This time of year tends to get a lot of attention for spring cleaning. As people begin the satisfying process of sorting and purging unwanted clothes, boxes of old bank statements and bills, and miscellaneous home goods, the time feels right for parishes to begin looking at their collection of parishioner data and digital files.
While database maintenance should be a “more than once a year” priority, it rarely — if ever — is. And who can really blame them? There aren’t really any catastrophic results that come from not updating your parish member contact list or tracking down missing information on a regular basis. If anything, all you really have are computer folders full of old drafts, ministry minutes, and electronic copies of flyers from years ago. But that should be the point of this whole conversation — do we know what we have, can we easily find it, and is there a benefit to using it?
Read on for reasons why cleaning and updating your parish data is essential to maintaining your vibrant parish.
KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE
As a parish, you’re bound to have countless documents on the computer filled with all sorts of information. Census data, sacramental dates, parishioner contacts, financial reports, order forms, payroll, checks — the list goes on. In order to correctly utilize this information, parishes need to filter through all the files and eliminate what’s necessary and keep what’s most important.
Do you have numerous parishioner contact lists? If so, decide which one is the most current, and keep it as a working file that can be added to or edited by those who need access to it. A great program to take advantage of is Google Docs, which allows you to write, edit, and collaborate from any computer with an internet connection and offers a full-featured web browser— plus, it’s completely free!
KNOW WHAT YOU NEED – AND WHAT YOU DON’T
Now that you have your list of necessary documents, it’s time to start purging — seriously! This may take some courage for many tasked with doing so. But ask yourself, do you really need to keep a copy of the parish fish fry flyer from five years ago? If there’s no reason to keep it, then just press delete and move on.
KEEP IT SECURE, KEEP IT SAFE
With the documents that you’ve deemed important, it’s essential that you keep them safe. The only way to prepare for the unexpected is to have a good backup strategy in place. There are many different ways to back up your computers, and using multiple forms of backup will minimize the risk of ever losing your valuable files.
A great program to use is WeGather, a fully integrated, cloud-based software solution that can help you manage your parish. Not only does it save, store, and back up your parish data, it also makes sure that the data is saved securely and reliably through Salesforce.org, the world’s #1 data management system.
Now that you’ve spent a good amount of time deciding what to keep, what to delete, and how to store it safely and securely, you’ve got to start using it. Have a meeting to discuss with your staff expectations moving forward. Come up with a file naming system so certain documents can easily be found and discuss a schedule of when to go through and purge files, determining which files are essential to keeping and assigning roles on who is in charge of what.