The Illinois Great Rivers Conference Solves Database Woes

Migrating from dilapidated systems to greener pastures


Eight years ago the Illinois Great Rivers Conference looked for a solution to their contact database needs. Today, the solution is finally here.

The Conference worked with Brick River for their website and event registration for the past 16 years, and decided to expand that scope to include their database. According to Paul Black, Director of Communication Ministries, they’ve seen numerous improvements over the years and already liked using Brick River—which spurred this decision.

Their old database, Shelby, solved certain problems but fell short in key areas. The Conference’s financial team valued Shelby’s financial features and will continue to use it for that, but the contact management portion did nothing but eat time and tank efficiency.

“[Brick River is] easier to use. It’s understandable, and you don’t have to know SQL in order to operate it,” said Paul.

With their old system, syncing with other systems, (like the denomination’s central database), was a hot mess because it was too unwieldy to maintain.

“What you ended up with was either double entry, or just living with ambiguity and only putting the information we needed to run things like church and people locators. We were very limited on what we could do.”

Missing or messy data on top of a database that can’t connect to the outside world was contrary to his vision. Now instead of only being able to sync once or twice annually, the Conference is always up to date and able to provide reports in real time.

Recently, Brick River has seen a rash of customers walk down a similar migration path. For instance, the Holston, Minnesota, Pacific Northwest, Alaska Conferences of The UMC; several United Church of Christ conferences; and a number of foundations recently migrated off of systems from companies like Blackbaud and Shelby
“Some things may not be possible. But every time when they've given me a no, they then figure out a way in which to make it work or work around that does what I need it to do. And I think that's where a lot of companies fall short. They'll sell you their package, and more of a it’s take it or leave it thing. If we don't have the feature built in it's not going to get done, unless we've got an enhancement or something that we're going to sell you. Whereas with Brick River, they listen to what you need, and then they try to meet that need.”