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Helping churches streamline the business of ministry

A Charlotte software company rebuilds its brand by focusing on churches and their needs

By Marty Minchin
Correspondent

Gary Artis, founder of InterDyn Artis software company in southeast Mecklenburg, believes his company can help churches expand their ministries with technology tools traditionally used in business.

Staff at his 24-year-old company have developed a package of software products tailored specifically to church needs: from tracking contributions, to managing volunteer ranks, to electronically keeping track of which children are in Sunday morning children’s programs.

It’s all part of a relatively new, but burgeoning sector of the company, with its corporate headquarters in an office park off Tower Park Drive. InterDyn Artis has long built its business by reselling Microsoft products and customizing them for clients. As the company’s longtime client base of midmarket businesses began dwindling due to the 2008 recession, company leaders started looking for other revenue streams.

Today, the company expects ProclaimCRM, its new church management software, to emerge as a major sector of the company. InterDyn Artis employs 25 people, including three who were hired recently to work exclusively with ProclaimCRM. Company revenues are approaching $5 million, near pre-recession levels.

“I am beyond excited,” said George Delp, director of sales for ProclaimCRM. “We have a whole wing of this building that was formerly dark that’s just bustling now.”

Spreading the word

While church management software is not new to the marketplace, the minds behind ProclaimCRM say new technological advances help keep their product more cutting edge than some other offerings. Through cloud computing technology, the company can provide customized software that is updated much more quickly, Artis said. The InterDyn Artis team started thinking more about the church niche after seeing a national need for more advanced software in this realm. InterDyn Artis developers began talking about how they could tailor software to help churches.

“I’m constantly hearing from churches what their strengths and challenges are,” Delp said. “Our (short) development cycle allows us to really bring features to market quickly.”

They are needs that church administrative office staffers know all too well: Everything from accepting credit card donations for Sunday school registrations, to tracking enrollments in summer Bible camps to keeping records of attendees’ weekly financial offerings.

Once InterDyn committed to pursuing the faith sector, the company worked its business connections to buy ProclaimCRM from a developer in Florida who had “exhausted all of his resources to invest in the product,” Artis said.

With ProclaimCRM, InterDyn Artis owns its software for the first time, rather than customizing and installing another company’s product. By controlling the product, the company can decide which features to add to the next release, and how to handle sales.

Here’s how Proclaim works: A church buys a level of ProclaimCRM that fits the size and needs of its congregation. A church with 150 members, for example, could buy a package that includes tools to track membership, contributions, volunteers and attendance, and organization and management of small groups.

Larger churches can add options ranging from managing multiple locations, to websites that allow church members to interact, to children’s check-in systems at child watch.

Along with its practical uses, churches can analyze the data generated by ProclaimCRM to determine the effectiveness of ministries and make strategic decisions.

So far, according to Artis, the ProclaimCRM church management software is used by several out-of-state churches – including two that are among the largest congregations in the country. Artis said. He hopes to land more Charlotte church business in 2013 as word spreads about ProclaimCRM. (The company declined to name current or prospective church clients, citing competitive reasons.)

InterDyn Artis continues to update and expand the software’s capabilities, with staff often brainstorming in a conference room about issues they hear from church customers, and ways they can make the software easier to use. Right now, they are working on a mobile application for smart phones and iPads that would allow parents to check-in their children at Sunday school.

A new direction

InterDyn’s tech evolution comes after years of success as a value-added reseller of Great Plains accounting software. In the late 1980s, Artis began a business helping midmarket businesses install and learn how to use the financial software. Because he also knew how to program computers, Artis could customize the software to meet individual businesses’ needs.

The company, founded in 1989, grew quickly. After Artis met his wife, Linda, at a conference in 1993, she later joined the company sales team. By the late 1990s, InterDyn Artis employed 42 and brought in $5.6 million in revenues, Gary Artis said.

They worked with local and national clients, such as Napa Auto Parts, and the company doubled the size of its building. Inc. Magazine listed it as one of the top 500 fast-growing companies by revenue in the U.S. in 2000.

The bursting of the tech bubble in the early 2000s led to layoffs and a drop in software sales. InterDyn Artis began looking to other markets, finding some success working with software for lumber companies.

As the 2008 recession unfolded, InterDyn Artis’ revenues fell to $4 million and it laid off employees to stay afloat. Leaders decided that to survive, the company needed a new focus.

“One of the things we had believed in over the years has been to get more targeted and differentiate more,” Artis said. “We don’t want to always compete on price. We want to compete with our skill set and expertise.

“We kept looking for that other market.”

Today, the company sees ProclaimCRM as a market for significant future growth.

“We feel like we’re on the path to long-term profitability,” Artis said. “It will be a major part of our ongoing revenue.”

Delp added that working with churches has added benefits.

“It feels good,” he said. “We’re helping great organizations do great things.”

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