Case Study: Managing your electoral roll
About the author...
Paul, and his wife Fiona, used to lead the Vineyard church in Bournemouth, UK, where they introduced ChurchSuite and My ChurchSuite to the church. Paul now heads up customer support and training at ChurchSuite.
In this article Paul explores how churches might use some of the features within ChurchSuite to help maintain and manage the church electoral roll.
The Parochial Church Council (PCC) of each Anglican parish church is required to appoint an electoral roll officer who maintains the electoral roll of lay members entitled to take part in the annual parochial church meeting (APCM). A new roll must be prepared every 6 years and revised annually.
ChurchSuite includes a number of features that can help with maintaining and managing your electoral roll. In this article we will focus on the Address Book, but since electoral roll members can be aged 16+, you may need to consider creating the same Address Book options outlined in the article in your Children module too.
While it's not currently possible to create custom forms in ChurchSuite for collecting online electoral roll membership applications, it is possible to use the Calendar module's event-sign-up functionality with custom event questions to reproduce the paper application forms. This method also has the advantage of applicants confirming they have read, understood and accept your privacy notice as part of their submission - giving you GDPR compliance in the process. You should check with your diocese that any online application process you use as a paper-form alternative is compliant with diocesan electoral role rules.
Whichever method you use to collect electoral roll applications - online or paper - the remainder of this article explores how you can manage approved electoral roll applicants in the Address Book and Children module, including how to record and communicate with those on (or not on) your electoral roll.
Who can be on the electoral roll?
Using the latest guidance from the Church of England, to be on the electoral roll a person needs to have been baptised, be at least 16 years old and either:
- Living in the parish and a member of the Church of England or a Church in communion with the Church of England
- Not resident in the parish but is a member of the Church of England (or a Church with which the Church of England is in communion) and has regularly attended worship in the parish during the six months prior to enrolment
- A member in good standing of a Church which subscribes to the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and they are prepared to declare themselves a member of the Church of England, having regularly attended worship during the six months prior to enrolment
In this article
Managing your existing electoral roll
Step 1 - Create a custom field
We would recommend beginning by creating a Custom Field called Electoral Roll, with options for Not on Electoral Roll and On Electoral Roll - you may wish to distinguish those residing in the parish and those outside parish, if your roll records provide that level of detail. Use a Radio List type - radios are generally preferable where there are 5 or fewer options to choose from; drop-downs are more commonly used for longer option lists.
Custom Fields are created in the Address Book module's options (see related article for how to do this). You may wish to perform a Batch Update to set everyone as "Not on electoral roll" as the default starting point, and make the field Required so that each contact must always be one Option or the other.
Now, when editing a contact's profile in the Address Book you can now select the appropriate electoral roll option.
Saving the changes to a person's profile, the Electoral Roll status is now shown.
Step 2 - Create a smart tag
Tags are a great way of creating custom groupings of people within your Address Book and this is especially helpful for an electoral roll. Tags are also extremely helpful when you need to communicate to just those in a particular grouping, like everyone on the electoral roll to let them know about the APCM.
Navigate to the Tags section of your Address Book and click to Add tag with the following settings...
Since Smart Tags match within the Address Book based on conditions, this tag will always remain up to date, reflecting the latest list of people who have a custom field option of "On electoral roll". This tag shows on each electoral roll member's profile page in the Address Book...
...and it's this Smart Tag that can be used any time to communicate with all electoral roll members - using the Communicate button at the top of the Tag page - perhaps to send an email to invite members to the APCM.
Step 3 - Assign a key date
Key Dates are ideal for managing the significant milestones and anniversaries in people's lives and discipleship journey. You can use key dates for all sorts of things, but a key date showing when someone joined (or left) the electoral roll can be very useful. We would suggest that the key date that is added reflects the date a person's electoral roll membership form is signed and dated.
You can assign key dates using the Add to key date option on a person's profile page...
...and you can also bulk-assign key dates that are the same using that same Add to key date option - use the Search for person option to add others to the list.
In both cases, recording a Joined electoral roll or Left electoral roll will also be helpful when your church has to produce an annual report of roll joiners and leavers in the previous year. To to this, use the Key Dates report to filter each key date for the range of dates reflecting your year.
Revising your electoral roll
Every 6 years, when the electoral roll needs to be revised. If you wish to reset the electoral roll status for all Address Book contacts back to "Not on electoral roll", simply delete your existing electoral roll custom field and save the changes to the module options to apply the change; and then return back to the module options to create a brand new Electoral Roll custom field, with the same options as before.
Adding a new electoral roll custom field will mean that no one in the Address Book will have any electoral roll option pre-selected. However it will be helpful to use the Batch Update option to change everyone's default electoral roll setting from "no option pre-selected" to "Not on electoral roll" being selected. To do this, tick to make the custom field Required and then click the Batch Update button to set everyone's default electoral roll option to "Not on electoral roll".
Once your electoral roll has been cleared and updated in this way, remove the "Required" setting for the custom field. You can now begin the task of processing new electoral roll membership applications received, setting each applicant's custom field option to "On electoral roll" and assigning a key date in respect of the date the form was signed.
Recording electoral roll member attendance at the APCM
A key metric required on the annual Parish Return is the number in attendance at the APCM. ChurchSuite's Calendar module includes a helpful event check-in feature that can be used to record a register of attendance at events such as the APCM. While the Parish Return only requires the total number, it's likely that your APCM minutes will need a register of names of those present at the meeting. Here's how you can do that.
From the APCM event in your Calendar module, select Go to event check-in.
While you're unlikely have a list of sign-ups for your event, you can enable "Address Book search". You may also find it helpful to turn off the "Confirm check-ins" and "Show checked in" options to speed up the check-in process.
As you begin to type in the name search (either first name or last name), the check-in list auto-updates the list of matching names, making it really easy to locate the appropriate church member and then check them in.
The counter at the top of the check-in page gives you the total number in attendance...
...and the full attendance list is added against your event back in ChurchSuite on the event's "Check-Ins" tab. Note that you might find it helpful to assign a key date to all those in attendance...
...which shows on each attendee's profile page in the Address Book. This key date can then be used in Smart Tag queries and reports, such as the Key Dates report.
Printing the electoral roll
A copy of the electoral roll has to be published (and a copy available for inspection). Under 2019 revisions following the GDPR, the published roll shall be a list of names only - addresses no longer need to be published.
If you are using the above workflows for maintaining roll membership with a custom field and a smart tag, it's then really easy to produce a report of names of electoral roll members. Here's how...
Head into the Address Book module's Communication section and select to communication By Tag...
Select the Electoral roll tag from the tag list, and click Apply tags to select the tagged contacts in that tag.
Using the CSV export option, click Options to select the fields to be exported to the CSV format report...
...only First Name and Last Name are required. You may optionally wish to tick the Electoral Roll custom field, so that this field is included in the output.
Click Export to CSV to complete the process and export the CSV format file of your electoral roll. This file can now be used for display and inspection purposes.
A further option for reporting the electoral roll is to use the Table Generator report, filtered for the electoral roll Tag, with Columns for just Full Name.
How are you managing your electoral roll?
The above suggestions use various aspects of ChurchSuite's functionality. How do you manage your electoral roll? We'd love to update this case study with your suggestions too - let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org