Setting Up the User Portal

Some of you may be aware of the logged-in area of ShalomCloud, but may be wondering how you’d go about setting up the user portal. Wonder no more.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the user portal, this is a place where logged-in users can:

  • See and maintain their own household information.
  • Review any Yahrzeits connected to any member of that household.
  • Pull a financial statement for any period of time. The statement shows any outstanding balances, and shows any payments in the designated period of time.
  • Issue payments–pledge payments, contributions, school tuition, for example.

Setting up the portal is a three-step process:

  1. First, create an email template, that will be used to send each new user information on how to log in.
  2. Then, select the audience, and click the orange button.
  3. Last, review the results.

Here is a six-minute video that steps you through the end-to-end process.

Setting up the User Portal from Norman Snyder on Vimeo.

Here are some articles showing what logged-in users can do.

Portal user selection
Selecting users for the portal

The Turnaround Document

Scattered through these posts are some citations of the Turnaround Document. The Turnaround Document, to be brief, is a way for you to send letters or emails to your congregation, with all the information you have on file for each family. The document shows:

  • Household information, such as physical address and primary phone number
  • Information on each member, such as email, cell phone, birth dates, occupations, Hebrew names, etc.
  • A list of all the Yahrzeits related to any member of that family.

With this latest change, you can now select, by family status, who will receive the letter/email. For example, if you have statuses such as ‘Active’ and ‘Affiliate’, you can target just those two.

One more thing–the congregants can now specify on the turnaround document whether they want their cell phone numbers and/or email addresses suppressed on a membership directory.

Selections for the Turnaround Document

End-of-school-year Promotion

If you track your religious school enrollment within ShalomCloud, you can now take advantage of the end-of-school-year promotion process.

In order to use this action, you’d want to make sure that your grade levels are set up. One typical example would be 1 = Alef, 2 = Bet, 3 = Gimel, etc. You’d want to ensure, above all, that the grade levels are numeric and consecutive.

We typically upload your current student population during the conversion process, rather than your having to enter them student by student.

With those setup items complete, to run the end-of-school-year promotion process, you’d go to Maintenance => Promote to next grade level. The system does pause to confirm that you want to take this action. If you reply OK, you’ll see a screen, with each student’s new grade level, and any errors that occurred.

Here’s a video illustrating the end to end promotion process.

Country Code

You can now enter a country code as part of the address for your congregational families.

In most cases, you likely do not want to designate a country. That is, if the mailing address is in the same country as your synagogue, it is best to not designate a country.

In contrast, let’s say that your temple is in a northern climate in the United States, and you have a family or two with a winter home in Costa Rica. You would want to designate a country (CRI in this example) for that seasonal address. Or the opposite–your congregation is in Florida, and you have folks with a Canada address, either as their primary or seasonal address. You’d put CAN as a country code.

If the system sees a country code, it will print a separate line on envelopes and labels to show it.

New drop-down selection for country

Yahrzeit Query by Billing Status

Hang onto your hats, folks. This one goes a mite deep.

First, in order to understand this change, let’s outline how some of the data relates to each other. Modeled after the real world,

  • ShalomCloud houses family units, sometimes referred to as households.
  • One or more individuals reside within those family units.
  • Yahrzeits, in and of themselves, are records of deceased persons, containing, among other details, both the Hebrew and Gregorian dates of death.
  • Yahrzeit relationships, then, are the ties between the deceased and the individuals defined and maintained by you.

The family units / households contain a field called “billing status.” Thus, a member of a household listed as “Active” can also be thought of as Active. Likewise, a member of a household with status “Inactive,” for example, can be thought of as Inactive.

And now, at last we arrive at the change. Within Yahrzeit queries, you can now select billing status(es) for relationships you want to appear in the answer. For example, let’s say that there are two brothers, Adam and Billy. Adam is a member of your congregation; Billy is indeed tracked in your data, but has a status of “Out of Town.” Let’s say, also, that their father David’s Yahrzeit is in the system.

In this example, if you run a Yahrzeit query without specifying billing status, you’ll see both David, father of Adam and David, father of Billy. However, if you run that same query, specifying only Active, you’ll see only David, father of Adam.

Also, the actions that flow from the query screen–the mail merge export, the Yahrzeit reminder letters, and the Yahrzeit reminder emails–match what you’ll see on the screen.

Here is a five-minute video that shows how this works.

Adjustments to Amounts Owed

To give you another way to handle outstanding pledges, we now provide a way to issue adjustments to amounts owed. Let’s run through a couple of situations where this could be useful:

Situation 1: The family has pledged $1100. Four months later, they send in a check for $600, accompanied by a letter explaining that they’ve moved away and wish to have the rest of the pledge excused. With the presence of the adjustments field, you can record the remaining $500 as an adjustment, which, together with the actual payment, will reduce the amount owed to 0.

In the financial transaction query screen, you can ask the system to show you all adjustments. That could be without a time period, or bounded by a date range, a fiscal year, or any of the other values on the query screen.

Situation 2: Going back to that pledge of $1100–suppose the family has made a $100 payment for five months, which you’ve dutifully recorded, leaving a balance of $600. Now the family suddenly reveals that they’ve joined another synagogue, and wish to have their balance cleared. Here, you can enter a financial transaction, specifying only the $600 adjustment, with nothing in any of the payment boxes.

To complete the story, let us also mention that, parallel to adjustments, there is also available a Financial Assistance transaction. Its arithmetic is the same as an adjustment. Thus, the use of FA vs. Adjustment is largely a matter of semantics. An FA would likely be for situations such as illness or lost job.

Here’s a video (5m, 45s) illustrating a couple of round trips using the adjustment transaction.

Adjustments to Amounts Owed

Members by Household Attributes

You can now query for individual members, by the attributes associated with their household records.

To step back a bit–for some time, ShalomCloud has provided a way to define attributes (or ‘tags’) for families (a.k.a. Households), for individuals within those families, and for Yahrzeits. There are screens where you can easily and quickly tag your families and members, as needed.

Then, by going to the Queries menu, you could pull lists of families with your choice of attributes. Similarly, you could pull lists of individuals, with your choice of member attributes.

However–what if you wanted to obtain a list of people who belonged to families with certain attributes? For example–maybe you’ve tagged some households as Seniors, others as Young Couple or Young Single? And you want to reach out to members of those families, maybe to organize group-specific activities?

That’s what this enhancement handles. Have a look at the video (5 minutes). It shows you this feature, and also shows an example of combining the different attributes into one query.

Family attributes available in member query
Family attributes now available in member query

Donation Acknowledgments

This post discusses a couple of new ways to send donation acknowledgments.

For quite awhile, you could send such acknowledgments via postal mail, using a template in the format of a typical business letter. The structure included things such as insider address, greeting, body, complimentary close, and writer identification. If your synagogue’s letters fit into that mold, then that is probably your best option.

However–if either (a) you prefer to email your contribution acknowledgments, or (b) your template is more involved–say, with officers and titles running down the left side–you can now take advantage of the richer formatting options available under email templates.

In a way, we’re double-dipping here. At the risk of seeming repetitious–you now have three options:

  • Continue to use the venerable letter templates, especially if your letter adheres to the available structure;
  • Create an email template, and use it to email your donation acknowledgments;
  • Leverage the rich formatting of email templates to create a highly customized donation acknowledgment letter.

Here’s a seven-minute video that explains all three options.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop us a note at [email protected] . We’ll be happy to go over your specific situation and make a recommendation.

Recent Changes

Here in one compressed article is a list of recent changes. Some of these have merited their own independent post. Where that’s the case, you’ll see a link to that article. Otherwise, we’ll show a short explanation of the change.

Financial

On Queries => Financial Transactions, you can now enter a check number, check amount, or both. So, for example, if someone says, “I mailed in check 1234 for $85.00,” you’ll be able to quickly track whether you received and posted that check; and you’ll be able to tell at a glance the categories to which that money was applied.

On Queries => Financial Transactions, if you export data, you’ll see two changes:

  1. The export now contains the family’s formal name
  2. Debits (charges) and Credits (payments) appear in separate columns.

On Financial => Statements, the choice of which statements to print had been limited to either everyone, or any one specific family. The point of the “one specific family” was to handle the case where you may have reapplied a transaction, and wanted to produce an updated statement. Or, of course, if the family did not receive the original statement, and wanted a replacement. Now, as is the case with the directory, you can more finely select who will receive statements. You can select by billing status, and/or select by family attribute.

Membership communications

On Queries => Produce Directory, you can now select which families appear in the directory. You can select by billing status, by family attributes, or a combination. Also, if you mark the family with a special attribute named _EXCL, the program will exclude that household from the directory. Moreover, the Exclude attribute overrides all the other selection criteria.

When sending emails from Queries => Members, you now can choose from your own defined set of sender email addresses, in addition to your logged-in ID. Please see this blog post devoted to this topic.

The Turnaround Document offers the flexibility to either print it or email it. In early January 2019, we added the capability to print the Turnaround Document only for those families with no email address.

Yahrzeits

From Queries => Yahrzeits, you can now produce a formatted report, meant to provide lists of Yahrzeits read from the Bimah. Please see this blog post for details and report options.

In ShalomCloud, each Yahrzeit “notifee” can choose notification by Gregorian date, by Hebrew date, or none. Because of this, we show Yahrzeits by both sets of dates. However, if your congregation has all notifications set to Hebrew date (or none), the Gregorian portion will not appear.

Alternate ‘From’ Email Address

We have a change in store, designed to give you some more flexibility when sending congregational emails. The change is the ability to select an alternate ‘from’ email address when sending emails to your membership.

First, some background–we purposefully have defaulted the ‘from’ address when sending emails, to that of the logged-in id. That was designed to prevent anyone from impersonating another.

On the other hand, suppose your congregation has some general-purpose email addresses. Addresses such as [email protected] or [email protected] In that case, you may wish to send emails from those addresses, without having to log out of your actual user ID.

That is now possible. This video runs through the entire process. Basically, you’d define a few of these special email addresses. Then, attach these new email “users” to a special code. The special code allows the ID to do one thing–to send emails.

If you’re content with sending emails solely from your own logged-in ID, you can safely ignore this post. Your ID will still be the default, so this option won’t affect you.