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God Loves the Cloud and It's Time to Get Religion

By Jeffrey M. Kaplan
Sep 13, 2013 5:00 AM PT

I'm not a religious guy, but I've been preaching about the virtues of moving to the cloud for a long time. Well before the idea became popular, I saw the potential cost savings offered by the cloud, as well as the opportunities to leverage it to generate new innovations. Now, nearly every industry is recognizing these potential benefits, including church pastors and other religious leaders.

God Loves the Cloud and It's Time to Get Religion

Over the last few years, I've been pleased to see corporate executives and end-users increasingly seek cloud-based alternatives to traditional, on-premises software and systems to achieve their business objectives. However, I was surprised to see the level of adoption that has already occurred in the religious community, according to a recent Intacct survey.

Increased Engagement

More than 1,000 small to mega-sized churches participated in the survey. Among the findings: Eighty percent of large churches (those with more than 1,000 people in weekly attendance) and 55 percent of smaller churches used cloud-based systems to support their day-to-day operations.

The churches that have employed cloud technology to engage with their constituents and encourage online contributions were much more likely to experience increases in giving than those that did not use cloud tools. Three-quarters of the churches using cloud technology saw giving by their congregations grow, compared to only 18 percent of those not using cloud technology.

Like nearly every other industry, the religious sector is facing a myriad of challenges. Numerous scandals have seriously damaged church images, and continued economic uncertainties have undercut the ability of many faithful church members to give at the same levels as they did in the past.

At the same time, nearly 40 percent of the churches responding to the Intacct survey said they were struggling to cost-effectively manage their operations because of their reliance on spreadsheets, lack of access to data, and manual reporting processes. Sound familiar?

So, the church leaders have gotten the cloud religion.

Charity Has Its Rewards

This is important, because church leaders include corporate executives, as well as pastors, who will not only take the lessons they've learned from Sunday sermons to guide the way they manage their businesses, but also make decisions about adopting new systems they've been exposed to at their local churches. Exposing corporate executives and end-users to the power of cloud-based solutions in a nonthreatening environment like their local church is a great way to win new converts.

Salesforce.com and other smart Software as a Service vendors have been giving their cloud-based solutions away to nonprofits for a while, with more than pure altruism in mind. It is not only good PR to gain the goodwill associated with these giveaways, but also a cost-effective method for giving potential customers a chance to experience cloud-based capabilities.

I don't want to sound cynical, but selling the value of the cloud to churches and other nonprofit organizations is a great channel strategy for smart cloud vendors. If the cloud is good for my church, then it must be worth trying in my business.

I guess you can say moving to the cloud is becoming a spiritual experience!

Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies and founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace. He can be reached at jkaplan@thinkstrategies.com.

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