Welcome! The office for the Central Midwest District of the Unitarian Universalist Association is in the process of going virtual. In this blog we’ll let you know about some of our trials, tribulations and successes. We hope you’ll comment, ask questions, and share your ideas and experiences with us. -- The CMwD Office Staff: Peggy, Gretchen, Karen, Karin, Ian, Dori, Kimberlee and Michelle. March 5, 2008
Here’s an example: In the church where I’m a member, we wanted to allow people to use their credit cards when paying for Service Auction purchases a couple of years ago.
How would you go about that?
In a small group where a small number of transactions will be processed, it often doesn’t make sense to set up a merchant credit card account. Beyond the per-transaction fee and the percentage of each transaction taken by the processor, nearly all charge some kind of monthly fee for the service, ranging from $20 to nearly $50 per month.
Where do you start?
In this case, one of the church’s members offered to run the purchases through their business credit card merchant account and write the church a check for that amount less the processing charges.
The auction went well. Several people did opt to use their credit or debit cards. We wrote down all the information and handed it off to be processed.
Unfortunately the member’s business started to go through some changes. Several calls from the church went unheeded. The church didn’t have the money from those Service Auction purchases. Eventually it all resolved but it took several months to collect the money from the transactions that had been processed. It turned out to be a strain on finances and on relationships within the church for a while.
What else might work?
The wiki at www.uuism.net/uuwiki/index.php?title=UU-Money has some questions and a few answers about ways to take donations online, including a write-up on the popular PayPal service. PayPal has been a division of EBay for several years now.
Here are some examples of how it has worked in our District:
1. My church had another occasion to use credit card processing. This time the treasurer and the office administrator set up a PayPal account. Money from this event was available within a few days and was transferred into the church’s bank account. They’re looking at more ways to use PayPal.
2. In 2008, two District groups started a short-term project. The UU Women’s Connection (formerly UU Women’s Federation) and the Women and Religion Committee collaborated, then teamed up with 5 churches spread out across the District to conduct facilitator training sessions for the new “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven” curriculum. There was a small fee to register and they wanted to collect answers to two questions: childcare needs and food allergies. So they set up a PayPal account and a web page where women could register to attend the training sessions. A mail-in form was also available. It turned out that over 80% of the registrants used the online form with the PayPal purchase option. In addition, the information the group wanted was collected. With each registration, PayPal sent a notice immediately so the group knew right away. That made tracking the registration information easy.
3. CMwD office manager Peggy Boccard set up a PayPal account for chalice lighter donations. I set up a page on our website for the “DONATE” button. That makes donating convenient for the people who have pledged to make Chalice Lighter donations.
4. At our District Assembly, we set up a satellite UUA Bookstore. In response to requests to process credit cards, we first tried to use our online registration system to process purchases. While at first it seemed ideal because people who had registered that way would have their information already in the system, the big disadvantage to that was having to log each person in and go through several pages of the registration process to get to the purchase area. Last year we set up a PayPal button for the Bookstore purchases, and with wireless access at the convention center, we were able to process those credit card purchase in a quick and easy manner.
So one good possibility is to use PayPal. With their new recurring payments (subscription) option, it might come in handy once again.
CMwD Communications Coordinator
I’ve discovered recently that it’s even EASIER to phone into a conference call with Skype. Then all you have to do is set up the open source Audacity audio recording program (http://audacity.sourceforge.net/) to record audio from “stereo mix” rather than microphone. Et voila! No extra equipment required. Then you can save the Audacity file and edit at your leisure without having to transfer a file from another device. DO mute your microphone on Skype though, since it does tend to create echoes and other unwanted sounds. You do have to have the landline feature on Skype enabled — it takes $10 to buy a bunch of minutes or somewhere around $30 per year for unlimited long-distance dialing.
I get better sound quality and connection on Skype than I do on my [major carrier] cell phone!
CMwD Distict Office Manager
The folks at the Waukesha Marriott were outstanding, and the rooms and the food were excellent. The large gatherings were inspiring, and the workshops and the Keynote and Presidential Candidates Forum were informative.
One of the brightest spots of the weekend was how the Media Team process worked. They were able to set up recording devices at almost all of the workshops, and if you go back to the Web Site, you’ll find the link to get to them.
We had a rehash meeting about a week later, and came up with some really good ideas for next year. One of the keys is, we will have a larger team working on getting DA organized: we’ll have someone to manage workshops and assist Presenters; someone specifically to mange and assist Exhibitors and Vendors; and someone to handle publicity.
In addition, we found that the table we expropriated for the Media Team became Tech Central for folks looking for information on the use of technology in their congregations as well as a central place for the Media Team to work from. That will become a planned fixture for DA in the future, and it will be manned at all time the Registration is open and there will be folks who can show you what we’ve been doing and answer your questions.
All in all, I think a good time was had by all!
So, instead of going with the high-cost, high-technology options that are available to organizations with much larger budgets, we decided instead to find what would work for what we needed, and keep our costs down.
After a lot of research, and conversations with a few tech-savvy members of district congregations, we chose the following pieces of new equipment for recording audio and video.
Samsung Zoom H-2
This handy little recorder has been exactly what we were looking for, and if I remember it cost us right around $200 brand new. We did have to buy a cable and an adaptor for it, specifically so that it could be used to record from a telephone.
Here is a link to learn more about it: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoom_H2_Handy_Recorder
It has four microphones, but it can also record in either two mic-mode or one mic-mode depending on what we are doing with it. It can record in both stereo and mono, and in both the sound quality has been quite surprising. One of the lessons we learned early was that we needed to record in mono when recording workshops on the phone. We also learned that the 4-mic mode was great if you were trying to record a group conversation, but the two-mic mode was much better for recording a presentation and questions (fewer sounds of chairs creaking and feet shuffling). It is in some ways a better recorder than we need for workshops, but it will allow us to record things like music events and the like.
It also plugs directly into every congregation sound system I have found, and allows us to digitally record through their system. As far as I know, the Unitarian Church of Evanston is using the same recorder for events in their church.
Canon ZR-950 Digital Video Recorder
This camcorder is mid-range in quality, but it appears to do everything we have asked of it so far. It takes both still-photos as well as video with decent sound to Digital Video tapes. It cost us around $250 brand new, but we did need to spend another 12 dollars on a cable to transfer the video to a computer.
We are still learning to use the Digital Video Recorder, but it has become our primary tool for taking still-photos. We are also currently doing the configuration to be able to use it for streaming video… more later on this.
We also bought a tripod for about 20 dollars that works for both the Video Recorder and the Audio Recorder.
I will put up other articles on some of our other equipment later…
Yours in Faith,