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bvcms

Newsletter #10
August 22, 2011

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Dear BVCMS Community,

This newsletter contains tips, information about new features, and announcments of upcoming events. See past newsletters.


User News & Announcements

This is where we keep users informed. Here are the latest news items and announcements from BVCMS.

New Online Registration Editor

If you are not currently using online registrations at your church, you will want to now! We have just created a new user interface for those who set up the organizations for online registrations. To view the Registration Settings page, just hover over the Other Management drop down menu and select Online Registration Settings. You can easily add other items such as Yes/No Questions, Age Groups, etc.wherever you see the green + beside the Add Item link. The Confirmation and the Instructions are easier than ever to edit, too.

We currently have two wiki articles about registrations and will be combining these into one comprehensive ‘how to’ document soon. In the meantime, if you have never set up a registration, start with the one that gives the basics about Online Registration as it outlines the various registration types, explains what the various options mean and gives you some examples. Then take a look at Online Registration Settings.

In addition to the Online Registration Settings option in the Other Management drop down menu, there is also an option named View Registration Document. You can actually go to that page for an organization that currently has registrations, click Edit, select everything on the page (Ctrl-A), and then right-click and Copy. Then go to another organization and select View Registration Document, click Edit and paste all of those settings into that new organization. Voila!

There is even a "Try It" link. After you save your changes to the settings, you can click this link to see what your registration will look like. Also, you can just copy that URL to send to your webmaster for posting on your website or put it as a link in an email.

Welcome to Our New Home at Rackspace.com

Bellevue Baptist Church has been wonderfully gracious in allowing bvcms.com to house its servers in their server room and use their Internet connection to host our 55 other churches that are now using bvcms.com. We have been there for three years now. We have planned all along to eventually host bvcms.com with a professional hosting company. This year we began to think about to whom and when we would move our site. We knew it would take some planning and careful implementation.

Our Internet service at Bellevue for the most part has great. However, over the past 9 months our customers have experienced an increase in downtime due to hardware failures, system upgrades, reconfiguration, and Internet connection issues. At the same time, we have been migrating our email sending capabilities first to Amazon's Simple Email Service and now to SendGrid.com as a way to begin weaning ourselves off of Bellevue's facilities.

Back in May, we began looking at Rackspace.com as a new home for our severs. We figured it would take about six months of planning and implementation. Our initial testing of Rackspace was successful and promising. However on Sunday, Aug 14, there was a hardware failure in one of the critical switch's in Bellevue's internal network. While we did get back to a working status within about 90 minutes, we decided to take the opportunity to "test" our disaster recovery plan by going ahead and making the move to Rackspace. So, the network went down at 12:30 and by 5:30 we were completely up and running with all 55 churches on Rackspace.com. The plan worked flawlessly.

By the way, nothing has changed in our relationship with Bellevue. They continue to be the primary supporter of the BVCMS open source software project and we continue to maintain their BVCMS servers at Bellevue, so the move to Rackspace has not affected the users at Bellevue in any way. Our previous servers still reside at Bellevue and we will relegate them to be our backup servers in case of problems at Rackspace.

Webinars have arrived!

A big thanks to everyone who has participated in our recent webinars. We had been promising these for a while, but you know how good intentions are. We finally got them started and we are very pleased with the turnout, the questions, and the comments. We recorded the webinars (and will do so with all those in the future) and have them available on our website. We plan to do three of these a month until we get a full course of them. Notice I called them a "course". That is because we plan to use the webinars as our primary means of training on BVCMS. This will be more convenient for you and your new users. And it will save you money and us time. When we bring on new customers, we always do an hour of free training. This way, we'll be able to concentrate that hour on specifics to supplement the webinar training videos.

Our next webinar will be about QueryBuilder. This is one of the most robust features of BVCMS and one that some of you are afraid to try. We hope to dispel any fear you may have and get you started creating your own queries.

Even More Goodness with VoteLinks

Any of you who have used Vote Links (or Vote Tags), realize how incredibly effective they are in getting people to sign up for something. The slightly difficult part was in the creation of the actual links themselves. Well, that is no longer the case! We are now doing all the heavy-lifting for you.

You now create your links on the same page as the Registration Settings for an organization. Just type in the text you want the person to see (that’s the link they will click), type in the shorter Small Group name, type in the Message they will see on the screen after they click the link, and lastly, click the Confirm box if you want them to receive an email confirmation. Simple! Be sure to compose the Confirmation email if you selected Confirm.

The next part is where the magic occurs. Go back to Other Management and select View Vote Tags. Presto! There are your Vote Links/Tags! Just copy and paste them directly into the body of your email.

If you are wondering how effective these are, here's an example: we sent out an email at 10:00 AM with a number of Vote Links asking people to select an area of service for an upcoming workday. Within minutes, people were clicking the links and registering. By 4:30 that day there were almost 300 people who had signed up! Why does this work so well? Because it is easy. Furthermore, with a confirmation email, their committment becomes "official" and they will be more likely to show up.


Development News

Online Giving

You asked for it, now we are about to deliver. BVCMS will this month be supporting online giving. As you know, BVCMS is a superb tool for entering, tracking and reporting of contributions. And we have been providing support for online registration payments for about three years. Then this last spring, at the request of another large BVCMS church, we added the ability to ask for a donation during the registration process which automatically creates the contribution record. So, you can see that it just is a small step to offer a complete online giving support for BVCMS. All we needed to do was to add the abilty to donate to multiple funds. And it supports a "Featured Donation" capability where you can ask for an additional special contribution before checking out.

To get started, you will need to establish a Merchant Account at one of three different merchant account providers that we support: ServiceU.com, Authorize.Net and SagePayments.

For a sneak preview, see some screenshots here.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men

Two things happened this month that remind me of Robert Burns quote that the "best laid plans of mice and men often go awry". One was the lesson learned when we rolled out Phase One of the new way to edit Online Registration Settings project. Phase two was to come after a couple of months. But it had to come less then 24 hours after publishing the first phase. The other thing that happened was the move to rackspace. Read more here.


Blessings,
David Carroll and Karen Worrell
Your BVCMS Team


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