And now the other two finalists. You know that these companies made it all the way to the final round, but until now I haven't posted much about them. Here goes:
If you haven't already, you MUST read the summary of what we are looking for. This is critical to understand my comments. The vendors being reviewed work hard to provide a good product to serve the church, and they should be commended for that. Our needs are very specific, and just because a product isn't right for us does not mean that it isn't perfect for your church. By the same token, just because we didn't like a product does not mean it doesn't meet needs or provide genuine value to its clients. The blurb and "target market" are taken from the capterra list I referenced in my first post. Finally, my thoughts are my own and not an official position of my employer. Thank you.
Fellowship Technologies - Fellowship One
Internet-based church management software for the dynamic church.
Target Market: Small - Large
Quick Summary - Kicks butt...
Level 2 Analysis:
How big? - 69
How many customers? - 900
How long in business? - 2004
Are they profitable? - Yes
Technical Details - .NET 2.0, MS SQL
Volunteer Management - F1 was the database that showed me how this could work...
Web Integration - All inclusive
Attendance - Some issues for HDC
Assimilation - Meets the needs of HDC
Level 2 Summary - F1 offers an excellent solution. Their website brags that they have 19 of the 50 most influential churches in America, 31 of the 100 largest churches, and 24 of the 100 fastest growing churches. I believe them. It’s a great product, but last time it wasn’t the right fit for HDC due to the attendance issue (something they offered to address contractually if we signed with them this time around), and it is expensive. Still, it’s top notch and deserves to be at the top of the chart for consideration.
Level 3 Analysis - Fellowship One is the gold standard in this industry, IMHO. It was very clear when we did our demo that Fellowship Technologies had the best overall organization and planning. That doesn’t mean; however, that it is the obvious choice. Still it is the market leader and could be our solution.
Comments after final round:
The F1 community, experience.fellowshipone.com is exceptional. It provides a way for users to vote on new features, provides status of F1’s servers, average page load times, etc. It also has videos with Curtis talking about new features of the database and how they will benefit the clients. F1 also fosters regional users groups and tries to send representatives to their meetings to gather information and provide assistance.
The F1 interface hides items that you don’t have access to. Thus, if you don’t have access to giving info, you wont’ even see a tab for it. Incidentally, the giving access provides exactly what we want in allowing pastors to see only giving events, without seeing numbers.
Attendance data can be viewed by household if desired, not just individual, which was important to us. I really liked that data entry is verified against USPS records, making for more accurate addresses. The report library is extensive and has 1500+ reports. You can create a favorites list so you don’t have to hunt through all of those every time.
I also think that Fellowship One has the best check-in application of all the vendors we looked at. It seemed to be the most flexible and well designed of everything we looked at. The new interface that Fellowship One is developing is also very exciting, and has some features that nobody else offers in how things like giving and attendance can be displayed.
If it seems like I'm very positive about Fellowship One, you are right. It's a fantastic solution. I really have very little negative to say about Fellowship One. At the end of the day the choice between Arena and Fellowship One was very close, but Arena won the day with its flexibility and some unique features that connected perfectly with the needs of HDC.
In my opinion Fellowship One should be part of every church's database search. It isn't right for everyone, but they are the market leader for a reason, and they've earned their position through hard work and perseverance. Fellowship One got me to think differently about what a church database could do, and how technology could be used to really enhance our ability to minister to our people. For that, I thank them profoundly even though we didn't end up choosing them. Although we aren't a customer, I am definitely a Fellowship One fan.