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, using insights provided by several Church of England customers, 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 Church of England parish church are 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 is prepared every 6 years and revised annually.
ChurchSuite includes several features that can help you maintain and manage your electoral roll. In this article, we will focus on the Address Book, but since those age 16 or over may be eligible to join you may need to consider creating the same Address Book options outlined in the article in your Children module too.
You can reproduce the paper application forms for electoral roll membership in ChurchSuite by adding a Form, which can be customised to collect online responses from those requesting to join the roll. An Example form can be installed, but do check that your form complies with the current Church Representation Rules.
Forms have the distinct advantage of enabling you to collect personal data in a GDPR-compliant manner, with a simple and clear user experience for prospective roll members wishing to join. See our related support articles for further information on Adding forms and Managing form responses. One area of interest may be the smart-linking functionality for form fields, which can be used to connect fields on your form to the 'people' fields in ChurchSuite; making updating personal details through a form response much easier. You can make your form available through your website, and share form links in your communications and on social media if you wish.
Whichever method you use to collect electoral roll applications - an online form or paper-based form - 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) the electoral roll.
In this article
Managing an existing electoral roll
Step 1 - Add a custom field
Begin by creating a Custom Field perhaps called Electoral Roll, with options for Not on Electoral Roll and On Electoral Roll. You can further customise these options to further distinguish between those residing in the parish and those residing outside the parish if you wish. Use a Radio List type - radios are preferable where there are 5 or fewer options to choose from; drop-downs are more commonly used on forms for longer lists of options. See the related support article for further information on Adding custom fields.
You can use the Batch update option for a Required custom field to set everyone as "Not on Electoral Roll" as the default starting point. Setting the field Required ensures each contact always has one Option Response.
Now, when editing an Address Book contact's profile you can select the appropriate Electoral Roll option.
Saving the changes to a person's profile, the Electoral Roll status is now shown.
Step 2 - Add an electoral roll 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. This example has two Electoral Roll custom field conditions - one for 'in the parish' and one for 'not in the parish', and will return an aggregated list of all Electoral Roll members.
Smart Tags continually match against the data in your Address Book based on conditions set, meaning that the tag will always remain up to date reflecting the latest list of people who have a custom field option of "On electoral roll". The smart tag is also shown on each electoral roll member's profile page in the Address Book...
...and it's this Smart Tag that can be used to communicate with electoral roll members - using the Communicate button at the top of the Tag 'View' page - perhaps to send an email inviting roll members to the APCM.
Step 3 - Assign key dates
Key Dates are designed to mark significant milestones and anniversaries in people's lives and discipleship journeys. You can use key dates for all sorts of things, but a key date marking the date someone joined (or left) the electoral roll can be very useful, perhaps added for the date each person's electoral roll form is signed/dated (rather than the date the key date is added by a user). You can assign key dates using the Add to key date option on a person's profile page...
...or you can bulk-assign the same Add to key date to multiple people - click in the People field on the pop-up to search for others to add to the list.
In each case recording a Joined electoral roll or Left electoral roll will help if your church needs to produce an annual report of roll joiners and leavers within a range of dates. You can easily do this using the Key Dates report to filter each key date for the range of dates reflecting your year.
Revising the electoral roll
Every 6 years the electoral roll is typically reset and a new roll is taken. If you wish to reset the electoral roll status for all Address Book contacts back to "Not on electoral roll", you can delete the existing Electoral Roll custom field, which will remove all knowledge of the old roll from the module (but still retain their historic key dates). You can then add a new Electoral Roll custom field with the same options as before (see earlier in this Case Study).
You can then begin the process of collecting new electoral roll applications and setting each applicant's custom field response 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
An important metric required on the Annual Parish Return is the number in attendance at the APCM. ChurchSuite's Calendar module includes several features that may be helpful when holding an APCM:
Adding the APCM event to the Calendar module, you might consider using the event sign-up functionality to encourage electoral members to let you know they're planning to attend. In this example, I have restricted event visibility in My ChurchSuite so that only those in the Electoral Roll tag will see this event (although you may have an interest in a wider audience). Event signup has been limited to those who have been sent the Event Page URL (perhaps in an email from the church office) and those who have My ChurchSuite access. You might also consider using the Send invite option to invite the Electoral Roll members to the APCM, which would enable you to track accept and decline responses and follow up with those who haven't responded. See our related support article for further information about Event invitations and Event visibility.
The Event check-in option can be used to record a register of attendance at the APCM event. While the Parish Return only requires the total number present, your APCM minutes may likely require a list 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.
On the Check-in page adjust the Settings to Show not checked in and Search Address Book.
The list of matching names filters as you type in the Search (either first name or last name), making it easy to locate the appropriate member and check them in. This could be an on-the-door task as people arrive, perhaps being done discretely by your Welcome team using a tablet or smartphone - any designated event overseer will be able to access the event check-in page to record attendance.
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. After the event, you may also wish to bulk-assign an "Attended APCM" 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
The Church Representation Rules suggest that a copy of the Electoral Roll should be published (and a document available for inspection). Under 2019 revisions and following the GDPR, the published roll should be a list of names only - personally-identifiable data such as roll member addresses should no longer be published. If you are using the above workflows for maintaining roll membership with a custom field and a smart tag, it's a simple process to produce a report of the names of Electoral Roll members. Here's how...
Head into the Address Book module Communication section and select 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 (deselecting any fields not required in the report) to the CSV format report...
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.
Another option for reporting electoral roll membership is using the Table Generator report filtered for the Electoral Roll Tag, with Columns for just the Full Name selected.
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