Realm has been our only experience with CHMS and it has been well worth every penny. As a small church of about 200, we know there's so much more that this software is capable of doing that we simply do not have a need for at present. We love the organization Realm has given internally to our church staff and volunteers. The ability to track giving (both regular offering and pledge funds) through Realm is very sound and ensures accuracy in our financial record keeping. It also makes creating and sending year end giving statements a breeze! This software seemingly has no ceiling in its ability to query any information we want to gather from our people (as long as we have imputed the information when adding profiles). We can then quickly generate a report from that information that is easily shareable. Creating groups is also a great feature that has helped us, internally, better understand who is doing what and has subsequently helped us to be more intentional and effective in our communication. Routine tasks that we use Realm for on a weekly/daily basis include: recording giving, finding pertinent information about our people, generating reports/labels, adding profiles of our people and assigning them to groups, and communicating via Realm's email feature with various groups in our church.
The calendar is not as functional as we had hoped and does not allow for integration with Google Calendars. This has led to our avoiding any use of Realm's calendar. We have also not made use of the Events feature in Realm as there is no public-facing side of Events Registration (that we have found) that could tie in with our church website. The interface is not very intuitive/user-friendly and has held us back from opening up the software for use by more volunteers to handle tasks such as Check-in and Pathway's. This has also prevented us from allowing group leaders to manage their own groups' members, record attendance, coordinate events or activities, or to communicate directly with one another. The online giving feature does not currently allow for any embed code to make for a more seamless online giving experience.
Realm is the key tool to care for our congregation in intentional ways.
First we love that all of our systems are now in one place. Moving from running ACS OnDemand, AccessACS, and The City to just using Realm has created efficiency. Realm has allowed better care of our large congregation and opportunities for closing the back door. That's what we like most. With nearly 4,000 attenders on a weekend, knowing when people are disconnecting is difficult. With easy attendance through the app for all of our classes/events/offerings, and indications coming to the surface in reports when people begin to disengage, we can intentionally follow up with them for potential ministry opportunity. Along the same lines, being able to have family/individual profiles which really show a complete picture of a person and their involvement, along with what processes they're involved in, what events they've attended, what milestones they've met, and any notes pertinent to pastoral care for them as individuals, we are in a better position to care for our congregation than ever before.
Dashboard reports are great and put a lot of actionable data at ministry leaders fingertips.
Communication via Realm needs some minor improvements. The ability to share a message with multiple groups is missing at present. The option to reply to an email notification and have the message go back to the original thread in Realm is missing. Those two improvements would make a big difference in communication, as well as the ability to "feature" a post within a group to make it stay at the top of the group's News Feed. Need to be able to turn off ability to comment on a particular post, yet not delete it -- something that's informative in nature, but we're not necessarily looking for responses on.
Emails coming out of Realm need to be more customizable to have the look and feel the sender is going for. Calendar/events in Realm needs some help too. We are not to the point yet where we could use it as the one place to see events, as it's listing all service times and things we don't necessarily want to show in the events listing (things that are a given and don't need to be listed as events -- however they have to be in there so attendance can be marked/entered). A few enhancements need to be made in event registration as well, though it has come a long way.
This product is not as robust as some of the other big products out there, but it has almost everything you need to get the job done. Many organizations do not need or want all the bells and whistles that those products have, nor the cost they come with. Realm manages people and their contributions with ease. It has the ability to use groups to track attendance and facilitate communication among the groups/ministries of the church. The customization fields allow for tracking needs specific to individual ministries as well.
For attendance, there is a check in system that can be utilized that can be set up to provide security labels for children's ministry. It can also be used to check in for Sunday School or other events as well. This is tied to the attendance so that if the check in is utilized, the support staff/volunteer posting of attendance is reduced as well.
Then you have the support. If you ever run into a question or issue, there are wikis to help you along. The wikis are not just a long list of stuff, but are set up so that when you click the "?" button, it opens the wiki that is specific to the page you are on, so no more searching for what you need in a long list. If that doesn't help, you always have the support team standing by so you can call and get assistance as well. They are always ready to serve and never talk down to you because you ask a "dumb" question.
I like that the software developers take the time to listen to the users and frequently upgrade the software with features that users need, not what they think we should have. The UI is intuitive and easy to use. The wikis are robust and use lots of pictures so there is not confusion as to what needs to be done. The support team in knowledgeable.
The search engine is not as robust as some other products, but that is improving as the product develops.
We use Realm Connect - the level that allows for congregants to log in and use the app feature as well. Realm is easy to use and intuitive to figure out. The staff love being able to get to it anywhere and that they can even work on their phones on things if needed. Realm has features that make life easier for church staff, while also allowing the congregation to connect with each other. The Realm development team is always looking at ways to make it easier for people to know where to go, while also trying to find ways to make the church staff's lives easier as they input the data. Additionally, the support staff is very knowledgeable and helpful. I rarely have to wait for support help and if they cannot fix an issue while I am on the phone with them, they are quick to follow back up.
There are still areas they are building out and things that are not there yet. For example, today we tried to copy a list of people from a registration event into a group roster as the group decided they wanted to be able to communicate with each other during the study. This was not a feature that was available yet, so the person entering the data had to manually add the people to a group. But, they have an enhancement request portal where Realm staff users can enter ideas in on what to change or add and they follow that portal very closely. The things that are not there yet are a small trade-off in my mind, as overall Realm is incredible software. And knowing that those things will come soon makes it easier for me to help my staff realize that if they can be patient for a little bit longer, everything will be in one place. They really like that!
Overall our church and it's members enjoy using Realm. We just got it in 2017 so don't have a lot of experience with it. I do think the communication functions will be a big help to us. Your support staff has always been very professional and friendly. I think in 5 years we will be using it as our main communications tool.
The cost is probably the best feature for us as a small church. It also allows our members and friends to donate an online gift and have it immediately posted to the member's statement. It is also very user friendly.
When creating the photo directory with family information, there is no "refer to" for couples who have different last names (i.e., Bob Warren and Karen Fisher, Nathan Kotecki and Garrett Southerland). Access ACS had that feature.
When creating a .pdf file of the directory, there is no way to password protect it without running it through a different program. Access ACS had that feature.
In the photo directory, there is no way to flag various people (like ordained minister, staff, non-member friend, etc.)
The .pdf document created is static, not dynamic (in other words, you can't click on an email address and go straight to an email, nor can you cut and paste phone numbers, addresses, etc.)
The mobile app for Realm Connect opens automatically to the "news" feed. Since we don't use the news feed, people who are using the app to get contact information do not easily find that information. It would help if we could choose which feature Realm Connect opens with.
Easy to learn and to use. Helps us track everything from giving to attendance, as well as trends. On-line (as opposed to desktop loaded) software keeps the worry out of losing data. Affordable, even for a smaller church.
Realm is extremely user-friendly. I love that they have teamed with Vanco for donations/payments and the payments are recorded directly into the person's record in Realm. The pastor likes to do analytics and uses that feature all the time. I work in the contribution section every week and it couldn't be easier. The "icing on the cake" is the world-class Customer Service. After two quick prompts, a real person answers the phone within seconds. I don't get transferred. The person is very knowledgeable, friendly, polite, and most of all can answer my questions. They will also log onto my computer - with my permission - if that is the best way to help me.
I can't get all the reports I used to get in ACS People. Also, I have not found a way to link different families together (i.e. showing one family is a mother and father to another family). I also wish that Realm Financials would stop pushing back their timeline to include Payroll so we can switch from ACS Financials to Realm for that part of business, also.
We have had Realm for 3 years and seen the software improve a lot over that time. I am very impressed at their constant ingenuity to continue developing the product to meet customer needs. We love the check-in platform which is extremely simple to use.. even better now with customizable badges! We have met with the Realm team several times regarding various new program updates. The team would show us a sample of a new concept and ask for our feedback. It was fun to be a part of new innovation and it was especially exciting when we saw our suggestions implemented in the software.
Realm does not interact with our Planning Center Services account or our Resources calendar. Because of this, we have to duplicate information and ultimately manage 2 databases of people (PCO and Realm). This hasn't been a major issue but it would be nice if profiles that were updated in Realm would be automatically updated in PCO. Also, our small group leaders have found the mobile app to be limited in its functionality. Understandably, the app has less features than the web version but it would be really nice if, for example, a small group leader could add a new guest from the mobile app.
I have been using Realm to manage people (contributions, attendance, etc.) for about 8 months. I have also had the privilege to be a part of the pilot program for Realm Accounting. People management is very straightforward. Accounting process will be very familiar for existing ACS Financial Suite users. Chart of Accounts structure is a bit different, but I like the use of Account Codes (core accounts) that are available across funds. Accounting might be a little too strong for one-person office environments, especially those accustomed to QuickBooks functionality.
ACS partners with Vanco for processing gifts and registration payments. Vanco is great to work with. Together, they have just launched text giving for Realm.
I've been able to successfully check-in people from Windows tablet and have labels waiting at the check-in station (label printer shared from another Windows computer). I like being able to verify attendance with a tablet during service.
Text giving in Realm is included with online giving.
Dashboards readily available and can be customized for Giving, Attendance, and Involvement. Plus the Overview can provide quick insights to your database.
Built-in reports have a ways to go.
We are comparing PowerChurch, Servant Keeper and Realm. Of the three, Realm is the most robust, organized and simplest to jump right in without a lot of training. We can track records in our Adult Spiritual Education program. We can track visitor outreach. We can track attendance collectively and individually.
Gift entry is awesome! You must enter a batch first, meaning the full dollar amount of your deposit; then you enter individual gifts against that dollar amount. If the final figures do not match, you know immediately that you have a data entry error. Can't tell you how much I love this feature!
Also, they have a super robust wiki site that explains every facet of their software. The info is broken down into bite-sized, easily digestible chunks. It is presented through a combo of pictures, videos, and text. Very well laid out; easy to navigate.
I found things in the free demo that made no sense to me. The help button to me to the wiki site where I was able to easily get my question answered. I rarely use the help on other software programs because it's confusing and not worth the effort.
By contrast, I spent over an hour each with the folks from PowerChurch and Servant Keeper to get help making sense of their software.
All 3 solutions are highly customizable. But, Realm is the most organized. For example, our education program includes 2-3 years of classes. I need to track students through classes and know when they've finished. Both PowerChurch and Servant Keeper allow me to create a customized tracking system. But each makes use of multiple screens that take some effort to navigate between. Because this info is entered periodically (not daily), I'm concerned my volunteers will need to retrained every time they use it.
Realm offers a solution where everything is on one screen. No complicated navigation. Can't guarantee a volunteer won't need retraining, but they'll only have one thing to learn and remember with Realm.
It's the right price point for a church of our size. The ONLY reason for the 4-stars overall is that the accounting module is extra and I cannot find the cost for it ANYWHERE on their site. Very frustrating! Also Realm does not integrate with MailChimp. Just Constant Contact (my least favorite email solution). If it weren't for the data conversion, we'd be able to get started for under $200! You can't beat that kind of value. The only reason we wouldn't go with Realm is that I get outvoted. :)
It's a really robust software. The customer support is amazing. And their help file is one of the best I've seen of any software anywhere!
We have been using Realm as our church management software since 2016. We were upgrading from a really old software system that we'd been using since the 90s or before. Realm walked us through the transfer which was very involved. And I think our transfer took longer than usual but they held our hands through the process.
But since we've been up and running, it's been smooth sailing. They're constantly updating the software. I haven't had any problems with it. We haven't rolled out the member portion of the software yet. We have an older congregation and getting every logged in would be a challenge.
As a small (under 100 members) Church, Realm has more than met our needs. I believe it's a software we can easily grow with for years to come.
We opted to handle the personalization of the software ourselves. Well...that hasn't happened. With running a church and everyone wearing multiple hats, we just haven't had time. So, I know we're not getting all the value from the software that we could. That's not Realm's fault. If I remember correctly, it was a cost thing that caused us to do it ourselves. Perhaps Realm needs a customization price for small churches like ours.
A plethora of reporting options! Master membership rolls. Class check-in (and child safety/security). Communication with members on Connect.
It appears that ACS has put in a lot of homework in looking for things that a church might do and how they actually do business. The Connect aspect is only as useful as the people who use it, but the Realm engine in very powerful and has a lot of features that just about any church would want or need. The cloud-based platform is also helpful because 1) our software/interface never need updating and 2) there is no risk of us losing our data. The reporting options are also very flexible: our denomination requires annual reports on numbers and finances, and (I think) we can create enough custom reports to cover these annual reports all within the confines of Realm! That is a huge time saver no more spreadsheets!
Sending invites to Realm seems to be tricky, especially if a child has grown and now has an e-mail address. We can't just send an invite from the person's profile page (hint: make this an option). Also, in order to do child check-in or Sunday School sign-in sheets, there is a lot of layering that is required in order to get the final product. ONce complete, it is fairly simple on a weekly basis, but getting there can take some time (but not difficult time). Coming from a Database Administrator perspective (that's my job), I fully understand the need for such layers, as it keeps things working right, so this is not something that must be fixed. However, for the average user, it might seem tedious.
Our church started using Realm over a year ago. It is a wonderful software that provides great functionality, real-time data, and it's user friendly! Information is always just a couple clicks away and we delight in how well our members have received it! Using Realm has freed staff from spending great amounts of times trying to assemble reports because the data is already there. This allows them to focus on other, more important people and ministry driven tasks. One of the best features is the online giving! We're able to offer quick, easy, and secure online giving to our church members and even church visitors (plus TEXT GIVING)!! We are always amazed at how the ACS developers are constantly improving Realm. They take our input and suggestions of how the product can be even better, which is nice since we are the ones out in the real world using the software. We have a voice! Their customer service and support are without fail fantastic!
Overall, Realm is just a really great product and we would recommend it to others without hesitation. It certainly allows us to work smarter, not harder, and it gives us the tools we need to run our amazing church! Thanks Realm!
Not in any particular order:
2. Communication Feature within Groups - our group leaders are loving this feature and are engaging more and more with participants in their groups. Attendance marking has also increased since converting to Realm
3. Dashboard/Reporting - helping us greatly in doing ministry effectively: reaching the disengaged, cleaning up data, and planning
4. Merging of duplicate records tool - very seamless and love the fact that the duplicates are automatically reported on the Dashboard
5. Pathways - LOVE that we can now keep track of where all of members and guests are in their spiritual journey or with their involvement at our church.
6. Online Giving - we've get over 100 New First-Time giver weekly since moving to Realm
7. Check-In Kiosk - our ministries who use this absolutely love how seamless and efficient the check-in process is now. We transition from ACS Checkpoint. Check-In Kiosk in Realm allows for a much smoother experiencing when checking in for children's church
8. The ACS support team that's been PHENOMENAL and dedicated to seeing us WIN with Realm!
1. Our church does A LOT of events throughout any given month - currently we've experienced some limitations within Event Registrations (i.e. being able to search for a specific event using keywords/tags). Our end user currently has to scroll down a very long list of events to find the event they want to register for.
I love being able to keep our members together on one place, look them up, and send them messages. It's easy to keep everything going on at the church together. I use it for events, for pathways, and to send messages to people. I was in charge of children's ministry until recently and the check-in was great!
- Messages and Topics are available as push notifications from the app
- Huge improvements from it's predecessor program, The City
- For larger churches, easy searches focusing on specific members or parameters
- Giving to a church is easy
- The Kids Check-In is initiative and easy to pick up for parents
- Easy to create events that require registration and payment
- There is a learning curve for the average user
- There is a time lag between messages sent via laptop/desktop and the app
- The larger the church, and the more you use Realm, you will need to dedicate a significant amount of time to the software to keep it humming.
Realm has been a great tool in our organization. We use it every day to easily manage profile updates, create reports and so much more!
I just can't say enough about Realm! Once we got our organization set up with all the ministry areas, groups and individual profiles it makes managing and communicating with our members so much easier! There are so many features that make this product A+ If there ever is an issue or question, Realm has the absolute BEST support team ever! They are very courteous, knowledgeable, and professional and are very eager to help resolve any issues. AND we implemented the Realm Connect Mobile app and this has been a great add-on to our Realm use.
So far we haven't encountered any cons.
We are using Realm for both Accounting and the data management of our parish. I've appreciated how user-friendly it is to use and I especially appreciate that I can call and get a quick answer if I'm stumped when trying to do something. As a Parish Administrator it truly supports my ability to do my job - and I'm grateful for its continued excellence.
Ease of Use
Fabulous support by phone
Integrated online giving
Continuous build out and enhancement
Relevant to our work in the church
Extremely beneficial User Conference annually
Unlike our use of the ACS On Demand software, it doesn't differentiate between pledge payments and general giving when we post the contributions to the GL. This is an enhancement I will be grateful for when and if it is done.
Much better organization in the office. A tool to connect church members, and assist church leadership.
The interface is pleasing and fairly intuitive. The customer service is excellent. The tools available are very useful for our church. I appreciate the customized fields in the system that allow me to change certain terminology to better match our church.
There are bumps in the road sometimes with updates, whether it's an unexpected consequence, changed features, or having to teach volunteers a new way to use the software. I also appreciate how much Realm listens to customer feedback, but sometimes wish improvements could be made faster.
We have used ACS products for nearly 10 years and are so happy to leave behind the painful inhouse and shrinkwrapped systems we used to use. Our Realm Consultant is super knowledgeable and helped us determine the best processes,practices and scope for our ministry needs. Support is always available and super helpful. ACS is a true pleasure to work with.
The Realm team is working on a couple of functions that are important to our operations. They have released weekly enhancements and are quick with workaround solutions. They release enhancements weekly and seamlessly.
I love the integration between all different areas such as financials, attendance, and groups. I also am a huge fan of the app that allows me to quickly search for and contact church members. Reports pull easily and there are a ton of customization options throughout the various areas.
There are a couple features such as people being able to sign up for and see events without an account that are still missing. There are also times that setting up an event or pulling a report can be confusing at first, but their team is awesome at responding quickly and helping you figure out what you need to do.
What we had before ACS/Realm did not group families together and Realm does.
So looking up a child with a different last name has changed so much for us.
That made a big difference for a lot of things. We are using more and more of the features all the time.
I like the ease in which information is entered and edited.
I like that you can search for a report and then when you have the results you are looking for you can save it and use it over and over. Editing the parameters of the search is also understandable.
That we don't have Finances on it yet. Will be glad when we do.
I use mostly the giving section of the program. I enter donations, print out reports to match financial statements of money coming in and print quarterly reports for members to find out where they are as far as their pledges.
Ease of use is number one in my book as far as the accounting is concern. Cut down my work time and easy to cross reference.
Getting labels and directories are still a major problem. I tend to do it the old long way instead of reading through instructions.
Communication Help, Membership tracking, Contribution tracking, and Online Donations
Some of the features I appreciate most is the user-friendly tips and cues for administrators and users alike. I appreciate the fact that this software is geared toward church environments and is obviously designed with that in mind. The customer support has ALWAYS been helpful and pleasant, no matter the question.
This is a bit of a learning curve, and there really is no short-cut to cleaning up databases that have long been neglected.
I am the point person at our church for all things Realm (aka Administrator). I've been using the program for a while and have enjoyed how user friendly it is. The support folks are sharp and quick to respond to our needs... especially during our transition to this program! They were great!
Ease of use; we don't need to worry about "what happens if a computer goes down?"; great support staff; pre-defined reports; dashboard; Data base and finances are linked in same system; great easy to understand on-line search/help.
I'm still working on figuring out/getting used to how to run custom reports. I know the information is in there... I just need to make it into a lovely, easy to read, report. When they added more pre-defined reports, I was delighted.
The admin side is pretty easy to use once set up and our staff likes it. The pictures are helpful to new staff members who may not recognize everyone yet.
I don't think the app was ready to launch. It has created multiple communications problems. The newsfeed is very confusing to our folks - they don't get the point. Some people who get email notification of new newsfeed posts tend to answer them - and others are upset that they keep getting the replies (some comments not appropriate for everyone to see).
Switched from using a membership database software that we had been using for many years. The improved ease and functionality we found once we switched to Realm was a breath of fresh air!!
Entering and editing member information was very easy and user friendly. Entering contributions could be fully automated with the right equipment (i.e., check scanner, etc.)
It can be a bit difficult to download reports at times. Additionally, the company is constantly updating the software. This is great because it's always being improved....but sometimes things will get moved around or will change in appearance, so it can take a few days to get used to the changes and find everything again.