Today’s client spotlight post is shining the light on the parish community of St. Helen in Westfield, New Jersey. Regpack works with St. Helen on 2 different projects: registration for their sacrament education and their year round events. For Sacrament Education, the system allows parents to register their children for courses based on the child’s age and the correct pricing is automatically shown for each family. Parents receive constant communication from St. Helen’s staff via Regpack’s messaging system as well. For their year round events, families can register for basketball, trips and as volunteers for church programs and classes.
Read on to find out why streamlining their communication and centralizing their data via a church membership management software has helped St. Helen bring the focus back from manual registration and onto their true purpose and passion, MINISTRY! Mike, St. Helen’s Director of Religious Education wants every parish to experience what it’s like working with a quality registration software like Regpack. With over 20 years of experience, he’s dealt with the headaches of manual and paper registration as well as other computer softwares that just didn’t go far enough to ease the burden of data management.
We thank Mike for taking the time to chat with us. We love having St. Helen as our client and are honored to offer them a resource that saves them time on admin and allows them to spend more time doing what they love!
Learn more about the Parish Community of St. Helen on their website and find out what’s going on via their Facebook page.
Hi Mike! Let’s start off by just learning a bit about St. Helen’s and what you do there.
I am the Director of Religious Education at St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church in Westfield, New Jersey. I oversee grades 6-10 and Confirmation but I’m also the guy most responsible for computerizing the whole place. I’ve implemented Regpack for all grades and Edgar, our Regpack Account Manager, and I have worked on a year round site so people can register for middle school events or basketball or any special events we offer at St. Helen’s.
What were you doing for registration before working with Regpack?
We were doing registration like everyone, on paper. We had a paper application that parents and church members had to fill out by hand and send in. Payments were either mailed, dropped off and we could only accept checks or cash.
Trying to register 1,600 kids by paper and to do it efficiently was hard. We found it most difficult to track payments and communicate effectively with our community. Our whole setup was difficult to manage and track data. We didn’t have our information in a shared database. Instead, it lived on 1 or 2 secretaries computers, and everything was either in Excel or Access. You also couldn’t email from any of those programs and it was really hard to know who was in what class. Realistically we lost a lot of money from people not paying since it was very hard to do follow up once people initially registered. Three, four or five months into a program you find out someone didn’t pay or didn’t pay enough or didn’t pay a late fee, or whatever it was, it was then very difficult to go back and ask them to pay and tell people they didn’t do what you wanted them to do because it was so far back and beyond the point of reason to ask for payment at that time.
So once you realized you needed to move away from your paper system, what led you to work with Regpack?
I had done online registration before at two other parishes where I had used another program. Previous systems I had worked with, however, were cumbersome. So this time, I did a lot of research for online registration software and other service providers to find a better option for St. Helen. I looked closely at 4 or 5 different systems and I chose Regpack based on several credentials. First and foremost, Regpack was very flexible. It would do what we wanted it and needed it to do and the prices were better than the others.
What features about Regpack really stood out to you and led you to ultimately using the system?
The fact that we could customize our questionnaire. Things that were important to us when we collect data, we could. Flexibility and customization of the questions we ask is the main reason why we chose Regpack. And all of our data was searchable using the filter tool, and that was really a selling point.
How have you used the reporting functions with Regpack’s system?
Having the ability to run filters for every question that we ask has made our line of communication both internally and externally just so much better. If a parent calls me and wants to switch their child from one Conformation workshop to another, I can do that and now that information is shared. All that stuff can now be emailed as well, so I can send updates to the parent for the right class and time so there are no mix-ups. If I want to send out an email to all the teachers that signed up for 1st grade, for example, I can do in 10 seconds. Before Regpack, that could never be done easily or correctly. That’s a major point and why we love the system.
Plus, we just use Regpack for everything else it offers. We ask a lot of questions, especially in particular to the grades we’re teaching. And each grade has something special about it, the questions that we ask, we can now do business very effectively and efficiently based on having it customized to the way we want it and need it. We streamlined our whole system, so every question, every release form, every detail about our program is now stored in Regpack.
Have you gotten any feedback from your community about the new system?
Most parents use the system to register and pay, and they are done for the year. But the benefits they are getting is that we can constantly email them, remind them of program dates or if there is a change in a meeting time, for instance. We can communicate with them based on the things they signed up for so that has been a huge help.
All the other sports and services in town whether the schools or the baseball or soccer club, they all register online. So, we were just catching up to what the other organizations in town are doing and using. We just modernized. Our community was in a position to receive our new system without problem so we never had any issue with our community using the system.
How has the dynamic changed for you and the secretaries who were previously managing all of the manual registration? Since you’re saving time, what have you been able to do with that free time now?
Our staff is more able to focus on little details that were overlooked in the past. We’re better able to program for and communicate with our parish. Our secretaries have more time to do the little things that were cumbersome and probably not done in the past or looked at as weeks of a burden to them. Tracking or going through 100’s of records and trying to find one piece of information for 2-300 kids, can now easily be done in minutes over days with Regpack.
That allows us to really focus and allows them to focus on being more organized, future planning and that’s really benefited our programs enormously. In the past we were struggling to stay current and we were probably even behind in those things, of tracking things or getting paid. Especially for our Sacrament programs. There are a lot of details, a lot of events that our kids do and the kids don’t necessarily sign up for them, we assign them to those things. Of course someone can’t make it here for whatever day or whatever reason and those little details ALWAYS got lost in the past. And as details get lost, people don’t send their kids or they are now mad or upset that they missed something and now they have to come on a day that’s less convenient. Having Regpack, we can be organized and we can send out reminders in advance and we’re catching mistakes. That’s made our program better.
Have you noticed an increase in your profit since using Regpack?
Absolutely. The money we collected this year, if you signed up for a program you actually paid. There is a noticeable difference as far as the money we’re taking in. It just became non-negotiable that you went online, the questionnaire was online and at the end of it it asked you to pay. You had a choice between check or credit card. People went through the process and had an easy time with it. And if someone didn’t pay or didn’t complete the application, we could easily track and immediately send them a message that there is required information they didn’t complete or you didn’t make your payment, please do so by the end of the week. Having that ability to do it the professional way allowed us to collect more fees.
Is Regpack worth the price you’re paying for the system?
It is more than worth it! Regpack has helped us. We’re in the business of ministry so it’s really important. It’s not signing up for dance or sports and your child might say “Mommy, Daddy, I want to do baseball this year” and because of that they’re anticipating going. We work hard for kids to have that attitude here but because it’s religion and not everyone practices all the time. So being able to be efficient with our admin and data work, will let us be better where it really counts. And create goodwill.
How is the customer service with Regpack?
Customer service is as good as it gets. I hope Edgar can clone himself because what he does is not easy and he’s been fabulous and as you guys grow I only hope you employ people just like him. He’s been amazing. Anything we’ve ever sent, I’ve been responded to in more than a timely manner. When we did have a couple of significant billing problems with e-check not working, the owner got involved and I was receiving the correspondence and phone calls from top people that assured me that everything was being done to fix the situation and that definitely happened. Up to today, the customer service has been superior.
Would you recommend Regpack to other faith and religious communities?
I already have recommended Regpack to several associates of mine and here’s why. I’ve been involved in church ministry for over 20 years. I know how difficult it is. I also know that being in the church we’re always lower, slower, no one wants to spend any money and we’re constantly thought of as 2nd, 3rd, 4th best because we don’t communicate well. We don’t have up to date systems and that’s why. Having a high quality program that’s affordable, that’s going to let you communicate better, is going to make your organization better and you’re going to have more time to focus on the little details to do real impact ministry.
We also no longer have people saying “I didn’t know about this going on” or “I forgot I registered for this event”. My attendance is another thing that’s benefited. My attendance at mandatory events has been perfect because we’ve been able to send multiple reminders to the right people and they are in the system so everything is current and we have the correct data. Everything is just totally centralized. The nice thing too is that you can have part-time users. Not everyone has to be the ‘admin’ and at $1 an hour, that’s a bargain!
You can spend days, your secretary can spend days figuring out who is on what retreat and who got sick, who couldn’t go, who switched what date. And if it’s all on paper or it’s only on one person’s computer, more than likely, unless that person is super good, it’s going to be screwed up. Regpack saves time, helps you communicate better and helps you focus on MINISTRY.