The Recorder - http://recorder.sourceforge.net - is a Web-based information system for small congregations. It tracks people (members, friends, guests, contacts, whomever), groups (club, committees, families, working groups, people who can cook, whatever you like), pledges, contributions, and projects. The last is designed to help keep an organizational memory of how-tos for bake sales, membership drives, lay-lead services, and whatever else you can think of.
The Recorder is open source, covered by the GNU general public license (GPL). Any person or organization can use it at no charge.
The system has been designed to meet the operational constraints of small congregations (such as not having a building, a full-time staff, or much money). For example, it:
- Is Web-based (so work can be distributed)
- Does not overburden member's underpowered home computers
- Has its own email client that doesn't depend on user's computers being set up correctly
- Has a flexible permissions system (so that users see only the data they need to do their tasks)
- Allows very easy data backup to multiple locations
- Can export data for use with accounting packages (e.g., QuickBooks), spreadsheets, word processors, database systems, etc.
The Recorder costs less than USD $20/month to run. However, if you already have a Web site on a server capable of hosting the Recorder (as you probably do), the marginal cost of running it is zero. Not only is the Recorder open source, but all of the software it uses to do its work (e.g., the database package MySQL) is also open source, and readily available on low-end Web hosting accounts.
The downside? The Recorder is not complete. The current version does all of the things listed above - you can try a demo version at http://recorder.sourceforge.net/. However, the documentation is in progress, and the feature set needs to be rounded out. It is anticipated that a complete operational version will be available by the end of 2004.
Contact Kieran Mathieson (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you're interested in learning more, or testing the Recorder. Feedback is welcome, and will help make the Recorder a useful tool for small congregations.