Growth and engagement are both goals for most parishes. However, you can’t build either without connecting with your parishioners. And you can’t connect with your parishioners if you don’t have updated information to reach them. Sure, you can send out a paper census through the mail or pass it out before Mass, but is that really the best way to collect the most data?
Your parishioners are busy, and your parish needs to meet them where they are to ensure the most success when conducting your parish census. What better way to do so than through your parish management solution, PDS Church Office?
Let’s take a look at how PDS Church Office helps you create a census for your parish.
Create your online registration form
Creating an online form for your census means your families can complete it whenever and wherever is most convenient for them. In PDS Church Office, you can create your online form and registration data completed by your parish families will automatically be saved and ready for review.
So how do you create the form? Navigate to the Family Processes section and find Family Online Registration. You’ll see the option to Create Web Registration Form, and then you’ll be given options to select what data you want to collect for your census and what fields you want to be required for completion. This may include sacraments received, marital status, contact information, and much more. If you need help deciding what you should collect for your census, check out the Conducting a Parish Census this Fall blog.
Once you have your fields selected and you’ve previewed your form, you can enter the email address for the staff member who will process the census data so they can receive a notification each time a family completes the online form. You’ll also be able to compose a confirmation email thanking each family for completing the census, and even redirect those who complete the form back to your parish website. Once you’ve finished setup, files will be ready to send to your website manager to embed online.
Helpful Tip: Be sure to select Mobile-Friendly View so those on-the-go can complete the form on their tablet or smartphone.
Email your online registration form
You may be thinking, “How can I be sure everyone sees the form even though it’s online?” Well, email is your answer. When you are looking at Family Processes, you can select Create and Email Registration Form. This walks you through the same process as above, but gives you the option to email your families the same form. You can choose to email a blank form, or send a pre-filled form with existing information you have on file for each family. This allows them to simply scan over their information and update anything that’s changed.
If privacy is a concern, you can password-protect the emails with existing information. If Password Protect the Email Form is selected, your families will receive two emails: one with the form attached and one with the password. They will be prompted to enter the password once they open the attached form. Upon completing the form, the staff member you added during the setup process will receive an email.
Review and update your information
Once you’ve received information from your parish census online and email forms, you can review the information collected, add new families, or update existing family records in PDS Church Office.
You’ll once again navigate to the Family Processes section and choose Family Online Registration. Once you select Check and Register Families, you’ll see those completed forms. You can select the families you want to create or update records for, review the information, make any necessary changes, and even match the information with existing family records.
When matching with an existing record, you’ll see differences between the data you have already and the new data collected highlighted in blue text, and you can select which data to keep. Once you’ve selected which to keep, the blue text will turn green. If you have many forms to process, they will be batched in groups of 25 at a time, allowing you to move from batch to batch and take breaks in between.
Using an online and email form through PDS Church Office to conduct your parish census this fall is the best way to meet your parishioners where they are in their busy lives, and be sure your census is successful. Plus, your records will be updated and you’ll be ready to connect and engage with your parishioners moving forward.
Leigh Ann Shelley joined the ACST team in 2019 as a Product Marketing Manager, overseeing the launch and overall communication of key solutions to support the church’s needs. Prior to joining ACST, she spent several years in communications and graphic design roles, most notably as a Communications Director for a large church in Florence, SC, where she leveraged Realm to help solve key ministry challenges.