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 their church. Paul now heads up customer support and training at ChurchSuite, including helping other ChurchSuite churches looking to introduce the member-facing My ChurchSuite in their local church context.
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 a church electoral roll officer who maintains the church 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.
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
Step 1 - Create a custom field
We would recommend beginning by creating a Custom Field called "Electoral Roll", with options as follows. Custom Fields are created in the Address Book's module options area (see related article for how to do this).
By making this a required field, each contact in your Address Book will be required to have one of these three options - an empty electoral roll status is not permitted. It will be necessary to update any existing contacts with an electoral roll status once the custom field has been added. 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 distinguishing groups of people within your Address Book and this is especially helpful for an electoral roll. Tags are extremely helpful when you need to communicate to just those in a particular group, 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 [new] 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 on the electoral roll within or outside of the parish. 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 bulk-assign key dates that are the same using that same "Add to key date" option.
Revising your electoral roll
Every 6 years, when the electoral roll needs to be revised, you can use the Batch Update option for your custom field to easily reset everyone's electoral status back to "Not on electoral roll". Head into your Address Book module options and locate the Custom Fields settings. Click the "Batch Update" option.
You can now select the "Not on Electoral Roll" option from the drop-down list and "Update Values" for all contacts in the Address Book.
Once your electoral roll has been cleared in this way, you can begin the process of processing new electoral roll membership forms and assigning the new electoral roll membership status and key date.
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 "Event check-in" from the top of the page.
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.
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