TouchPoint, a web-based church management system, started simply: a certain need was felt within the local church, and the response to that need grew into something bigger.
In many ways, this parallels Pursuant’s story. The company was founded when a group of people rallied around the idea of using innovative ideas and technology to help nonprofits reach more donors and raise more money.
Both companies applied forward-thinking technologies to their efforts; in turn, both Pursuant and TouchPoint grew exponentially.
Pursuant acquired TouchPoint, effective January 1, 2017. We sat down with TouchPoint Founder David Carroll and Pursuant CEO Trent Ricker to discuss where both companies began — and where, with this important acquisition, they are going in the future.
Church Executive: You’ve said that TouchPoint’s story parallels Pursuant’s. Can you expand on how this made the acquisition such a natural fit?
Ricker (Pursuant): When we first met David and learned more about TouchPoint and Bellevue Baptist [David Carroll’s church], we loved that the company was created by people who were serving the church, and that they were creating solutions to solve practical ministry needs.
Pursuant’s story is similar in the fact that the company was founded by people who came out of the non-profit space help other organizations tell better stories and effectively communicate to constituents. We’ve grown and evolved since then, but we really feel like being practitioners and constituents ourselves has been an important genesis for creating tools that can best serve the world’s leading nonprofits and churches. We believe that the parallel between Pursuant’s story and TouchPoint’s story made perfect sense when it comes to providing solutions to the local Church.
CE: Pursuant has said that it has ‘plans to accelerate investment in TouchPoint’s staff and product development, as well as integrate Pursuant’s growing suite of analytics and technology solutions to advance the mission of church leaders.’ What might this investment and integration look like, in practice?
Ricker (Pursuant): We’re still learning a lot. We want to learn from our customer base and the very loyal customers that TouchPoint has had. I think the clients are important to help shape the product road map. To answer the question directly — there’s still a lot that needs to be developed. We already have some developers on the product to evaluate ways to improve it and will combine those ideas with the feedback from current users. Then, we’ll put forth the product road map that best serves the clients and the church.
CE: David, we know that you developed the system for your own church, Bellevue Baptist. What led you to develop your own ChMS platform rather than enlist one of the programs already on the market?
Carroll (TouchPoint): Back in 2003 or 2004, Bellevue had decided that it needed to look at a new church management system. Since 1992, they had been using a custom-built solution and therefore were accustomed to having their own software, [but] they wanted a web-based church management system. There were only two on the market at that point, and they were new.
So, [the church] started building a new church management system with a contractor, but it didn’t satisfy the users. The reason it had problems was because they experimented with tools that were not suitable for web-based software.
In 2008, I was asked to come in and help solve those problems. We decided the best approach would be to preserve the database and rewrite the entire user interface from scratch. There was an urgency to get it done quickly. We finished in less than 10 months and the users were very pleased.
CE: What has TouchPoint’s growth looked like sense that point? How were you able to build a network of users with so many other programs on the market?
Carroll (TouchPoint): When we initially developed the software, there were no real plans to take it to the rest of the market at that point. However, by 2009, we decided to figure out how to sustain it, and what we could do with it.
We licensed the product as an open-source product — which means we were giving the software away to anybody who wanted to download and use it. We called it BVCMS: Bellevue Church Management System (which we renamed to TouchPoint a few years ago). We decided to continue building the software to meet Bellevue’s needs, but with an eye toward meeting the needs of other churches as well.
At the end of 2010, we had our first 25 churches. We gave our services away to first 25, and that’s how we got started. They gave us feedback and good experience with the system.
Since then, we’ve primarily grown organically, adding hundreds of both large and small churches who are using the system to increase ministry effectiveness.
CE: What kind of growth potential are you envisioning or hope to realize in the months and years ahead in terms of adoption of TouchPoint?
Carroll (TouchPoint): One of the things I’m most proud of is that most of [TouchPoint’s] growth has come through word-of-mouth referrals. It validates everything we do day in and day out. The more we can keep that same approach and keep telling our story, I think we will be able to continue our mission of helping church leaders be more effective.
Ricker (Pursuant): I think 2017 is going to be a year in which we’re engaging with our customers, but we certainly look forward to expanding the market. David is so customer-centric, and we don’t want to disrupt that whatsoever. We want to spread the good news of a product that’s been shaped well by client feedback and by a development team that’s really built a fantastic tool.
CE: In the press release announcing the acquisition, Pursuant’s Executive Vice President Curt Swindoll said that TouchPoint’s technology ‘will be integrated with Pursuant’s leading analytics and strategic services to create a world-class environment for church leaders.’ Can you explain how that integration might take shape?
Ricker (Pursuant): We built Pursuant to create a services platform that was comprehensive from a fund-raising perspective. I think the thought leadership that goes into that should also go into the products that will be on the keyboard of our end users in our technology solutions.
We really feel like our software-as-a-service product offering — and also our analytics and insights — are important to integrate in order to reach broader markets and, specifically, churches. We’re excited to take the things we’ve learned with churches when it comes to engaging people and funding ministry, and apply it to technology that’s affordable and accessible to churches of all sizes.
CE: Technical tools for the Church have existed for a number of years, and churches are now using social media, video and email to share the Gospel. What do you see as the next wave of tech-enabled ministry tools?
Carroll (TouchPoint): I believe an increasingly important area is that everything needs to be mobile-friendly. We really need to increase investment in apps, because the world is becoming more mobile.
Ricker (Pursuant): I would agree with that sentiment. We’re seeing many folks using their digital devices for their Bibles and taking them in to the sanctuary on Sundays. I think we’re going to see more churches having interactive sermons, with ways to engage those in the sanctuary and those who may be streaming from home. That’s certainly an area that we’ll continue to invest in with TouchPoint.
Carroll (TouchPoint): The next trend I would highlight is that I truly believe in automation and deeper analytics and insights and how these things will play an increasingly important role to help church leaders be more effective, particularly as they relate to connecting with people and making disciples. We use automation in TouchPoint to help ministers work smarter with what would otherwise be missed opportunities.
It’s easy for people to slip through the cracks if you don’t have the tools to help you keep track. In the same way that we use calendars to automatically remind us of meetings, we can let data inform us of ministry opportunities that would otherwise be invisible or forgotten.
Ricker (Pursuant): With technology, there’s an opportunity and a risk for churchgoers to become less engaged, because people can be digitally engaged in some ways but be disengaged as it relates to the community that the church is called to have. I think technology has to play an important part in continuing that engagement.
To David’s point, I think we need to consider congregational relationship management in terms of how we can truly engage the new visitor, all the way through to members and engaged families. The better we can engage and collect data and information about where they are in their journey with the gospel, the more relevant, personalized and timely our communications with them can be, to keep them engaged.
Reporting by Joyce Guzowski