Every ministry depends on software. It’s easy to think we are getting the budget together or creating a marketing campaign or working together without thinking specifically of the different inputs, intersecting stakeholders, or timelines involved.
Whether your parachurch ministry is relatively young, in its middle distance, or well-established, there is never a bad time to examine the software in your ministry for needed repairs.
A critical component of software implementation for your parachurch ministry is which software is organization-wide and which software can be used in smaller areas without causing disruption. Competing software can be worse than no software at all.
So, here are the 9 types of ministry software needed for any parachurch ministry.
1. Bookkeeping software
How are you keeping track of all that’s coming in and out? A.S. Parker writes,
“Keeping up to date with how your business is doing financially is imperative for the business owner. Keeping track of expenses will help you to make good buying decisions.”
This is true for all in- and out-flows for the parachurch ministry.
Online options like Quickbooks, Zoho, and Freshbooks, might be solutions once you grow beyond an Excel spreadsheet and physical checkbook. Human options might include the accountant or bookkeeper down the street. Virtual bookkeepers are usually an affordable alternative, as well.
The key question is, “Does the effort to keep books the way we always have hinder the mission of our organization?” If yes, it’s time to change.
2. Fundraising software
Parachurch ministries that are not raising funds systematically are not long for this world. Every parachurch ministry needs consistent communication with their donors to facilitate long-term relationships that rehearse the vision, keeping people’s hearts and minds attuned to your ministry.
Who is communicating to your ministry? Who is its voice?
What are donors being asked to support? Is it relevant? Is it important?
How are they being asked to give? Do they know the ways they can make donations?
Amping up your fundraising is why Anedot exists. Anedot has helped more than 20,000 organizations raise more than $1B (that’s billion) to help fund their organizational mission.
They can help you with finance (as both a processor and a platform), text-to-give, recurring giving, QR codes, lead generation, and more. Go here to find out more.
3. Payroll software
Though some organizations still rely on manually processed checks for payroll, a large portion (even of moderately sized organizations) are using some type of automated payment system.
Are your payroll checks going out on time? Does everyone receive the amount they are due? If not, you should research how to implement a payroll system that works properly.
Few things dampen employee morale like not getting paid on time. With so many people living week-to-week, a missed payday can create a cascade of bounced automatic payments of their own.
Unless your organization is prepared to cover all those insufficient payment charges.
4. HR software
Are your employees and volunteers happy? If not, what are you doing to understand why? Managing your people is at the top of your list of “must work” systems for your parachurch ministry.
As Christians, we believe human beings are created in the image of God (the Imago Dei), so we cannot treat them poorly.
Institute an anonymous system for negative feedback. Instituted a reward system for positive ideas.
5. Project management software
Are you having trouble getting your organization from A to B without losing your way?
Do projects languish for lack of knowing what has been done, what needs to be done, what’s expected to be done and who’s expected to do it? Can you make a case for why the project needs to be done in the first place?
Are you living by SMART goals? Is the project funded?
If the answer to most of these questions is “yes,” and projects are still not getting done, maybe you need to review your project management system. As ClickEgg notes:
“Project management software helps with breaking down projects or processes into actionable tasks that can be assigned to individuals, then given a start and end date to help with finishing each component on time. Using pen, paper, emails, and simple calendar invites is so 2018. This is how you lose contacts, cause team members to not know what to work on next, and make budgets impossible to manage. Starting a new project shouldn’t make you feel like a dog’s chew toy. You should be energetic and confident. If you feel chewed up after a project’s completion and dreading the next one, you need this software.”
6. Productivity software
Sometimes systems break down because we try to implement a bunch of different tools that don’t play well together.
We can complain all the live-long day about Apple’s ecosystem’s exclusivity, but ecosystems that work well can be very helpful. Apple’s iWork, which includes its three popular office tools (Numbers, Pages, and Keynote) work nearly-exclusively within Apple’s ecosystem but aren’t designed for online collaboration.
Google’s Workspace (formerly G-Suite) and Microsoft 365 are the behemoths in this area. (Here’s a review from Style Factory and one from PCMag.) Microsoft 365 includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook (mail and calendar), Teams, and more. Workspace includes Drive, Meet, Gmail and Calendar, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and more. Microsoft has the advantage of being both an online and desktop solution.
Whatever suite you choose, one clear advantage to allowing everyone to do what’s right in their own eyes, is that every employee and volunteer uses the exact same system. Cross-platform user confusion drops and productivity increases.
Be mindful that there are many, many productivity tools, but far fewer suites of tools designed to work together.
Take care that if you cobble together a system from tools that don’t all integrate, your hoped-for Formula 1 might be a jalopy and your employees might, out of frustration, default to what they had been doing.
7. Calendar software
Sharing calendars is one of the most effective methods one can use to bring your calendar system to order.
Avoid the hassle of multiple emails or text asking,
“How about Tuesday morning?”
“No. How about Wednesday afternoon?”
“Open in the morning.”
“I’m not. Dentist. Friday morning?”
And so it goes. With shared calendars, you can search for open time periods for one, two, or five people, then schedule the time with automatic invites and be on to the next thing.
While there are tons of apps (Zapier has a great list of five calendar apps while Android Authority lists ten apps for Android phones), using a calendar as part a suite solves any integration hassles.
The primary point of the Calendar System is less the tool that how it is used. No matter which platform you choose, you can save time by making appointments through the calendar.
8. Workflow software
Is there a bigger challenge to managing workflow than email? The urgency many feel when looking at an overflowing inbox to do something—anything!—to respond to all of them not only stifles workflow it fashions a workflow of its own.
As HBR warned over five years ago,
“Accompanying the rise of this technology was a new, unstructured workflow in which all tasks — be it a small request from HR or collaboration on a key strategy — are now handled in the same manner: you dive in and start sending quick messages which arrive in a single undifferentiated inbox at their recipients. These tasks unfold in an ad hoc manner with informal messages sent back and forth on demand as needed to push things forward.”
Workflow management “refers to the identification, organization, and coordination of a particular set of tasks that produce a specific outcome. Workflow management is all about optimizing, improving, and automating workflows wherever possible to increase output, eliminate repetition, and reduce errors.” (Source)
Unstructured workflow is a time and productivity killer.
It may not be necessary for everyone to adopt the same workflow since you can automate enough to keep everyone moving in the same direction. (Check out this list of 20 workflow management software applications for options.)
9. Communications software
How does your organization communicate? Do you under communicate or over communicate? Does pertinent information get to the stakeholders that need it?
We live in a world that is inundated with information and people battle overload all day every day.
A company email, chat, or other reminder is not guaranteed to get through the vast quantity of data humans have to process. All employees’ need to mentally detach from work communications (and enjoy their actual lives).
This raises the likelihood of communications being missed at times.
Repairing broken communications requires standardizing how your employees will communicate, both using tools and priority of tool. Is a text more urgent than an email? Should an email specify a level of urgency?
Ambiguity is not the friend of communication; it is an enemy. Strive to implement a software system that brings communication clarity in both content and priority and you’ll be better prepared to reach your ministry goals.