August 11, 2010

My Ongoing Frustrations with Church Community Builder

UPDATE Sept 7, 2011 – I get lots of hits on this post because there are very few real reviews of ChMS systems on the web.  I still use CCB and at this time don’t plan to switch.  When I have some time I will post a new review.  I have not found another system that is easier or less money.  This does what I want.  Don’t avoid CCB because of this article. If you have actual questions, drop me a note.  I will try my best to answer them.  I just don’t want to cost CCB business because this is one of the few real reviews.

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update 8/26/2010: I have since updated my processes.  I am now able to generate a csv file that I do a mailmerge through Word to do my mailings.  I honestly don’t know how hard it is to incorporate an online document editor so I don’t hold this against the software.  Though you would think it could incorporate Word like Quick Books can do.

Now, as far as the pathetic email editor. . . I currently export all email addressed and import it to Vertical Response to do my mailings.  Again, not the simplest process but it works.

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August 11, 2010: For those who have followed this blog, you know that I had been looking for a decent church management software solution and in the end went with Church Community Builder.  Time and again I feel like that was not the best decision.  When I compare it with other solutions, I honestly don’t know if one is better than the other.  And for all the reviews that I read online, here are some of the key things I wish I had known before I bought.

  • <– see that bullet? You want one on a letter?  Too bad.  In fact, though Church Community Builder talks about how you can create processes and mail merge a letter to folks, you can’t format that letter beyond the return and space key.  So do you use tabs in your letter?  Not anymore.  Bullets?  Leave them at home.  Don’t want your correspondence looking like a form letter?  Too bad, recipient address goes at the top whether you like it or not. Want to address an envelope?  Better do it by hand.  The closest you will get is a mailing label.  Want any kind of graphic?  You would need to draw it in by hand.   Hope that letter is going to be printed on stationary because you cant just throw your header image and print on a color printer.
  • The email client lacks any tracking.  None.  Nada.  And it is not possible for folks to sign up for your email without completing a form and you adding them to the system after you get the email form.  So you have no idea how many folks read, or even received the email.  The basic functionality of constant contact or vertical response.
  • Speaking of email.  You better know html because there is not any email formatting beyond what you see on your keypad.  With all the open source rich html editors none are in the system.
  • Another key option I was looking for was an ability for people to sign up for a connection group from my website.  I thought I specifically asked that question and was told folks could.  Nope.  You can search for a group.  But that’s it.
  • I love the financial tracking.  But I can’t justify the cost for that one function.

As much as it pains me to say this, I am now going to look and see what it would take to switch to another ChMS. I know there would be a hefty fee but I am not sure if I can justify throwing good money after bad.

If your church wants folks to be able to look at stuff online, CCB might be great.  If you want to do anything with that information then it might not be the best solution.

40 responses to My Ongoing Frustrations with Church Community Builder

  1. I too share in your sentiment on the email tool. I was looking for solutions, and I cannot follow your idea. Your terms are unknown to me, so can you help me by elaborting what tool you use to compose your email messages through ccb?

    I just sent another blob of words and it is very bothersome to show ineptness with this tool to new parents of my 6th grade students.

    • As far as emails go, I only use the email functionality for brief to a few individuals. I think it is far better to use a real email service to do a weekly email newsletter, like constant contact, vertical response, or monkey mail. Here is what you do, do an all church report. Instead of choosing to display on screen, export it as an excel file. Then import the list to your desired email service. A decent one will only import the users it does not already have.

    • Another choice is to format the email in any html editor. Then take the html code and paste it in CCB. It will display correctly.

  2. For the record, it is incredibly easy to integrate an HTML editor like CKEditor.

    No idea why they don’t do that.

    • Might be because of licensing worries? I don’t think you can take GPL code and plug it into a proprietary-license web site.

  3. Hey, I’ve been looking at CCB and comparing it to The City by Zondervan. Have you looked at that? Are they able to handle the issues you have with CCB?

    • I like the ease of use of CCB when compared to F1. But no, I have not looked at the city by ZV.

    • I’ve been doing some investigation of City vs. CCB.

      For a 200 member church, City ends up over twice the price with the new Giving module.

      Really hard to justify.

      I like it, it’s just too expensive.

      • When compared to the alternatives I am happy with CCB. Compared with Word, or Pro-Tools, or WordPress, it has a long way to go but ChCM is such a niche market I guess you can only expect so much.

  4. An option that I use to open up a log of possibilities is XINHA HERE! add-on for Firefox which basically allows me to open up any form in a WYSIWYG edits with the buttons that you would come to expect.  I can use this to edit HTML mail merges, as well as on regular group emails or emails to individuals.  No matter where I am, XINHA is just a right mouse click away.

    Just a thought…although, I have seem some updates to the email tools going through BETA right now.  It will add some functionality to the editor which will help with basic communications but I use XINHA for the more detailed edits.

    Just a thought.

    David

    https://addons.mozilla.org/en-us/firefox/addon/xinha-here/

    • Kind of hard to have email templates that way. I use dreamweaver and mail chimp. While it would be nice to have all this rolled into one service, I don’t think any of the ChMS programs can replace a true email service.

      Besides, using an outside service makes the emails public. I don’t think there is a way to publicly archive emails in ccb.

  5. Hey there, how have you weathered these frustrations? We’re looking at CCB at present and I’d be interested to hear what you’ve found over time.

    • We renewed for another year if that tells you anything. I have just come to the realization that there is no one solution for all needs.

  6. Another solution you might want to take a look at is Best Attendance (http://bestattendance.com/youth), although it is mostly geared for youth groups.

    Much of the software on the market is big, complicated, and expensive. Best Attendance only does a few things, and it does them well. It’s great for taking attendance, sharing event calendars, sending emails, and updating membership records. It’s a web-based service available as a subscription.

    I know there are a lot of options out there, but if you’re looking for something easy to use, this one is pretty good.

  7. I too share similar frustrations but with Connection Power, a different web based ChMS. I think you are right that there is no panacea out there for ChMS… it just doesnt exist. I export database mailing lists, send from Constant Contact or from my own server if its a small enough list. I also want a “paper trail” and none exists with CP either. But the scheduling software is so great, and cheaper than buying this service via EventU or other vendors. We also just renewed. Its gonna have to do. :)

  8. If anyone cares I have updated this article. I need to post another one and link to it but I just have other things going on.

  9. Hey Carl, I care! Thanks for all these initial posts about CCB and the other vendors. We have chosen CCB after a long evaluative process, which I just blogged about. I linked to this post, as it helped me in the process. Thanks again!

    http://www.jpuddy.net/2011/09/12/choosing-a-chms-vendor/

  10. I think it would be advantageous to incorporate a mailchimp plugin or a series of customisable templates within the message options. I am asking too much?
    There appears to be some traction for a couple of ChMS options now. including a basic one called http://Elvanto.com as well as http://www.bvcms.com/

  11. Just wondering if you ever looked at Elexio?

  12. Thank you for the detailed post – it can be really hard to find genuine information. I wanted to quickly mention Group Spaces, which is the company that we are likely going to use for our church management. I’ve written up the following, to share with our board to help determine the direction, and I thought I would share in case it helps someone else …

    Pros

    * Very easy to get the membership list loaded and ready to go.
    * Simple intuitive interface for managing a number of mailiing lists. (we could have communications@uufw.org, grounds@uufw.org, … very easily)
    * Can track lots of information about members – picture, mailing address, phone numbers, etc…
    * Nice interface for searching / listing members.
    * Cheap – what we want will likely cost 12/month – will need to play for it to use our existing domain name – otherwise we can use it for free.
    * Supports file and photo sharing
    * Great integration with existing web site – embeddable forms for signing up to our mailing list, showing our event calendar, etc…
    * Excellent event management – even manages charging for events and limiting sign-ups.
    * Excellent Facebook integration – you can export events to facebook, and synch rsvps from one to the other.

    Cons

    * File and photo sharing are pretty basic – may not give us much over what we have already.
    * Every member must have a single email address – so it doesn’t work well for people without an email. (a word around is to use a bad email address, group those members, and then export to excel for printing lables).
    * No concept of families or couples – every individual will be treated separately.
    * No snail-mail integration – you can’t print labels etc … However, you can export the database to excel, and print the lables from there.

  13. We have just begun using CCB and I am so frustrated with trying to set up a schedule for our volunteers. I have 4 teams that serve once monthly: Week 1, Week 2, Week 3, Week 4. the way it is set up now, I have to delete all the names and then add the new ones every week. Since I have been told that I have to use CCB to schedule our volunteers, I can no longer use regular email to send reminders. Any suggestions on how I can set up schedules for the four different weeks of the month?

  14. How do I put in a ticket? When I go to ‘help’ it directs me to our church’s administrators who don’t know the answers, either? Thanks for replying to my email, though… :)

    • There are two people from every church who have support rights. Ask one of them to put in a ticket asking how to do this. It should not be that complicated.

  15. to Meg
    Your problem is an easy solve.
    1.create a schedule
    2. assign positions
    3. attach people to those positions.
    4. Create a schedule for one of your assigned service times
    5. start your shedule at a certain week finish it a a future week (eg. in 30 weeks time) and then create your schedule.
    6 Click ‘assign volunteers’ on the right and you will have a 5 week schedule where you can assign people to the position.
    *** 7. Then. If you hover over the date you can click and drag a whole team to another date. In your case you would drag the 1st week to the 5th (the start of your new rotation).

    The enormous problem that CCB has it that it only displays 5 weeks at a time but if you go to the ‘actions’ tab and you ‘reselect dates and times ‘ you can select the dates for every 4 weeks and then you can drag and copy your team to each of those dates you will have your schedule filled for that one particular team and you would repeat the process for the other three teams.

  16. I am searching for software right now and THINK CCB will meet our needs. I am wondering how you feel about the software now that you have used it for awhile. We made a change earlier this year and are unsatisfied and now looking at another database change. Please advise if you have found anything better or if you now find it works well. Thanks for your help.

    • CCB still meets my needs. I use it mainly for tracking giving, group communication, and tracking contact info. I have no idea if another option would be better. This seems simple enough.

      My only real beef right now is no Android app though there is an iOS one. They have a mobile version of the site but it lacks functionality for some strange reason.

      Now that you have used a Church Management Software Solution you should know what will and won’t work for you. I would test them all and retest them.

      If you have any questions feel free to shoot them at me.

      • Our church is using F1 and our contract expires June 30. F1 does some amazing things but none of our ministry leaders are using it. After the demo of CCB I thought that it looked alot more user friendly.

        You can’t attach a file over 512 KB in an F1, but you can in CCB, correct?

        Your last post was 4 months ago. Has anything gotten better?

        We had been using MailChimp and we just started using BombBomb.com since it integrates with F1 groups. CCB now integrates with BombBomb.com. That is what we’ve been sending out weekly emails with.

        Volunteer, building and equipment scheduling are so cumbersme in F1, but looked like once the system was set up, CCB would not be so difficult. We haven’t “jumped ship” yet. ELEXIO is the other system that we are comparing. Does anyone else have experience with it?

        • I just signed another one year contract.

          Every group uses CCB in our church, though our average age is in the early 20s. I think volunteer scheduling is terrible but others say they can use it.

          I honestly don’t know the attachment size, though I am sure it has to be larger then 512K because I have uploaded files and shared them with classes I was teaching. It is all stored on the Amazon cloud, like the rest of the web.

          I have never heard of bombBomb. We use mailchimp for everything except the church wide weekly email newsletter. That is mailchimp. I have a standard report that shows emails updated in the last month. It exports as a spreadsheet which I can copy and paste into CCB.

          We are a small church so equipment scheduling and such are not something we use. Like I said, I am fairly tech savy and I could not figure out how to do the volunteer scheduling. Made me extremely frustrated.

          Knowing what I know now, I don’t regret using CCB but by this time next year I will have a firm understanding of what every other system does in comparison. Part of my reason with going with CCB was that I had two demos with F1 and neither one answered questions I told them were critical for me. That and the contribution tracking was so complicated. CCB giving tracking is really simple if you plan to track it that way.

          Never heard of ELEXIO. Plan to look into that bombbomb integration.

          • Just looked at BombBomb. If the current email fix is to partner with someone who will charge me another $500 a year just for a decent email program then I am definitely going to be writing more posts about my search for a new ChMS.

  17. Carl, Implementation Coaching of CCB… it’s a hefty ticket. Is it necessary?

    • I didnt purchase it. Though I dont know how much we are missing I just couldnt justify it.I lead a small church so there are a certain number of features that dont apply to me.

      I think you also have to be realistic about your level of technical expertise.

      They have video tutorials and tech support is quite good. But it takes a while to wrap your head around pocess queues.

      • Regarding bombbomb… it’s $384/year for non-profits. I know it’s only a small break, but we feel it’s worth it to get those features.

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