Over the week, I had the opportunity of chatting with the Founder and CEO of ChurchPlus, Ihesie Peter who talked about the solution, the challenges of the company as well as the future of the company. A very bright future, the founder envisages the platform being a global competitor in years to come.
In the beginning
Ihesie’s experience growing up with a pastor, knowing some of the challenges that clergy men face trying to manage church operations, and the zeal to have a solution that would simplify the management of church processes, birthed ChurchPlus.
Just in case you don’t know, ChurchPlus actually started back in 2012 but with a different model. The initial platform was built as a desktop application compared to the recently launched Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.
The desktop application required team members of the company to implement right at the location of the church, like traveling all the way to the eastern part of the country, just to have the application deployed for a single client. And the part that the company didn’t consider is maintenance in its fee at the initial stage of dealing with clients, without considering that supporting a desktop application can be cumbersome: this made sustainability a difficult task.
Hence, the idea of ChurchPlus running the platform as a SaaS solution was conceived taking into account that the location of the church shouldn’t dictate pricing, plus the company could also support as many churches as possible from the comfort of its ‘Yabacon Valley’ office.
The first version of the SaaS version of the platform was built from the programmers’ perspective – like the users are core IT professionals. But with clients’ experiences and feedback, simplicity in the platform’s usage was considered.
Top on the list of problems the platform is trying to address is maintaining a strong relationship between pastors and their members, especially as church grows bigger, the pastor-members relationship drops. Another is measuring performance on the part of church administrators or managers with respect to church attendance, first-timers.
With ChurchPlus pastors can manage church processes – monitor the rate at which church members are growing, the retention rate, members’ engagement, send SMS, email or audio messages to members, manage the financial activities of the church, view reports about every aspect of the church. From within the platform, churches can also manage church groups and associations, and monitor the performance of the church.
There are other solutions that the startup offers which come at extra cost for the churches, these include:
Customized Mobile Application: this is an engagement and communication platform for churches members to interact with other members as well as with their pastors. And on the part of the pastor, the customized mobile application serves as a content distribution channel to get messages or notifications across to members. Top of it, church members can send in prayer requests to their pastors or share testimonies.
Simplified Payment Solution: at the forefront of solutions offered, is its payment solution which gives churches the opportunity to accept offerings, tithe or donations online via the mobile application or through church website.
Website Service: this solution is targeted at churches that need to upgrade their online presence or get a new website. The startup would build and manage website for churches. And from the websites the pastor would be able to upload content as well, in form of newsletters, daily nuggets among others.
Online giving: with the online giving feature, church members can give their tithe, offerings or donations from wherever they are.
Also in the pipeline is an online event management solution, an EventBrite model for churches to manage their event attendance, ticketing among others.
“We are optimistic that people would catch up with technology, there is still a lot of hand-holding.”
- Budget constraint with its negative effect on getting talent on board, among other things
- Educating the users (churches) on the importance of the platform in managing their church activities
- Low catch-up with technology tools, still on the part of the users
- Trust on the part of the churches to have their details on the platform. To solve this, the startup has sealed strategic partnerships with the likes of Microsoft, banks among others.
Currently, the startup boasts of over 1000 churches signed up with a considerable percentage of usage. The highest that any church on the platform has is 10,000 members. There are also signups from South Africa, Brazil and the United States of America.
It’s a huge market, considering that about 50% of Nigerians are Christians, and the market still extends to Africa and beyond.
For ChurchPlus, understanding of the market is an advantage the company has over other players in the sector. The startup constantly look up to users for feedback, recommendations and comments.
This I can attest to, as I got a call from the CEO himself after requesting for access to a demo account. Ihesie confirms that it’s the same approach for every new registration on the platform, either full signup or a demo request.
“We want to build ChurchPlus as a brand, and not just a product.”
The startup’s short term goal is to become the biggest church management solution provider in the South-west region of the country within the next three months. Other short term goals include getting more visibility while also becoming the go-to church management solution provider.
As for the “permanent site” for ChurchPlus, it’s to be seen as a brand and not just a product and to be a major global competitor in the next twenty years.
Nigerian startups raised $17.6m in Q1 2019, 8.5% higher than they did in Q1 2018. Find out more in the latest quarterly edition of the Nigerian Startup Funding Report here.