p

⌘ + p

Copy

Ctrl + c

⌘ + c

Cut

Ctrl + x

⌘ + x

Paste

Ctrl + v

⌘ + v

Italics

Ctrl + i

⌘ + i

Bold

Ctrl + b

⌘ + b

Multiple Monitors/ Displays. For those who’ve always used one monitor or display, having two or may three seem excessive. But the increase in productivity with two or three is surprising! I always recommend at least two now; the cost is minimal and the benefits are significant! My desk is configured with three: the one on my left always has Outlook running on it, the one in the middle is where I do most of my work, and the one on my right is for research references (browser, database, etc). I also find it helpful when opening large spreadsheets to stretch them across my middle and right displays!

Recurring Tasks. We all have them: recurring deadlines that are due every Wednesday, once a month, quarterly, etc. I use Outlook’s task functionality to set the reminders I need to help me hit my deadlines. This is one of the most helpful and least used tools available. I also use Outlook tasks to remind me to do things I’ve promised to do, helping me avoid them falling through the cracks of my active schedule.

Managing Email. Email consumes a larger part of our days than most of us want. I have three email hacks that help me stay focused and efficient, even though my average daily email count is well over 100.

  • Inbox. I keep my Inbox as empty as possible so I don’t waste time reading the same emails over and over. When an email comes in I either respond and then delete the original (a copy of the original is in my response!), put a flag (due date) of when I want to respond by and drag it to a subfolder based on the type of email it is (personal, business, etc), or delete it if it’s one I don’t care about (like an ad).
  • Sent Items. Once I send an email I delete it unless I need a reminder that I’m waiting for a response or it was a topic that could have legal ramifications (if it was, I make a PDF copy and store it).
  • Trash. I empty my trash at the end of every day. In the rare case that I need to find something I deleted, I log into our email server via browser (using Outlook Web Access), search deleted files, and restore it.

Automatic Backup. I always feel bad for someone who says a hard drive crashed and they lost all of their files, including photos that were irreplaceable. Losing important files is painful. There are many cloud services available to consumers that will automatically back up files to their cloud servers. There are also utilities in the Windows and Mac operating systems that will automatically back up files to an external drive.

Hacks for IT Professionals
The following hacks are especially helpful for IT professionals.

System setup checklists. As IT pros, we often set up new systems. If the process isn’t automated, I recommend creating a checklist to help achieve standardization. In addition to improving setup consistency, checklists save time because you don’t need to review your work to determine what you’ve already done after an interruption.

Professional Relationships. It’s so helpful to build friendships with people you can turn to when a challenge comes up that stumps you! Those ‘lifeline’ calls can save so much time! The best professional organization I’ve found for those in church and ministry IT is The Church IT Network (http://churchitnetwork.com). They have a low-cost annual gathering in the Fall, and low-cost regional gatherings in the Spring.

Monthly Backup Test. Set a task in Outlook to test your backup monthly. A good test is to restore a file or folder structure and then open the file(s) to verify the backups you’re relying on are good.

Those are some hacks that can really help!

Should Churches Continue to Reimburse Cell Phone Fees?

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles, Uncategorized

© 2017 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from MinistryTech Magazine

Churches reimburse some staff members for their cell phone and internet costs. In the early days of those technologies, doing so made sense. Has the way we communicate changed so much that it’s time to reconsider? What are the issues?

Historical Perspective
I got my first cell phone in 1987, and was one of only 1 million in the U.S. who had one. But it was worth the cost (often $750+ monthly for one line!) to be available to our clients as I travelled across the USA. Five years later that number had grown to 11 million, and in 2000 passed 100 million! By 2010 there were more cellphones (and smartphones) in use than there were people in the U.S., and by 2015 half of all U.S. households no longer had a landline connecting their home to the telephone system network (we removed our landlines in 2007).[1]

Why does that matter? In the earlier years of cellular phones they were very costly to buy and use, and were perceived as additional phone lines. As great tools enabling a burgeoning mobile workforce, churches wanted their staff to have cellphones to facilitate better communications between themselves, their teams, and their congregations. Because they were an added phone to the home phone, many church team members couldn’t afford to have one.

The same is true for internet connections at team members’ homes. In the 1990s and early 2000s they were considered optional. Reimbursing staff for the expense of being connected made sense for many team roles.

So churches developed a number of ways to underwrite the cost for these services for their staff via reimbursements, allowances, and more. The IRS finally helped by simplifying the tax treatment of cellphones provided to employees in 2011 following the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010.[2]

Should Reimbursements & Allowances Continue?
There may be circumstances where those are appropriate, but for most the answer going forward should be no. Those communications services are no longer considered additional methods in the U.S., but are now integral to our communication fabric.

At a gathering of megachurch church business administrators and managers (CBAs) I recently attended, one of the CBAs asked, “When staff leave the church, they don’t want to turn in their cellphone or terminate their service! If they will pay for it themselves after they leave our staff, why do we pay for their service and phones while they are on staff?” Good question!

Today nearly all working adults in the U.S. have a cell phone (or more accurately, a smartphone), and most households have broadband internet service. So why should the church reimburse the cost of these services? It no longer needs to.

Transitions are Sensitive
Simply deciding to no longer reimburse for these services could be problematic. I suggest the following:

  • Set a policy that reimbursements for cell phones and internet service will no longer be made to church staff. This policy would apply to all new hires.
  • To ‘grandfather’ those who have been receiving assistance for these services, add the amount they have been receiving to their base pay; a sort of one-time adjustment to their pay. This allows you to eliminate assistance going forward without hurting any team members that depend on it. It also simplifies the payroll process– a win-win!

Transitioning in this way will remove the discussion for any new team members, and continue meeting the needs of existing team members.

People no longer need assistance with their cellular or internet service. It’s part of the standard way we communicate today in America. It’s okay to end the practice of evaluating who to assist, how much to assist, and then account for those decisions in budgets and in the payroll process. Handled in this way, no one will get hurt in the process, and no one will suffer because of the policy.

[1] These statistics are from CTIA.org, an association representing all sectors of the U.S. wireless communications industry.

[2] See https://www.irs.gov/irb/2011-38_IRB#NOT-2011-72 for details.