SugarCRM – A Sweet Treat for Your Church’s Admin

SugarCRM logoI’ve never been very impressed with technology in most churches. I’m glad they’re coming on board with computers and projectors and media-infused worship. As a business analyst, I’m always on the leading edge of cost-effective technology. And as an ordained minister, I’m always on the lookout for ways that churches can manage leverage technology to better track God’s work and the people’s lives being touched by the faith community. I’ve found the answer to at least part of the equation.

Have you ever wondered — What percentage of our prayers’ is God answering? How successful are our outreach attempts? What are the names of those visitors from last week? Why don’t we have an up to date list of our community business contacts and partners? Who are our supplies vendors? How can we track and resolve business issues like building projects, contract bidding, technical issues, or any project? Why don’t we have a computer system for checking in/out our children from the children’s ministry? Why don’t we have an information system for helping Sunday School/small group leaders see who is/isn’t showing up? Why don’t youth pastor’s have an information system for tracking medical releases and which kid paid for what event?

The possibilities for information systems in the church are pretty similar for that of a regular business or organization. Yet, few churches go beyond church marketed solutions like ACS (church membership) — this program does little more than name, rank, and serial number. Honestly, it makes me cringe.

Churches need an inexpensive way of managing leveraging what IT resources they have to design simple modules to keep track of all their important information. They need an inexpensive Customer Relationship Management toolkit.

Fortunately, SugarCRM is not only inexpensive, but it’s open-source which typically means that updates are well tested by the developer community, and the product evolves faster than a traditional commercially developed software package. They offer a free community edition but for more robust reporting tools the professional edition is $250 a user per year. That’s not expensive for all the work it does.

You can design your own tracking modules, import all your members, log/track prayer requests, events, and projects from start to finish with all the information available for reporting. Let’s say you’re planning an event and need to keep track of registration, vendors, sponsors, financials, tasks, time/labor, and volunteer staff. You can build a simple module and track any event you plan. If you have attendees fill out a survey, you can fill in that information as well and easily produce a full report detailing the vital stats of that event. Imagine doing that for every event each year. How much easier would that make each event? How much less stress would staff be under knowing the status of each item without worry of forgetting? How much easier would it be to plan the next event with the empirical data from the previous efforts?

This is good analytics and every church needs good analytics. God will always be God and He will always provide for those abiding in Him and seeking His will. But let’s be honest, we can use all the analytical help we can get because of how complex our culture and lives have become. SugarCRM does that for cheap.

God said to trust Him with all your heart — but he also said not to ignore wisdom and discernment in our decisions. It’s time to go beyond the name, rank, and serial numbers applications and plug in a robust IT solution to manage all your church’s administrative relationships.

SugarCRM is just one option of many, but for church’s it is a solid solution to most any information system need. You can check it out at http://www.sugarcrm.com.

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5 Responses

  1. […] to spark enough interest to do a demo for them next week. Thanks to my VP who sent me a link to a blog that a pastor wrote on how he felt that all churches should use Sugar. […]

    • I agree that a demo is perhaps the best way to do this. Many are non-technical, especially when you are dealing with deacons and elders who often have not grown up with technology at home or at school. I am looking at creating 2 to 3 demo sites so they can play and test each one out. I will create a SharePoint, SugarCRM, and possibly Microsoft Dynamics test sites. Hopefully someone has done the same out there for their client or their church?

  2. Hi, I read your article and have started looking at SugarCRM and vTiger as a way of tracking pastoral information etc. but because the CRM products are so tied to accounts, leads etc. I am finding it hard to imagine how you might set it up to use it for the things you described.

    Could you give me any feedback on the relationship between CRM objects such as leads, opportunities / potentials, accounts, contacts etc. and the church ‘objects’ we’re familiar with e.g. people, events, prayer requests, pastoral information etc.

    This would really help me, especially if you have a demo system already set up that I could maybe take a quick peek at.

    Thanks!

  3. I’ve been looking at CRM/ChMS solutions for some time now…I’m still not totally settled…but since I use bluehost for hosting, I figure I’ll take a try with SugarCRM (personally, I’m an ASP.NET/IIS guy…but there isn’t much out there in the way of crm/chms on that platform). Have you implemented SugarCRM for your church? Are you aware of a community of church users utilizing and customizing SugarCRM?

  4. I am looking at solutions for a large church doing very well in the community. I am trying to stick with open source solutions so that the design will have good product support and fairly easy to find plug-ins / add-ons. I am gathering plenty of information on what may be good things to put into the CRM, then I will be designing and testing two different platforms for them to decide which is best. Because this is work for the greater good, I setup a page to start keeping notes on both designs, failings, shortcomings, and positives from two different solutions. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or something you would like to see yourself and I will gladly share. I am going to try SugarCRM, SharePoint, and possibly Microsoft Dynamics. LIke SugarCRM, SharePoint has a free version as well. http://www.cybershield.net/church_crm
    I hope to compare SharePoint and SugarCRM, hopefully I will not get involved with Microsoft Dynamics since it is not free.

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