Making the work of UMC Clergy simpler

UMCLeaders.org

is a site rich with aggregated content from around the UMC Connection that provides quick access to the materials UMC leaders need to create effective disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

We strive to make the work of
UMC leaders simpler.

Being a Leader Can Be Complicated.

United Methodist Websites Are Due For Streamlining United Methodist Websites Are Due For Streamlining


So Many Tools,
In So Many Places

The general agencies of the church produce an abundance of resources for United Methodist leaders. Unfortunately, tracking down a specific tool, data set, news item, or training course often requires a
time-consuming, fractured journey across several various websites.

UMCLeaders.org Streamlines Tools for UMC Leadership


Research & Findings

UMC leaders acknowledge the quality and quantity of resources at their disposal. However, a lack of alignment and centralization of website resources makes access difficult. Here are a few consistent points of feedback offered by interviewed UMC leadership...

"The backend of the site is convoluted and needs simplification and clean-up."

Testimony

"There is too much content for users to find…too many levels of content."

Testimony

"UMC sites [are generally] written by–and for people who already know the answer to the question; too many clicks to find, then go to it. I don’t find it intuitive and I’ve been in the church 40 years."

Testimony

"I’m not sure a lay person who does not understand church structure would be able to get around from site to site, looking for the right agency or board."

Testimony

"We need a comprehensive redesign…our site is not user friendly."

Testimony

"[With so many resources from so many sources]It’s like taking a sip from a fire hose."

Testimony

"We owe it to the church to create something easy to use."

Testimony
Simpler,

Better Navigation

Cleaner, more prioritized navigation is a key need.

Simpler,

Layman's Terms

Content should be simple for anyone to navigate—regardless of UMC affiliation.

Simpler,

Intuitive Search

A simple to use, robust search function that allows access specific content is a key need.

Simpler,

Clear Organization

The fantastic tools available to UMC leaders need to be easy to find and logically organized.

Simpler,

Constituents First

Sites and their content should reflect the constituent perspective and most common needs.

Simpler,

A Specialized Hub

UMC leaders desire a single location focused on delivering what they need most.

Agency Participation

UMC Agencies May Partner in Several Capacities

Agency Participation



Level 1: ADVOCATE

  • UMCom staff aggregates content from our site for display on any UMC site
  • Your Board or Agency website URL does not change, and is fully maintained

Level 2: EDITOR

  • "Light" editorial portal allows you to submit content for display on any UMC site
  • Full editorial portal allows you to control your entire section of the UMC Leader site
  • Your Board or Agency website URL does not change, and is fully maintained

Level 3: PLATFORM PARTNER

  • Board, Agency, Annual Conference or other UMC entity is responsible for all the costs associated with hosting their site, site design, content migration, and site development. UMCom provides the platform as well as access to UMC "Family Design" specifications.
  • Board, Agency, Annual Conference or other UMC entity is allotted one seat on the Governance Board to set overall "Family Design".
  • Your Board or Agency website URL does not change, and is fully maintained

Level 4: PARTNER

  • You agree to move all content from your Board or Agency website to a portal within UMC Leader site
  • UMCom covers all costs associated with hosting, website design, content migration and site development
  • Board, Agency, Annual Conference or other UMC entity is allotted one seat on the Governance Board to set overall project priorities.
  • Your Board or Agency website URL does not change, and is fully maintained





What is the New Communications Strategy?

UMCom is working toward improving the communication infrastructure within the UMC. We are investing in new data CRM systems and new web CMS systems that will enable us to build out separate, but complimentary communications channels for membersleaders, and seekers.

The current focus is on building out our own communications channels. However, we hope in the future there may be opportunities to move toward shared CRM and CMS services to better coordinate communications as we continue to try to earn your trust. In sum, our solution is an infrastructure for communications messaging.

Progress to Date

Recent meetings with agency communicators are a follow-up to what was shared with general secretaries. We are working to share the same vision with communicators and invite them, as the experts in their work, to process and refine it further.

As we consider a coordinated approach to communication, we want to take everyone’s input on key requirements and design direction should you someday desire to have a commonly hosted website and centralized constituent data sharing.

In addition to sharing our vision with general secretaries, we shared it at the Council of Bishops in May 2017 and with UMAC in March 2017. Our goal is to share where we are headed and invite others to come along in whatever capacity they feel comfortable. We are not expecting full agreement or commitment at this point in the process.

Strategic Channel Alignment

Our communication vision is informed by research that states the communication within the UMC is fragmented and at times ineffective. We envision bringing clarity to members and leaders in churches with centralized communications that compliment individual agency and conference messages.

UMCom is building channels for these unique audiences that will be gateways into your communications resources and that will aggregate content coming from all agencies.

Some agencies may maintain their own communication structures, while others may choose to have websites and data hosted in the common CMS/CRM infrastructure; there is no decision needed now, but we want to include everyone as we scope potential needs that could arise in the future.

UMCom’s focus is to connect the church with the resources of the program agencies; UMPH, Wespath, & UMW are all unique agencies that may or may not have benefits in what we are working on – we’ve included those communicators so that they can be included in understanding our goals.

Will This Dilute Our Agency's "Brand" and Website Audience?

In a word: No.

Raising the profile or brand of the separate agencies is not at the forefront of the strategy. In fact, UMCom will be relinquishing its agency website in lieu of occupying the “communications” section of the leader website (ex: UCLeaders.org/communications).

Key to our approach is focusing on our audiences–the members and leaders who constitute the church, and the seekers we hope to welcome into the church. That means a holistic communications strategy with a keen focus on building the denominational brand by empowering leaders, nurturing members, and welcoming seekers.

Users will still be able to directly access your agency website through its existing URL, so there is no threat of audience dilution. In fact, the additional exposure, marketing and cross-promotional opportunities offered by a centralized site serve only to increase the reach of your messaging and awareness of your agency’s website.

Collaboration

Development of the CMS platform and websites will move forward as a component of the overall communications plan for the denomination. It is our hope that we move forward collaboratively with the family of general agencies to incorporate the perspectives and expertise of agency communicators. We are also looking to work closely annual conference communicators and local church leaders to ultimately develop the most relevant and effective digital communications channels to reach our audiences.

Website Platform Efficacy, Budget and Sustainability

The selected CMS platform provides the increased functionality and capabilities necessary to align UMC communications efforts and roll into the next generation of church communications. Costs for its development, launch and maintenance have been factored into our long-term budget. In no way are we relying on the participation of other agencies to justify the costs of the platform.

We consider this a prudent investment in the church’s digital communications infrastructure and a critical step in the evolution of our communications ministry as we seek to maintain a relevant presence into the future.

Agency Costs & Stewardship

As far as costs, there will be no new costs to anyone beyond UMCom if an agency chooses to remain with their existing communications platforms. Should any agencies desire to move within the common web infrastructure and data systems (which would still allow unique agency identities, but within a common design and framework), UMCom is planning to assume all hosting charges from our budget, which may allow you to find ongoing savings in your operating budget to put toward other ministry needs, assuming any current duplicative systems would be no longer needed.

Our board has also marked a portion of our reserves to help with development and integration costs for those who may want to migrate platforms, so we welcome ongoing conversation. Further, if your agency were to participate in the unified platform, UMCom has earmarked additional funds to subsidize staffing and technology costs. Taken together, these paragraphs touch on how aligning with the project equates to good stewardship of church funds.

We do not have enough data at this point to relay specific budget allocations for site growth and maintenance. However, we will share that information with within our annual report, which includes a full budget report in accordance with our policy of good stewardship and transparency in the usage of church funds.

RFP Process

Initial Vetting

We looked at several platforms: open source, closed source, large company and small companies.

  • We had over 19 different initial platform/vendor combinations. The ones we vetted early one were: ExpressionEngine v3 (the upgrade of our existing platform), CraftCMS, Appiro, OneHippo, OpenText, Bridgleine, Acquia/Drupal, Adobe Experience Manager, Loomis.
  • For one reason or another, these were found to be lacking (either costs, capability/usability, or overall organizational capacity).

Selection of Finalists

The following combinations were the finalists after the initial vetting process to make sure we had a good shortlist:

  • WordPress VIP with partner 10Up, The A Group/TAGTools (Nashville-based Religious org digital consultants)
  • Episerver with partner BrightFind
  • SiteCore with Arke
  • We had two other Episerver and Sitecore vendors, but culled them from the list after the initial RFP responses.

Vendor Presentations

We had the 4 shortlist vendors come to Nashville to present and included several of the larger agencies (based on web content traffic) in the presentation. At the time, it was a matter of how quickly we could get folks together, since UMCom does have a timeline for UMNS by the end of the year/first quarter 2018.

After the 4 proposals, we quickly cut down to Episerver and Sitecore – and to be honest, Arke outshined the other presentations, maybe parallel with The A Group, as they already understood parts of the church, but the CMS from the A Group, TAGTools, is an already 4 year-old proprietary system. We were uncomfortable committing to that for another 4 years.

Vendor and Platform Selection

  • SiteCore’s ability to integrate with various other communications platforms (such as CRM and Marketing Automation) was a significant factor.
  • On top of that was the analytics capability and ability to tie into behavioral analytics and site personalization.
  • While many of the systems had some kind of capability around this, SiteCore was the one that seemed to have the best fit with our communications strategy – along with the partner strategic process.
  • SiteCore also seemed (during the demos) to be one of the easier systems to use, though admittedly not as easy as WordPress, but to get to the behavioral analytics and site personalization goals we are trying to accomplish, it seemed to meet that need (whereas doing that in Wordpress or TAG would have required a lot more integration and management of many more third-party plugins and tools).
  • Sitecore’s approach to globalization of content and the ability to separate human translated vs. machine translated content was also attractive. From a technology sustainability perspective, the ability to find .Net developers is a lot easier, and SiteCore being a larger CMS, finding a “replacement” vendor, should one be needed, is more likely.
  • Finally, SiteCore has also provided us with a managed hosting package that would allow us to not worry about performance issues or server issues.
  • While that managed service can be covered by partners, it was a good offering that the software vendor is managing it as well.

Agency Participation & Costs

As far as costs, there will be no new costs to anyone beyond UMCom if an agency chooses to remain with their existing communications platforms. Should any agencies desire to move within the common web infrastructure and data systems (which would still allow unique agency identities, but within a common design and framework), UMCom is planning to assume all hosting charges from our budget, which may allow you to find ongoing savings in your operating budget to put toward other ministry needs, assuming any current duplicative systems would be no longer needed.

Our board has also marked a portion of our reserves to help with development and integration costs for those who may want to migrate platforms, so we welcome ongoing conversation. Further, if your agency were to participate in the unified platform, UMCom has earmarked additional funds to subsidize staffing and technology costs. Taken together, these paragraphs touch on how aligning with the project equates to good stewardship of church funds.

We do not have enough data at this point to relay specific budget allocations for site growth and maintenance. However, we will share that information with within our annual report, which includes a full budget report in accordance with our policy of good stewardship and transparency in the usage of church funds.

Levels of Involvement

  • Advocate: You tell us what’s important, UMCom team aggregates of your content
  • Editor: We provide you with a tool to self-select your content for aggregation
  • Partner: You decide to fully leverage the Sitecore CMS platform provided by UMCom and utilize it to build your next website(s)

UMC “Family Sites”

UMCom covers the cost of the initial “Family Design” for the UMC Leaders site as well as the design cost for each of the other participating agencies. All partners will have a voice in the conversations to define the strategic look and feel for the UMC family of sites.

UMCom covers the cost for general leader and UMCom site needs, such as any web apps (UMC Calendar, Directory) and website development.

Upfront/Subscriptions

UMCom will cover the upfront cost of the base system and monthly/annual subscriptions for base system, plus the cost of any additional UMCom-originated web apps or websites that are built on the platform.

Expanded Functionality

Agency partners are welcome to utilize any “modules” UMCom develops, with the only cost incurred being implementation on your particular site. Each agency will bear its own costs for additional design elements, modules or page templates.

Ongoing Costs

Partners will be responsible for the monthly/annual costs for their specific websites and web-apps.

This is extended to CRM and Marketo (marketing automation platform) as well. UMCom bears the base platform cost, with other partners maintaining responsibility for their incremental usage and any customizations or integrations needed..

Technical Staffing and Support

UMCom staff is well versed in providing web platform technical support and will continue to do so (in partnership with vendors). UMCom is willing to continue to carry the bulk of the technical requirements for the platform, but hopes other partnering agencies will join in learning the necessary new processes. UMCom is happy to further discuss composition and sharing of support staff.

E-Commerce

Although the platform has e-commerce capability, UMCom is not working toward ecommerce integration. In fact, UMCom and our board have recently decided to sunset the existing UMCom eStore and exit collateral product sales and distribution by the end of next year as we move any remaining products (Connectional Giving resources, etc.) to other outside solutions.

Outcomes and Evaluation

Like other components of our communications plan for this quadrennium, we have set set goals and benchmarks for the agency. Defining success or desired outcomes—as it relates to agency partners—is a subject ripe for discussion during our upcoming meeting and as we move forward.