Archive for November, 2013

Why Churches Change ChMSes

Written by Nick B. Nicholaou on . Posted in Articles

© 2013 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
Ministry Business Services, Inc. President
Reprinted from NACBA Ledger

Many call me for guidance because they’re unhappy with their church or donor management software (known as ChMS). There are patterns of what causes the dissatisfaction– it’s often not the ChMS provider’s fault!– and knowing those patterns can help you get the most out of your ChMS investment.

Does the ‘Perfect Fit’ Exist?
The quick answer is, “No.” So, if there’s no ‘perfect fit’, what should your expectations be?

If you researched and listed all your team’s ChMS desires and needs, and then compared your list to the solutions available, probably the best you can get is an 80-85% match. That means no matter which ChMS you change to, there will be at least a 15-20% mismatch. So if your current solution is already around an 80-85% good fit, changing ChMS solutions will just be a trading of one set of unmet expectations for a different set of unmet expectations.

Is Complexity a Problem?
One of the common complaints I hear is that the ChMS currently in use is too complex. Though it’d be good for ChMS providers to continue looking for ways to improve that perception, the complexity itself is not usually the problem. The perception of complexity is really an acknowledgement that the solution is full featured.

Most churches and ministries do a lot of the same operational tasks, and many do them similarly. But there are many who do those same tasks differently, and because ChMS providers want to serve as many as possible, they have multiple paths that lead towards the same goal to accommodate the different processes churches might prefer to use.

That’s why ChMS training– and especially ongoing training– is so important. Staff turns over, and ministry needs change over time. When ongoing training is not part of the annual budget, the staff’s focus will shift from the 80-85% of what the ChMS does for them to the 15-20% of what it does not do for them. The result is usually a costly decision (in terms of money and lost productivity during the transition) to change solutions.

What Can You Do?
If your team is considering changing to a different ChMS, consider contacting your ChMS provider and asking them whether they do what your team is looking for and asking them to come out and re-train your team. These two suggestions may help you to objectively identify whether the drive to change solutions is based on need or on incorrect expectations/ lack of training. If it’s based on need, there are many good solutions worth considering. If it’s not based on need, training may be better stewardship.

The Latest in Evangelistic Trends: International Arms Trafficking!

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

© 2013 by Nick B. Nicholaou, all rights reserved
President, Ministry Business Services, Inc.
Reprinted from Christian Computing Magazine 

Some time ago an article caught my eye about folks going to jail because they took computers outside of the U.S. The problem was that, because of computer processor capabilities and the built-in cryptographic capabilities of common off-the-shelf software, doing so violated Export Administration Regulations. The article went on to describe the maximum fines and penalties associated with the export of these items: $1,000,000 plus 10 years in jail for each criminal violation, or $500,000 plus a 3-year export ban for each civil violation.

A few days later a colleague who works for an international ministry told me he had just sent software updates to their overseas field offices. Click– the light went on. I told him about the article I had just read which applied to the software technology he just sent overseas. We were both shocked as we discussed the impact these regulations could have on similar international ministries and computer donations.

Historical Context
The original regulations, called International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), about such exports were issued decades ago to keep advanced intelligence technology built in the U.S. from those who could use it to harm us and/ or our interests. Since that time, the oversight of computer technology exports has been transferred to the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security.

Yet these laws are broken every day by those who are unaware of their application to today’s computers and software. While some argue that they’re out-dated, there are many who have been fined and many who are sitting in jail today for their willful– even though unintentional– violation.

Export Limits
The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has determined that most countries cannot receive certain computers based on their technology. The list includes Afghanistan, Canada, France, Russia, and many others that one wouldn’t expect to see on the list.

(Visit http://beta-www.bis.doc.gov/index.php/policy-guidance/lists-of-parties-of-concern/entity-list to see the list.)

It’s All About Encryption & Communication
The concern centers around hardware processing and software encryption/ decryption capabilities and communication capabilities.

This sounds like it could keep many from helping missionaries and ministries from doing their work around the world. Don’t give up! There’s an easy way to know if what you want to do is legal. Keep reading.

Contact Your Missionaries
Many churches and ministries have given computers to overseas missionaries and pastors unaware that doing so may have violated U.S. Export Administration Regulations!

Ask those missionaries and pastors whom you have blessed with computers and software to send you a list of exactly what hardware and software they have. Do the same for any overseas offices your ministry has. Have them include the version/model numbers and serial numbers.

There May Be An Easy Fix!
According to officials at the Bureau of Industry and Security, answers may be just a phone call away. All you need to do is call 202.482.4811 between 9am and 5pm EST to determine if the software and/or hardware is a concern. They may be able to give you the good news that what you’re wanting to do requires no license!

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It is.

In The Future…
Call the Bureau of Industry and Security to obtain the necessary license to export before sending that encryption-capable software and/ or hardware overseas. According to BIS officials, they would rather see compliance sought, than to have to investigate and enforce it after the fact.

This law may seem bothersome. Perhaps it is, but it is the law, and in light of 9/11, it may make a major difference in our safety. As Christians we should model righteousness to this dark world around us. Whether there are potential fines or not, if the law doesn’t violate a scriptural principle, we should obey it.