My name is Will Rogers and I'm here to help guide you through choosing a technology. Now, right out of the gate I have to acknowledge that we have a bias with ServiceReef as we've seen this send tens of thousands of people on short term trips and take a next step in their missional journey. That said, I also must state that our bigger goal in all of this is to see more people mobilized to mission. I give you my word I will do my best to keep this resource as unbiased as possible.
So what does that mean? Simply stated, if you choose ServiceReef or any of our competitors, as long as you're mobilizing people to mission then that's a win for us. And the win for this resource is to help you make the best decision for you and your organization. I wish you the best in this process and especially in your ministry to impact the world.
Take a deep breath and take your time. Remember, ServiceReef (and any of our competitors) are all here to help you do your job better and to have great impact. How amazing that we're all in this for the same goal. Now let's walk through this process together and find the best missions management solution for your missions program.
Soli Deo Gloria!
You know you need a missions management solution, but why hasn't anyone built a roadmap for how you should go about this process? Here is a roadmap to guide you step by step through the selection process.
Don't start by looking at different platforms! Wait? What?! That's right, never start by looking at specific technology platforms. You always want to start by outlining your needs. Pull together a few key people and spend 30 minutes writing out everything you believe you need (and want) for this software to do for you. For extra credit categorize the ideas to help you better assess. Starting here helps you also keep a more objective approach as you are working to find a solution that meets your needs.
Now that you have a basic idea of what you want/need, you can start researching. Two good ways to research are 1. Google searches and then 2. asking what others are doing. Google searches will be simple as long as you have the right keywords. When it comes to what others are using, think about some other respected organizations and look into what they are using. This is why it's important for us at ServiceReef to let people know about some of the amazing organizations we get to work with each day... it builds credibility.
You're never going to know unless you try it! And by the way... this is going to take time. Each platform is going to do their best to show their tools on their sales and marketing pages, but they can't show everything - and you should never make a decision for a technology based on videos and screen shots. This is why it's imperative to start a demo for the platforms you are most interested in using. You're going to need to dedicate some time to do this and we recommend you have a plan. In the world of short term trips, the best thing you could do is set up a short term trip and invite others to apply. That will give you incredible insights.
Now it's time for you to evaluate the various platforms you've been looking at and determine which is best for you. Let's go back to step one now and pull out your brainstorm list of needs and wants. Start here and assess how these systems line up against your needs. In addition, we have created an evaluation worksheet to help your score platforms.
Soon you'll be ready for launch. Once you've had time to really learn the technology and study their tutorials, you will be ready to make your public debut. Go bold on this! This is a great time to make an announcement about rolling out this tool and communicating to everyone else how much this is going to help everyone in the process - to do more, impact more, engage more, and change the world. This is no small thing!
Lastly, be patient with yourself. Learning a new technology takes time. Can you even remember the first time you used Microsoft Excel or Word? Probably not, as they are probably commonplace to you now. This new technology will be there soon too. Take notes on the things you forget and in time, the repetition of using the technology will make you a pro.
Does it manage online fundraising? This is a given expectation of any tool that handles short term trip logistics but make certain to map out what exactly you want the online fundraising to look like. Do you want individual fundraising pages per individual? Do you want weekly fundraising emails sent to trip participants? Do you want team fundraising updates?
Is it simple for our staff to use? Any new technology is going take time to learn but make certain to find a system that’s both intuitive to learn and has the training resources you need to learn it well. You should feel like your software solution is part of your team and working for you.
Is it simple for our participants to use? Often, we shop for software from the perspective of the administrators but also make sure to think of the end user experience (your members) and if the tool has all the features and simplicity they need. Does it offer personal profiles? Does it offer sub-accounts for kids?
Can it scale to our ultimate vision in missions engagement? This is an important question to ask as you choose a solution. You might only host a handful of trips right now but does the solution scale to your growing needs? Also, does the solution help you not only handle short term trips but also scale into sending long term missionaries and helping people build their long term missional goals? This may seem way off, but it’s good stewardship to be thinking of this now.
Does it help mature your participants toward greater engagement? We have no doubt you will be asking all the right questions about the functions you need for short term trips but we also know you have desires to see your short term trip participants turn into so much more. Does the technology solution you choose have the ability to nurture and walk with people long after their short term trip? This is important as you want to keep the continuity of the engagement moving.
Do applicants need to fill out application data from scratch each time? Application management is complex and it can be very frustrating for your participants. Imagine filling out a 60 question application for a trip this summer to find that you have to fill out all the same questions again to apply for next summer? That’s not good! Does your solution offer the ability to retain application field answers to make it easy for participants to serve year after year?
Does it allow granular permissions to be given to your administrators? There are about a thousand different combinations of how you might see trip admins assigned, but the common thread is the need and desire to assign very specific admin permissions. Does your solution provide the right granularity (choice) of permissions needed for your organization?
Do trip members have dedicated fundraising pages? We discussed this above, but it is important to mention specifically. Does your solution offer each individual a personal fundraising page to help them fundraise, tell their stories, and build a community of support? Personal fundraising stories should allow for someone to raise funds online but also allow them to tell their story well so that donors are engaged in understanding your vision and impact (beyond the writing of a check).
Are trip participants notified of financial progress? What automated notifications are associated with your solution? It’s important that your tool helps make your communications simpler which means it should provide robust automated notifications along with tools to easily send “as needed” communications.
Does it help you tell your organization’s missional story? And last, but certainly not least, you are not only stewarding short term trips, you are stewarding the vision of your organization and telling a significant story. Does your solution offer a way for your participants to tell their story? Does it engage donors in that story? Does it offer a team blog tool that you can embed in your website?
ServiceReef has created a worksheet outlining over 100 questions you should be asking along with an assessment form. We recommend downloading this free assessment tool to help you make your best decision.
Making a mission trip software decision is rarely a single person's responsibility. We've seen this become a team decision for most organizations. This presents challenges, but this is also a really good thing. Our encouragement is to embrace the other departments in the process to help make this the best process possible. Remember that each of these groups have a job to do on their own and they are about your larger vision.
Obviously it's important to get approval from your boss anytime you're leveraging a new tool for your job. The best thing to consider here is balancing your goals against theirs. For example, we find that many administrators are looking for tools to help them more easily manage forms, finances, communications, etc. while on the other side we see many bosses looking for tools that increase involvement, allow ability for growth, help raise funds, etc. All that said, when you talk with your boss keep in mind how this tool will serve them and you. Make it a win-win for you both.
Your finance department also have a big stake in this process as they help manage the funds and keep all the donation and financial data properly managed. It's important to engage them in the process and show them how the tool works with finances, how it significantly helps you manage short term trips (and saves significant time), and helps your organization. Truth is that financial management takes time - you're looking for the solution that helps make life easier but it may still not be perfect.
Your technology department may be highly engaged or they may not - we see this all over the map for organizations who use ServiceReef. Either way, it's important to have a discussion with them to learn about their expectations (even if just out of respect). Most church or organization CRM systems don't have a strong enough mission management module - this is why organizations so often use tools like ServiceReef. You'll want to share how the platform you are looking to use opens its database of member data to integrate with your church or organization CRM.
Many churches have a communications or marketing department. It's also wise to check in with them to gather together your branding guidelines, logos, colors, etc. You will at least want to work with them to make sure your site is branded as closely to your organization website as possible.
We are going to wrap things up by digging into some expectations... both for the searching process but also for when you finally land on your solution. Below are six expectations we feel help set you up for the greatest success.
1. It Doesn't Solve Everything
We live in an amazing world with many great technology solutions but we are all still unique - our processes and our expectations are all unique. That said, it's highly unlikely you will find a technology that has everything you want or need. Just remember a technology is intended to help as much as possible so a tool that helps remove 18 or 20 headaches is a huge success for you.
2. Give it time
Learning a new technology takes time and there will be frustrations trying to learn nuances, processes, and features. Don't worry... you'll get the hang of it in no time. Just have this expectation leading into the launch of your new tool and you'll be much better in the long run.
3. Lead others to a decision
We discuss how this is often a team decision. Our encouragement and challenge to you is that you take the lead and help guide others to what is going to set you up for the greatest success in mobilizing people to mission. You are a leader and this is an opportunity for you to have a huge influence on your organization. Take the lead on the process and help guide others on your team to a great decision. If you don't, who will?
Our greatest desire is that you find a missions management technology that will help you expand your impact and influence in missions. This guide was designed to help you not only find the best software solution but far more so to help you have a greater impact on the world. If there is anything we can do to make this decision process easier for you (or even if you think we should add more to it), please let us know.
All the best as you continue to grow!