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Why Churches Change ChMSes

November 22, 2013

© 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.

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