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Patrick Leinen Rev. Michael Boyle, C.M. Joe Luedtke Matthew Warner Nick Padley Kathleen Conklin Stacey Anttila
Vol. 1 No.3
Copy Editor Gina Hewitt
ParishSOFTâ€™s Catholic Conection
Cat holic Diocesan Leaders Learn How to Reduce Fraud Risks By Stacey Anttila - ParishSOFT ,WN[
Engaging Your Parishioners Online
Step One in Online Parishioner Engagement : Email By Joe Luedtke
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School embraces technology
with on and off-campus safety strategy
By Barb Ernster
Technical Training Learnig how to herd cats
By Christine M. Dandaraw ÂŠ Copyright 2012 by Catholic Technology. All Rights Reserved
Letâ€™s Get on the Same â€œWebâ€? Page By Travis Gear
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School embraces technology
with on and off-campus safety strategy By Barb Ernster
M odern communications is moving toward greater use of social media, video, mobile and tablet technology. In fact, by 2013, mobile
devices (including smartphones and tablet computers) will exceed traditional desktop and laptop computers as the primary way in which users access the Internet. The technology revolution has not been lost on K-12 education; in fact it will continue to be one of its most important themes, according to a September 2011 education study by Encyclopedia Britannica. One of todayâ€™s biggest education technology trends is the increased use of mobile devices with educational apps. Smartphones, tablets and netbooks are the most preferred handheld devices among teachers and students, and schools are increasingly investing more in ICT infrastructure to accommodate these devices. Catholic schools are being challenged to adopt this educational trend to stay competitive with public schools and charter schools already going this route, and to adequately prepare students for college where knowledge of their use is expected. Pinecrest Academy in Cumming, Ga., a Catholic Pre-K - 12 with enrollment of 850+ students, adopted an eduCatholic Technology MagazineÂŽ
cational strategy that incorporates the use of Internet-ready devices in the 6th â€“ 12th grade, with some level of use introduced to students in 4th and 5th grades. The policy was based on research the school conducted that showed students who had been exposed to these technologies and been trained on these devices adapted better to the college environment
and had an educational advantage over stutaken upon ourselves, not just protecting the dents who had not. students on campus, but bringing that ideol“We had a no Internet-ready device policy ogy home, making the family aware of the on campus and like most other schools, we problem and giving them the solution so they banned their use and prohibited students can do at home what we’re trying to accomfrom bringing in their own devices, but with plish here. We don’t want kids to be exposed that research, we decided we had better start to offensive content no matter where they implementing a new strategy so our stuare.” dents have a leg up and are not deprived by The school will deploy its final strategy of our policy,” says Nicholas Hoover, Director of the three-year plan this summer, which inTechnology. “The parents wanted this too, volves a partnership with Covenant Eyes, an and they were purchasing the devices for their Internet filtering and accountability software company that will support the school in the children to bring on campus. We adopted education of parents and students about Ina bring-your-own-device strategy (BYOD), ternet safety, and work to encourage families which a lot of schools do because it is a costto install filters and accountability software effective way of diversifying technologies and unifying processes for accessing resources and on every one of their personal devices, especially devices that will be brought to campus. information. What students really want is to Hoover is unaware of any other school that is know how to do their homework or research using the devices they have at home. This was going this extra step in helping parents protect a perfect marriage of ‘budget meets demand.’” Complications arose when the school did not have suffiGIS & FMIS cient access and strong enough Wi-Fi signals to be able to SPATIAL SYSTEMS ASSOCIATES, INC. connect to the Internet. And while the school had in place a has been working with church groups for over filtering system to protect kids ten years, applying GIS technology to the from exposure to unsafe content and websites, parents were planning, reporting, and analysis needs frustrated that once the kids of parishes and dioceses. left campus, the devices were not protected and they were at Parish Analysis & Planning School Analysis & Planning a loss as to how to address the issue. Real Property Inventory & Management Analyses “For our BYOD policy to Cemetery Management Facilities Management work we had to take a second look and decide how we were Web Services going to utilize these devices CONTACT US! in a productive manner,” says Larry E. Newman, P.E., LEED AP 410.423.1870, ext. 110 Hoover, “and determine how to email@example.com http://churches.spatialsys.com protect the child off campus, particularly since the devices GIS & FMIS IMPLEMENTATION & SUPPORT SERVICES are family owned. That’s part of the responsibility that we’ve
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families at home. “If you engage the family, you help them understand why it’s important that they do this. We’re not just trying to protect the integrity of our institution, but protect families and children. Real people exist on the other end of these devices and real things are happening in their lives when they’re exposed to offensive content and other Internet dangers,” says Hoover. “We’re relying heavily on Covenant Eyes to come in as a third party and help us with our off campus strategy; we don’t offer the solutions at home - they do.” Ryan Foley, business development director at Covenant Eyes, says some parents are uneasy with the use of all these devices, and rightly so. The pervasive growth of pornography and society’s embrace of it puts the onus on them to protect their children, but parents don’t always feel they have the knowledge or know-how to fully secure the home from unsafe content on web sites, social media sites and chat rooms. Covenant Eyes provides the solution for them. “We’re equipping the family with a product for their home and mobile devices,” says Foley. “In addition to our software, we also have made significant investments in educational resources. We offer these resources in the form of e-books, blogs, newsletters, and free webinars. Having the chance to share our knowledge through our collaborative efforts with Pinecrest is amazing; the fact that they have such a deep concern for the family is impressive”. Hoover says all schools should have an athome solution for their technology policies, because it’s difficult to protect the campus and individuals when students bring unprotected devices to school. That exposure from other students can be contagious and infectious. “We don’t let a kid come on campus with the flu. That’s a physical problem. Inappropriate and offensive content is affecting the spiritual well-being of the person, an even bigger concern for Pinecrest Academy. This is Catholic Technology Magazine®
our way of sharpening the other side of the double edge sword of technology. One side is razor sharp with the dangers of the Internet. We’re trying to sharpen the other edge with a safe and secure Internet.” These statistics from Covenant Eyes educate parents on the alarming impact of Internet pornography on children and families: • The average age of a child’s first exposure to pornography is 11. First exposure primarily takes place at home (79%) and is usually unintentional, such as resulting from an innocent word search. • By age 18, 93% of boys and 62% of girls are exposed to Internet pornography. 67% of children admit to clearing their internet history to hide their online activity. • 64% of parents are unaware of Anonymizers. Anonymizers bypass filters, allowing inappropriate online activity to go undetected. Once logged into an Anonymizer, a user can go wherever they want and it will look like the Anonymizer is the only site they accessed. • Parents have the biggest influence on what their kids do online, but 34% of children never receive advice from parents on how they should or should not use the Internet.
Nicholas Hoover provided a closer look at how Pinecrest Academy prepared its campus for secure use of internet-enabled devices and helped parents do the same off campus. What are the steps you took to protect wireless-enabled devices on campus? First, you need to secure the content (what they have access to) against the obvious categories like Porn, Gambling, Social Networking, Dating, Shopping, Streaming Media, Photo Searches, and Proxy Sites. Second, you need to filter applications because most of these services are using the default internet port 80. Therefore, category filtering will not always pick them up. So you
need to be able to block applications like Skype, YouTube, peer 2 peer, and even the capabilities of blocking iTunes or Twitter. The really important one and the most difficult is YouTube. Because it is owned by Google, you simply cannot block www.youtube.com. You need to have an application filtering appliance or be prepared to find another search provider besides Google. Third, you need security to protect your users from each other. You don’t want students sharing files or test answers electronically. Each computer can connect to the internet but not each other. This also protects them from viruses and worms. At Pinecrest Academy, we selected products from Watchguard Technologies, as its firewall and filtering products are essential to our campus strategy. What are the Wi-Fi policies or access levels for different users? We have a multi tiered access level ranging from guests, students, faculty\staff and administrators, each with unique filtering policies. I am in the process of developing a single-sign-on app for use with our Aerohive Access Points in conjunction with their Captive Portal splash screen, where it registers that device’s MAC and IP address with their active directory account, which results in applying the proper filtering policy. Therefore, I will have a track record of all Internet activity by user and not just the IP address. This method is more effective than issuing security certificates because students will be using many devices on the network, and this ensures accountability and availability.
To help enforce this policy, we’ve beefed up functionality at our Wi-Fi Access Points. Powered now by a product from Aerohive Networks, our access points can identify rouge wireless connections. Access Points can triangulate the location of the signal and lead us to the location of the offending device. What is your reason for having such a strict 3G and 4G policy? Our biggest concern is unfiltered access to the Internet. We take seriously our responsibility to protect kids from Internet dangers; we know that the Internet offers our youth access to content that can be harmful and these harmful activities are contrary to our mission, which is to form Christian leaders who will transform society. Barb Ernster is a freelance writer from Fridley, Minn.
How do you manage 3G or 4G enabled devices? We have a “NO 3G-4G” device policy. If there is a device that is discovered during the school day, it will be confiscated and then returned to the student only after a parent signs for it. Catholic Technology Magazine®
PARISHSOFT’S CATHOLIC CONNECTION
Catholic Diocesan Leaders Learn How to Reduce Fraud Risks By Stacey Anttila - ParishSOFT
If you’ve ever given money to your parish offertory or a diocesan
appeal, you need to know that there are thousands of highly competent, honest, financially-minded people out there who make it their life’s work (or their volunteer ministry of choice) to be exemplary stewards of church funds. These are typically not the people who make the news. In June, we launched the first in a series of ConnectNow webinars on accounting topics and invited diocesan finance leaders to attend our online event, Reducing Fraud Risks in Your Diocese, featuring Denise McClure, CPA, CFE, and president of Averti Fraud Solutions—a business dedicated to helping nonprofits and for-profit businesses implement accountability measures to help prevent embezzlement and fraud before it starts. We were thrilled to see the interest in this important topic, demonstrated by the 99 different staff members from 60 different dioceses who registered. We can’t cover all the great information Denise McClure presented in this month’s column, but we’d like to recap some of the high points. Perpetrators: Good People Who Make Bad Choices According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) 2012 Report to the Nations, a typical organization loses 5% of its annual revenue to employee fraud. And the U.S. Department of Catholic Technology Magazine®
Justice estimates that 1 in 3 employees steal to some degree from the workplace. Who are these people? It turns out, they look just like you and me. They work hard and are great at their jobs. They are, according to FBI profiles, trusted, motivated, conscientious, and typically between the ages of 30-60. While studies by ACFE and Marquet International differ on whether more men or women steal, they agree that when men steal, they steal more (ACFE reports an average of $80,000 for women, $160,000 for men). McClure reports that theft amounts increase with tenure and rank. Long-term and high-ranking people become highly trusted. They have an intimate knowledge of the internal controls, and they know right where the gaps exist. What leads embezzlers into temptation is they have a problem that requires money to solve. They aren’t comfortable seeking help from family, friends, or others who might give them support, so they have to find their own solution in order to
PARISHSOFT’S CATHOLIC CONNECTION keep their problem private. Often their problem is an addiction to gambling, shopping, or drugs; but sometimes it’s an attempt to pay bills or compensate for feelings of inadequacy or unfairness: the church owes me this extra money for all the extra hours I put in . . . it’s not fair that my neighbors can vacation in Disneyworld, so I’m just evening the score. Once they find a way to justify solving their problem with church funds, the trouble begins. “Would-be embezzlers have to rationalize their actions and often tell themselves they are just ‘borrowing’ the money,” said McClure. “When no one notices, they borrow a little more. The extra cash and upgraded lifestyle are addictive, and like any
addiction, it quickly becomes impossible to stop.” In the 1950s, renowned criminologist and sociologist Donald Cressey interviewed 200 people imprisoned for embezzlement—none of whom took their jobs with the intent to steal. From what he learned in this study, Cressey developed the “fraud triangle,” which illustrates the three components for fraud: the perpetrator has some type of need, sees the opportunity to steal, and rationalizes taking the money as a justifiable way to fulfill that need. Of these three components that create the perfect storm for fraud, the only one within your control is opportunity. Culture of Integrity: Your First Line of Defense McClure strongly advises church leaders to collectively establish a real perception of integrity, tight controls, and detection at every level of their Catholic Technology Magazine®
organization. “Leaders set the tone at the top,” said McClure. “If those providing oversight say one thing but do another, their inconsistency can open opportunities for fraud.” In other words leaders have to walk the talk. Having employees read and sign a lengthy code of conduct that is never discussed again says, “We’re willing to let some things slide.” McClure recommends building integrity into your organization’s culture, starting with the interview and application process and extending through to day-to-day operations. Building Blocks for a Culture of Integrity Conduct both state and federal criminal history checks. This sends the message that you want to know the people who work within your organization. Approximately 5-15% of people who embezzle have a criminal history, and they tend to cross state lines after they wear out their welcome in one place. While criminal background checks can help you catch individuals with a prior history of embezzlement before you put them into a position where they can steal from you, it’s important to understand that they will not reveal whether someone has ever been charged with a felony, nor will they show misdemeanors or cases that are pending while the offender does community service or rehab. For this reason, you’ll want to include the question, “Have you ever been charged with a felony?” on your job application form. If an employee doesn’t answer truthfully, and he later gets into trouble at work, this documentation can help you through the dismissal process. Because personal financial problems are the number one indicator of embezzlement risk, the diocese and its parishes and schools must run credit checks for everyone with significant financial responsibility, during the application process and periodically after hiring. An applicant with $20K in credit card debt may have good reason for her difficult situation, but that person may not be the best candidate to manage your church’s money. Be sure to comply with the Fair Credit Reporting Act. It’s long and complicated, so seek guidance from your legal advisor. Establish a hotline to serve as an inexpensive,
PARISHSOFT’S CATHOLIC CONNECTION anonymous way for people to tell you what’s going on without fear of retribution. More fraud (43%, per the ACFE) was identified because of a tip than by any other means. A single hotline can serve as a reporting tool for other issues, like safety, harassment, etc. from concerned staff and parishioners in your diocese who are paying attention and care enough to speak up. Promote the hotline’s full purpose and location both internally and externally, so everyone, including any wouldbe embezzlers, know it’s there. McClure also recommends taking your full-length code of conduct and distilling it into a few key statements that are short, sweet, and memorable. Put them on posters that you hang in your offices. Talk about those points and how they support your organization’s core mission in meetings with your staff. Recognize people when they behave in a way that upholds your code of ethics – positive reinforcement is a powerful tool that gets noticed by everyone on the team. Proper Controls and Oversight When it comes to accountability in finance, we like McClure’s mantra: Trust, but verify. Conducting all the oversight you say you’re going to do drives home the point that someone is checking—especially in all the places where past embezzlement schemes have managed to beat the system. Segregate duties as much as possible to ensure that no one controls a transaction from beginning to end. For example, the person who opens the mail should not have access to the accounting system. The person who posts offertory gifts should not also reconcile your bank statements and the offertory deposits in your general ledger. Your accounting software must support duty segregation with a flexible permission structure that lets you give users access to only what they need to do their job and no more (ConnectNow Church Accounting provides this control). Permission needs change, so review and adjust access rights on a regular basis. Your system must also close periods and not permit users to print a check and then enter that same check in the system using a different payee name or period—something that is easy to do in accounting programs designed for small business owners who manage their own books. Bank and credit card statements and cancelled checks need to be reviewed by someone who knows what they’re looking for. Casino charges on the parish credit card (it’s happened!) should be an immediate red flag. Cancelled checks made payable to an unrecognized vendor? Investigate. Be sure the people whose work you’ll be reviewing know that their work will be evaluated on a periodic and unannounced basis—this is the best deterrent to fraud.
MORE! Finally! More time for people!
What’s Next? Future webinar sessions on new topics are in the planning phases now. Subscribe to our Church Accounting News, and we’ll be sure Catholic Technology Magazine®
PARISHSOFT’S CATHOLIC CONNECTION to send you registration information for the next webinar sessions. You’ll also want to check out the many accounting workshops on this subject, led by our diocesan users including Bill Weldon, Diocese of Charlotte; Fran Ashe, Archdiocese of Detroit; John Czachorski, Diocese of Grand Rapids, and many more at the 2012 ParishSOFT Users’ Conference.
s d e e S Plant the
ƵŶŝĐĂƟŽŶ ŽĨŐŽŽĚĐŽŵŵ Now! with One Call
For more information on ParishSOFT’s ConnectNow Church Accounting system for churches and schools and its Financial Consolidation Manager for dioceses, please contact ParishSOFT’s diocesan account managers at 866.930.4774 (Stephen Distelzweig, ext 147 or John Miklosovic, ext 117) or visit www.parishsoft.com/accounting. For more information on Averti Fraud Solutions, or to schedule a presentation for your staff on deterring and detecting fraud, please contact Denise McClure via email to Denise@AvertiFraudSolutions.com or online at www.AvertiFraudSolutions. com.
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Engaging Your Parishioners Online
Step One in Online Parishioner Engagement: Email By Joe Luedtke
Want to engage your parishioners online? Should you setup a Face-
book Page for your Church? Start tweeting? What about pinning on Pinterest? Or, checking in at your Church on Foursquare? Yes, you can and should, use at least some of these tools to help engage your parishioners online. These tools are not, however, the place to start. There’s one simple, pervasive tool that’s often overlooked and that’s, email. I know it is not as cool as these social media services, but think about it. We may all be in awe at the number of users on Facebook. Over 800 million people are indeed on Facebook, but I think it is fair to say that virtually everyone who is on the Internet is on email. You can literally count on everyone who is connected to the Internet in your parish to have an email account, and more importantly they use it and use it regularly. For the average parishioner, the number of times they update their Facebook Catholic Technology Magazine®
status or tweet, pale in comparison to the number of times they check their email inbox or send an email. This may eventually change as the texting generation grows up, but for now, email is the gold standard in online communication. Because of this pervasiveness and general acceptance, email is the place you want to start your church’s online communication program. It’s also key for you to start making connections with your parishioners online. You can’t invite your parishioners to an upcoming event, your new Facebook page, or your Online Donation system unless you have their email addresses. Unfortunately, relying on the data in your Church Management System is typically not enough. It’s hard to get parishioners
Engaging Your Parishioners Online to keep their email and other personal information updated. It is not that they don’t want to – we just don’t make it easy for them and incentivize them to do so. Good use of email as a communication tool with content that interests your parishioners is a great way to incentivize your parishioners to provide and keep their contact information updated. So how can you effectively use email as a communication tool for your parish? I recommend that you start small and build each step along the way. The goal here is provide frequent, relevant content that interests your parishioners. This typically manifests itself as an e-Newsletter, e-Bulletin, or the email distribution of a parish blog. If those suggestions sound daunting, start small. Start by just building a distribution mechanism for your current church bulletin in .pdf format. The church bulletin remains the staple communication mechanism for many churches and there is a surprising demand to have the bulletin published online. My company, Liturgical Publications, prints church bulletins for over 4,000 catholic parishes around the country. We currently publish these bulletins electronically on our website, www.seekandfind.com. Over 250,000 Catholics go to our website monthly to look for their bulletin or signup to receive their bulletin via email. Offering your church bulletin via email is a simple way to start building your email list. As your list builds and you get comfortable in managing the email distribution process, then you can look at adding content to your email communication, branding the content to your church, and using that content to inform the parishioners and drive them to your church website, Facebook Page, or wherever you want to send them online. Figure 1, is a nice example of what a church e-Newsletter should look like. That may be your ultimate goal with email, but starting with a simple weekly email that says ‘Click here to read your weekly church bulletin,’ is a great way to begin building your email list and getting familiar with the email distribution process. Catholic Technology Magazine®
Why Every Church Should Be Using an Email Marketing Program You really shouldn’t start an email communication initiative with just your church’s email system. While you can try, tools like Constant Contact, VerticalResponse, and my personal favorite, MailChimp make it so much easier and offer some important benefits as you scale your email communication program. I like MailChimp because its free to get started and will remain free for most moderately sized churches. Any of these products though will work quite nicely. Here’s a few of top reasons why you need an email marketing program: • Email List Size – Ever try sending an email to a few hundred people? MS Outlook and other personal mail tools really don’t do this well. • Email List Management – Group email lists generate a few headaches. If you send out an email
Engaging Your Parishioners Online to 25 parishioners lets say on your Adult Faith Formation list, chances are you’ll get a couple of responses like, “please remove me from your list” or “you forgot to include so and so”. Email Marketing Programs handle all the Opt out, Opt in, and Refer a Friend functions for you. • I’m Not Sending Spam! – Of course your not, but at some point one of your email recipients will press the spam button. Email Marketing programs go to great lengths to make sure you have a clean, valid list of subscribers and encourage you to use the double-opt in process so your recipients know they’re getting emails from you. • Share the Work – Email enables you to spread your message and email marketing programs enable you to share the work. Now, you can have any church leader who’s sending email communication within your church accessing the same email list. • Parishioner Opt-In – One of the key mechanisms to grow your list is make it easy for parishioners to provide their information. All commercial email marketing programs have a signup widget that’s simple to deploy to most church websites. This lets parishioners signup to receive emails right from your website (see figure 2). If you provide them content they’re interested in, they’ll readily join your mailing list and the double opt-in process ensures they really want your emails and you have their accurate email address. Adding this signup box to your church website is simple for most web administrators to do in a few minutes. • Professional Looking Emails – Make your emails look like they’re professionally done and branded by your church. With these tools you can easily add in headers and footers to all your emails, brand your emails with your logo, or if you’re willing to spend a few hours of time, you can create a cool email template Catholic Technology Magazine®
that makes all your emails look rather professional and clearly from your church. At Liturgical Publications, our corporate tagline has been for years, Connecting Your Community. We changed this to, Connecting Your Community in Print and Online. Each church’s goal should be to reach out to their parishioners where they’re spending an increasingly larger amount of time, online. An email communication program should be your first step to begin to engage your parishioners online. Joe Luedtke is the President of the E-giving Division for Liturgical Publications Inc (LPi), www.4LPi. com, an organization that provides print publications, communication solutions, and online donation services to Catholic parishes. At LPi, Joe serves as the organization’s technology evangelist responsible for the organization’s digital strategy and its Internet products and services. Joe and his wife along with their two children live in Wisconsin. Joe can be found online on his blog CatholicTechTalk.com and can be reached at JLuedtke@4LPi.com.
Technical Training Learning how to herd cats By Christine M. Dandaraw
s a Training Coordinator for two different dioceses I have often A asked myself “What exactly is my ministry?” There are times when
it feels like evangelization- bringing knowledge and good news to our parishes and diocesan staff; but more often than not there are days when (as one boss so aptly named it) it feels like herding cats! Consider what it would take to charm a hundred (give or take a few dozen) cats into all doing a particular action at the same time. The phrase “herding cats” does paint a rather vivid, if hilarious, image of someone standing in the middle of a field surrounded by numerous cats all going in different and often opposite directions and trying to convince them to stay together. Impossible you say? While this is not always an accurate picture of our dioceses and parishes, the image is often closer than we would comfortably like it to be. I’m sure by now you are asking yourself, what does cat herding have to do with training?
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Let’s just say everything! Today, our Information Technology offices face the monumental task of staying ahead of the technology curve. A curve which continues to change at the speed of light; Not only are our CIOs, IT Directors and IT staff expected to be knowledgeable in the latest hardware, software and security but they must also provide the functionality to ensure our dioceses are positioned to meet the challenges of ministry today while anticipating the needs of ministry for the foreseeable future. Along with that include the task of keeping several hundred parishes moving their technol-
ogy forward; then for good measure, add in an aging workforce who is not altogether comfortable with technology and you will quickly begin to see how training becomes a vital partner in the IT world. As is the case, for most diocesan employees, that Iâ€™ve met, this is not my first career role. However, my operations and training background transitioned neatly into parish management which in turn led to my diocesan roles as Training Coordinator. As a Microsoft Certified Trainer, technology training comes easily. However, as a diocesan trainer my focus extends well beyond the borders of the IT office and often into the parish office. In the last four years I have coordinated training on such topics as Electronic Timesheets, Maintaining Sacramental Records, Best Practices for Count and Posting Teams, Social Media and Digital Story Telling to name a few. Every day as a training coordinator I am pre-
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sented with a new set of tasks and challenges. Whether it is ensuring everyone understands the new features of their parish census system; knows and applies diocesan standards or being asked to bring the Bishopâ€™s office quickly up to speed on the latest version of Office; each mission requires a little hand holding, a large amount of collaboration and a great deal of patience. But, more than that, to be a successful as training coordinator it requires the precision and detail of a tactical campaigner. While many of us remain on the upward curve of collaboration, each day as a trainer, I find myself storming silos which exist between parishes, the diocese and sometimes within our own offices. My days are spent observing, listening to and conversing with departments, directors and pastors; identifying needs, developing programs and researching delivery solutions; all on, what the corporate world would term, a shoe string budget.
Several years ago, while at the Archdiocese of Atlanta, my job, over an eighteen month period, was to coordinate training for all parish personnel and then spend two days at each of their hundred and twelve parishes to ensure that the staff could reasonably function within the new census system and technology being installed. At about a third of the way into this training project I began to realize that not only was I hearing the same questions being repeated, but I was also in dire need of help to keep everyone moving forward. That’s when I looked to technology for an answer. Products such as Adobe Captivate and Camtasia Studio provide an inexpensive training delivery method that is easily geared to multiple learning types. These applications allow you to record step-by-step screen captures, add narration and save them for later playback as help videos on the web. The use of these tools has become invaluable to my job and proven to be my lifesaver time and again!
Needless to say they are now a standard in my tool bag! While “help” videos are a great immediate access tool they should not be the only means of training. Training is not just about providing answers to questions but is more often about starting the conversation and encouraging others to join in. Over the last two years natural attrition coupled with the lingering effects of the economic downturn has left many of our parishes and departments working shorthanded. It was getting harder and harder to justify the time and dollars spent to attend quarterly user groups or formal days of training. Once again I needed to get creative and turned to technology for the answers. Teleconferencing and Webinar applications such as Adobe ConnectPro, GoToMeeting and Skype have provided me with the tools to continue offering a personalized training environment without the added expense and loss of
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Nick Nicholaou, President
“. . . freeing those in ministry from business distractions.” Phone: 714.840.5900 • www.mbsinc.com • firstname.lastname@example.org
time due to travel. Now when planning quarterly training schedules I try to include not only a hands on class but also a webinar on each subject I am offering. The great feature about many of these teleconferencing programs is that you have the ability to record the conferences and later post them on your website as training videos. Two birds with one stone (catbirds of course!) Last year as part of a blended learning approach I began offering a Lunch ’n Learn series - bring your brown bag lunch, login to the teleconference and spend the hour learning. Another offering which has proven popular is our Priest Only Series; these half day “handson” classes (including lunch) cover a variety of subjects such as Skype, Facebook, and Twitter. It also offers the priests in our diocese the opportunity to update their skills to the latest version of Windows, Word, Excel and Outlook in a relaxed setting of their peers. While I am, and always will be, a strong proponent of formal classroom training I have found that by offering mobile labs, teleconferences, webinars, user groups and custom courses it alleviates some of the demand on our IT staff. At the same time it gets our parishes and people involved with improving their skills. Word has gotten out that training is free! Last summer I had the chance to spend every Wednesday afternoon at a local parish to teach Office 10 and Windows 7. We had fifteen people every week, everyone from the Pastor to the janitor attended those classes. I now have two more requests for this summer! The dioceses, in which I have been fortunate enough to work, have made a commitment and investment in training and in turn it is intensely important to me to maximize the return on that investment. Given today’s environment, I recognize flexibility, creativity and the use of technology are essential to maintaining a vibrant program So utilizing the tools and technology available are now all in a day’s work. Fortunately technology has kept pace with my needs! Catholic Technology Magazine®
In 1999 Christine left the corporate world to assume the role of parish secretary for a rapidly growing parish in the Atlanta suburbs When the Archdiocese began the search for a new census management program, Christine was invited to become a member of the selection committee. In 2004 her operational and technical training background led to being offered the position of Training Coordinator. As a member of the archdiocesan planning and implementation team Christine worked to develop a set of data standards, create standard operating procedures, and define policies for the church management system which was installed in 110 parishes. In early 2008 Christine relocated to the Diocese of St. Petersburg to continue her work as training coordinator. As a Microsoft Certified Trainer and member of the IT Team Christine works closely with diocesan and parish staff to deploy data standards and enhance technical skills through training. As an interregnal part of the diocesan team Christine evaluates training needs and develops strategies to maintain optimum functionality at both the parish and diocesan level through customized education solutions aimed at maximizing the ROI for the IT endeavor. Christine has developed training several tools which are currently referenced in multiple dioceses across the country. Christine, a Microsoft Certified Trainer, also teaches business development and Microsoft Office as an adjunct faculty member at St. Petersburg College. She is a member of the American Society of Training Developers and serves on several advisory boards.
Let’s Get on the Same “Web” Page By Travis Gear
This being my first article for CTMag.com, I had grand dreams of
amazing prose which might inspire the readers of this noble publication... Then my wife reminded me that about the only attributes that I share with any great American author is the fact that I am an American. With her “gentle” words in mind, I decided that rather than try and cram too much into one article, I would simply focus on what I know most about for my first entry. Six years ago I began to pay great attention to the means and methods that were being used by parishes and dioceses around the country to create their websites. I observed that some websites provided a great wealth of knowledge and were updated frequently, but were poorly structured and seemed to lack a great deal of visual appeal. Other sites were aesthetically beautiful, but their last update appeared to be the day after the site was launched. Still others seemed to have been developed with only the “visitor” in mind, rather Catholic Technology Magazine®
than a current parishioner. If I’ve been going to a parish for more than six months, it is not very likely that the reason I am coming to the website is for directions to the church, and yet in certain instances that is the most prominent piece of information on the home page. So, the question became, “Why do parishes and dioceses seem to struggle so much to make their websites attractive, useful and valuable?” I believe that much of the answer can be found in the attitude with which many of these institutions approach the challenge. That approach
relies heavily on outdated techniques and volunteers (or ill-equipped staff). These are two very different aspects of the challenge, so let me handle each one individually. Before I get a flood of emails, voicemails, and threats, I’ll address the second part of my statement first. I have worked for a parish and a diocese. This means that I have experienced first hand the value that volunteers bring to the mission that the Church is attempting to accomplish. I have seen entire parish halls built on the backs of volunteers. I grew up in the Diocese of Wichita which is known internationally for championing the stewardship way of life. This way of life bestows the highest honor on those who give of their time and talent unselfishly. Volunteers are necessary for the Church to fulfill Her mission, but I believe that it is unfair to the institutions and volunteers, for parishes and/or diocese to expect volunteers (or ill-equipped staff) to be in charge of building, maintaining, and updating these websites. So, if I’m going to make such a statement, then I know full-well that I better have an answer to the problem. That brings us to the first part of the problem, and that is outdated techniques. I believe so strongly in creating a solution to this challenge, that six years ago I helped start a company to solve the problem: Solutio, Inc. However, I promised Steve Hewitt that I wouldn’t make this article into an infomercial, so let’s keep moving. I want to provide six practices that parishes and dioceses can implement to make their website communication effort more successful. 1. Make use of a Content Management System There is still a place for hard-coding in the world of web development, but for the purposes of this conversation, we cannot expect novice web administrators to update websites via a hard-coded method. In the past five years, content management systems have allowed a plethora of grass-roots websites to be developed in an inexpensive manner that would have otherwise been cost prohibitive. These systems make it very easy for non-technical users to be Catholic Technology Magazine®
able to provide quick updates to websites. 2. Empower those who need the power Communication on a website happens best when information is provided in a way that is closest to the actual source. This is important for two reasons: 1. It is more accurate when it comes most directly from the source. 2. Not all of the content for the site runs through one or two people. Number two is the more important of the two points because nothing diminishes visitors’ trust in a website quite like outdated information. When the people that are closest to the communication are empowered to update the site themselves, then they can provide the most accurate and up to date information. The secret ingredient to empowering staff members is training, a little more training, and... accountability! 3. Be consistent A quote that I think is very valuable in this instance is, “If you aren’t making a plan, then you are planning to fail.” The best implementation that I have seen for websites always had a plan for what content was going to go on the site, and who was responsible for that content. An important part of that plan is always accountability. Make sure that the people who are charged with keeping the site up to date are held accountable. The quickest way to lose visitors is to have a lapse in updates. But hopefully, by empowering staff members, parish and diocesan websites can become trustworthy sources for the most up to date information. 4. Define what is “beautiful” I am going to go out on a limb here, and say that there are only a handful of people reading this who think that this website is not atrocious: http://www.theworldsworstwebsiteever.com/. There is such a thing as objective beauty on a website, and too often this fact is ignored. Any web design reflects its designer’s creativity, and that is a good thing, but we have to be aware that websites should avoid certain pitfalls. To find a good check list of things to avoid, take
SPECIAL FEATURE a look at the link above, but otherwise using a commonsensical approach can take most designers pretty far. Once a site is near completion, it is good to have a “test audience” to view the site before it is formally launched. This test group can then provide the design team with valuable input that, in many cases, can assist in removing elements of the site that make it cumbersome or painful for visitors. 5. “Do not be afraid...” of social media Social media has the ability to connect people at a personal level, and the Pope himself has said as much via his messages during the past few World Communications Days. The word to remember is integration. It is always best to avoid duplicate data entry. Whatever major social media tools are being implemented (Facebook, Twitter or Google+), should also have automatic updates integrated from the website via RSS. However, this does not mean that these tools should only be limited to the auto updates obtained via RSS. A great, easy to use tool that is often underutilized, but that can be particularly powerful, is YouTube. Short one to two minute videos provided by priests or ministry leaders can make an impressive impact on members of parishes/dioceses. 6. Get professional help Very few parishes/dioceses print important materials within their offices. Parishes outsource their bulletins to bulletin companies. Dioceses send their development, stewardship, and capital campaign materials to professional print companies. No one would argue with those decisions. Yet, too often parishes rely on staff or volunteers to design, maintain and update their websites. This is a backwards situation. Websites have immense potential, but parishes/dioceses have to make the commitment to this tool before they can convince themselves that seeking professional help is prudent. There are very good, affordable options out there. Don’t believe me? Try Googling “catholic website design”. Effective websites coupled with a strong social media plan have the ability to provide the Church with a great avenue to reach out to a whole new generation of “Digital Gentiles”. Everyday I see more and more Catholic institutions taking their responsibility on the web more seriously, but there is still room for improvement. Hopefully we can work together to get everyone on the same page.
Catholic Technology Magazine®