Monday mornings are no longer tedious over data collection

By Chris Byers

A new generation of software makes collecting and using data so much easier.

Churches know that their websites and online presence are necessary and helpful to share and receive information from members and staff.  A church without a website today is almost unheard of, and many tools have been created to make website creation easy. Still frustrating though is making a church website a useful tool for collecting valuable data from site visitors and the congregation.

Appropriate data collection can greatly increase responsiveness from church and website visitors.  Churches around the world attempt to collect basic contact information, commitments  and attendance information on the weekends. For a number of reasons, people don’t get around to providing this information. Whether it is lack of a pen or just ambivalence, today’s technologies can help increase this data collection.

There are many churches seeking signups and data for event registrations for the latest mission trip or weekend gathering.  Simpler data collection can continue to break down barriers to getting this data. Finally, collecting money for these events, or even for regular and one-time giving, can be halted because the right intentions still didn’t lead to bringing the checkbook to church.

Using the data
Even the church that is expert at collecting data through paper forms is required to figure out how to use the data. A typical Monday morning has churches around the nation using volunteers to type data into a computer-based system so that it can be used. Even then the data can’t always easily make the leap into the systems that track giving, newsletter subscriptions or attendance management.

Like the tools that make it easier to create websites, a new generation of software makes collecting and using data so much easier. Often referred to as SaaS, or software as a service, these tools are located completely online, thus making them extremely accessible, allowing you to initially use the products for free, and typically integrate with your website with great ease.  Today’s online web apps also allow almost any user, even with little technical background, to implement the software.

Every year, Church at Charlotte, Charlotte, NC, hosts many events including Bible studies, kid’s camps, Vacation Bible School, dinners, and much more. With so many events taking place in and around the church, an online application was needed to easily and quickly organize and collect information for each event. The existing process included using paper forms and having them mailed back in, along with a payment for each event. This process was time consuming, and getting the form in the hands of the right person was always a difficult task.

Looking for a solution
When the staff decided to do a website overhaul, Worship Pastor Chuck Jones knew it was the right time to begin looking for an online form solution.

Before the new website redesign took place, Jones did a Google search for online event registration forms and found a number of tools available to help. After reviewing all of the companies listed in the search, Jones selected Formstack, one of the form builders he thought to be the best value, considering the features and price.

Online form builders provide a great path for collecting data. Whether it is a one-time poll, survey, contact form, event registration, or even online giving, there is a form builder to simplify that process. Once the form is built, connecting it to your site can come in the form of a link or HTML and JavaScript embeds, creating the forms can keep the professional look and feel of the church website.

Good integration
Of the form-building options available today, the most effective integrate with complementary products. For instance, churches collect contact information for an eventual end goal. The best products will allow a visitor to enter their contact information online and then click submit. Once the data is received, behind the scenes the form can be built to automatically add the person to the email newsletter or to the church CRM.

Or, in another instance, a regular attendee might prefer to give online. Setting up debit/credit card giving can be very time-consuming and costly. Rather than going through that headache, find a form-builder that integrates with one of the basic payment providers like PayPal or even a more robust Authorize.Net or FirstData.

Church at Charlotte in the past 30 years has grown from a small rural church to a 2,200-member church. Once the new website went live, event registrations, feedback forms, and surveys all took place by using the online form builder. Not only does the application save the staff many hours, the use of features, such as conditional logic and smart routing, has also made it easier for the right person to receive the form once it has been submitted, reducing the task of finding out where the form needs to be.

Chris Byers is CEO of Formstack LLC, Indianapolis, IN.


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