Author Topic: Start up datastructure advice for churches  (Read 2523 times)

Offline dflorence

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Start up datastructure advice for churches
« on: February 15, 2013, 09:48:58 am »

Hy name is David Florence. - Ive become reasonably adept at using CIVI having set up Civi (on Joomla) for a number of Community groups where organisation and individual contacts have been used, but not households.

Having met Lyndsey at CiviCon, I realised there was great potential for my own Church to use it and we're now in the process of setting it up. (We're a Church of England)

Be really grateful for any pointers on the best way to get the data structure right. CIVI gives us so many good ways to organise data, I feel its important to get this right at the start. For example, is it best to use the membership feature to record Church membership, a group called "Church members" or use a custom data field? (I guess not a tag)

Also I'm realizing Households is going to be very important here: like all Churches we have church members who are members of households with non church member people in. We obviously want to record names,etc of children and partners, but is it worth using households or just to add individuals and set the address sharing feature so children, spouses, etc share the same address...

In all probability we would meet an individual first and in recording this we would create just an individual contact. It would be some time after (perhaps following home visit) that we would be adding partners or children as additional contacts. - I may have this wrong, but it looks like creating a household record at the inclusion of the second household member is going to be unwieldy because we would have to transfer the home address of the original contact into the household contact, then set the originial contacts address as a shared one with the newly crated household, then add an additional household member, sharing that address etc. - Thats whats making me wonder if there is a more efficient way - is it worth having a workflow which always involves creating a household if it doesn't exist right at the outset: i.e. having households of one.  I can see both advantages and disadvantages in this and would really like to get it right from the start.

The main aim would be for the vicar and curate, to be able to access the same information, and other Church staff see more restricted data. I really want to create a standard workflow to keep things simple for these people, I fear they may get confused about household and individual addresses....

Would be really helpful if Churches could offer any tips on helpful ways they have their contact data organised ...

Offline Tony Horrocks

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Re: Start up datastructure advice for churches
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2013, 10:12:25 am »
You might try contacting

They are a faith based organisation that use CiviCRM extensively.
Tony Horrocks
Author of the CiviCRM CookBook

Offline SarahG (FountainTribe)

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Re: Start up datastructure advice for churches
« Reply #2 on: February 16, 2013, 06:43:23 pm »
I  have been involved in using CiviCRM for many religious organizations. ( primarily synagogues, but also a smattering of churches)

In my experience:  The low-tech staff, low-tech clergy, and lay leadership of the congregation  always expects to look up and report on households/family units. Therefore they always make use of the "household" contact record whenever there there is more than 1 person in a household. ( such as a couple, or a couple with children, or a grandparent raising their grandchildren)

As you mentioned, the first point of contact is with an individual, who at that point you have no idea if they are married, have kids, etc.    so at that first point of contact they are recorded in CiviCRM as just an individual with their own address.

At a later date when the congregation learns that the person is married/has children/etc  they edit the existing person's address and mark it as "shares address with... New Household"  By doing that, CiviCRM will add a "household member of" relationship and mark the address as shared in one step.   Once that first step is done, they click "Create New... Individual" and record the details of the partner/spouse and also click the "shares address with... existing household".  This second step creates a "household member of relationship" and "shares address with" in one pass.

Your other question about membership:  This is normally done as a "membership type" of "family membership" with a duration as "lifetime" that covers the typical family relationships. (ie spouse, partner, parent/child).   The "family membership" type is used when both adults and all children belong to this congregation and are all considered members of this congregation.   Then I also create a membership type called "Interfaith family" that only covers that individual and their children, but NOT the partner/spouse.    The "interfaith family" membership is used when only one adult is a member of the congregation and participates with their children. (ie the children are in Sunday school) but their spouse does not participate.

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Offline robinhood

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Re: Start up datastructure advice for churches
« Reply #3 on: February 17, 2013, 04:24:41 am »
On the households question, in addition to keeping track of families, we use households for sending snail mail, since aggregating individuals into household groups reduces mailing costs.  We use a modified version of this script to do this automatically.  It saves a lot of manual labour.

Offline LindseyM

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Re: Start up datastructure advice for churches
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2013, 05:48:09 am »
Hi all
A few thoughts from me:

Membership - I looked into using Civimember for this but felt that it was primarily set up for membership organisations using paid/recurring memberships and was therefore too cumbersome for our needs. We have a custom field where you can just choose one option eg Newcomer, Member, Update (which means someone has moved on and just receives postal updates a few times a year from us). We're a church of 1500 adults and this approach has served us well. What you do get with Civimember is the ability to run reports on new members etc but we've worked around this and create our own Drupal views/reports to show us new Newcomers/members etc within chosen date ranges.

Households - we create a household straight away unless we are dealing with a single person as we only use households for couples or a single adult with a child. We chose to use households (HHs) rather than just 'share address with' as we have lots of community houses with up to 30 people living in them and we wanted to be able to record single people and families living at the same address whilst retaining a knowledge of the various family units. This can also be an issue if you have a student population sharing houses. Be aware that some functionality re HHs doesn't work currently eg when you 'merge mailing labels for contacts belonging to the same HH' it just doesn't work. Also, if you do an export and 'merge HH members into their HHs' you won't see the names of individuals in the HH which makes creating an address list problematic. 

I can tell you more David so do email me on and I'll give you my phone number so we can chat further and more specifically. I'm currently in touch with lots of senior administrators/managers from medium-large UK churches who are interested in the possibility of using Civi.