The air conditioner is on the fritz in St. Michael Parish on this hot, summer afternoon, in Worthington, Ohio, but the parish staff members are feeling a cool sense of accomplishment.
It All Starts with Your Existing Data
After purchasing ParishSOFT in November 2006, they dove headfirst into their new software and immediately put it to work for St. Michael Parish. They placed their old system data into the hands of ParishSOFT’s data conversion team and were up and running in time for end-of-year processing.
Business manager Mike McCabe said, “I think a lot of people thought we were crazy to switch software before year-end, but we got it all done and used ParishSOFT to do our taxes.”
In a parish with more than 1,600 families, completing a successful data conversion, getting staff trained to use the new applications, and getting it all done in time for end-of-year tax reporting was an ambitious goal. And let’s not forget, Advent and Christmas came in the midst of those weeks of transition to the new system.
McCabe, whose professional background includes consulting and data management, laughed and stated, “I’ve been on the bad end of data conversions before, so I was prepared for anything; but support was wonderful – prompt and professional. I talked with Kristine [Collins, of ParishSOFT support] about an issue I’d discovered with the conversion. She immediately knew how to fix it and got it done.”
How Many Active Families Do You Have?
A successful new system was a much-needed update for the records at St. Michael. Their 1998 census reported 2,000 families, but active, consistent participation numbered only about 500 families. It was hard to know what they had from their previous data. According to McCabe, they would run a report in one module; then run the same report from another module and get different information.
In early 2007, they launched a census update initiative and have received a 40% response to date. Their census now shows a more accurate count of 1,600 families, with about 700 families consistently active in parish life.
Using CASS (address certification) To Save Mailing Costs
As their census cleanup continues, staff members at St. Michael have already saved hundreds of dollars in mailing costs alone. Using ParishSOFT’s Mailroom (CASS) tool, they have verified their family addresses with the United States Postal Service database and now qualify for reduced bulk mailing rates. McCabe reports, “The first time I ran CASS, I discovered tons of bad addresses. One-by-one, I looked them up in the local directory or Yahoo; and if I didn’t find them there, I picked up the phone and called. Now I have 99.625% of my 1,600 family addresses certified.”
Stewardship illustrates further improvements made possible with better data. When McCabe took over stewardship at St. Michael about three years ago, they had an 18% response to their stewardship renewal drive. The following year, response climbed a bit to 24%. In 2007, parishioner response nearly doubled to 40%, in part because it was just so much easier for staff to get information out of their ParishSOFT database.
St. Michael’s Stewardship Renewal Form is one of many forms that are available on their parish website. The parish asks each member of the family to make a commitment to stewardship, and their form makes it simple – members just choose from a complete list of all of the worship, education, parish life, and social concerns ministries that are available. A skills and services section collects information on other talents (e.g., carpentry, web development, plumbing, etc.). Members can also make a financial commitment using either envelopes or electronic giving.
St. Michael sent its first Bishops Annual Appeal letter this year using the MailMerge tool to create letters addressed to each family in the database. “We didn’t tell people how much to give, said McCabe. “We simply said ‘That’s between you and God.’ And in 2007 we significantly increased our contributions.” Their electronic giving participation is about 8% (nearly 130 families) and continues to increase steadily over time.
ParishSOFT Tightly Integrated with Microsoft OfficeÆ
The talented staff at St. Michael has accomplished so much over the past eight months, and McCabe credits this in part to the fact that they were already familiar with Microsoft applications, so their transition to ParishSOFT was easy. “They can be more independent now than they were on the old system. They can try new things without being afraid of breaking anything,” he adds.
St. Michael is now serving its 1,600 families and the greater Catholic community better than ever, and we at ParishSOFT are honored to be beside them each step of the way.
Visit the St. Michael website at www.saintmichael-cd.org or contact the parish at 614.885.7814.