Managing charities and social enterprises efficiently and effectively

Over the last couple of years charities have come under even greater scrutiny, In 2015 the story broke about a number of high profile charities pressuring vulnerable people to give, which led to a greater examination on the way charities fund raise and hold information on those who give and have given to charities. This year saw a number of charities fined for the way in which they stored and used information. At the same time, there is an increasing expectation for charities to be savvy in the way they communicate with donors and clients. There is an expectation that you will know a large amount of information and use that information wisely. This is also done under a difficult funding situation, with small charities struggling to assess and evaluate what the impact and implications of various different software packages will have on their company.

third sector cafe

We’ve seen the right choices lead to greater income and more efficient and effective services – however there isn’t a one size fits all solution – which is why it is so important to spend time asking questions and exploring what’s available and what has and hasn’t worked for other organisations.

We asked Rachel from Arkom to talk to us about what how she looks at things

“From my own personal experience of working for a Charity, I can empathise with how hard it can be to sometimes make change happen. Those changes are needed the majority of the time to remain sustainable and become smarter in the way of working and generate more income.

For me , Its more about How do you organise your Charity? increasing efficiencies, measuring social impact, Improving communication, increasing income, event management, effective database marketing, trusts and grants reporting, data protection.

Every charity is different in the way they operate I have learnt this having visited so many. From brain tumour/cancer research, alcohol and drug abuse, women’s refuge, Animals, Education and ex-offenders to name a few. ”
— https://www.arkom.co.uk/

Looking at your organisation and understanding what are the current challenges and those on the horizon – as well as what are the potential opportunities that are out there – to generate more income, be more efficient and so be able to deliver more.

 Here at the Third Sector Café we are constantly making choices about what we use. Over the last few years we have used  Eventbrite  to manage the bookings for our events. We choose it because it is easy to use, people trust it and we can operate it remotely, but it is expensive. So we looked at changing to a different system and going in house. We purchased a system that allowed us to publish the tickets ourselves – the promo looked great. However when we tried to put it into practice it wasn’t the right solution for us, people preferred Eventbrite and getting the tickets online was more difficult than before. We are glad we experimented and we would try another solution again. In the experimenting we understood more about what we need from a product and how we need it to work. Another solution that we experimented with was  Slack – a team working app. It’s allowed us to streamline our work, reduced the need for ploughing through emails to find where we were with something, and keep a track of what we have got booked in and when!  That experimentation worked really well for the Third Sector Cafe it suited our needs and was a good fit for our organisation and our skill level. 

Here at the Third Sector Café we are constantly making choices about what we use. Over the last few years we have used Eventbrite to manage the bookings for our events. We choose it because it is easy to use, people trust it and we can operate it remotely, but it is expensive. So we looked at changing to a different system and going in house. We purchased a system that allowed us to publish the tickets ourselves – the promo looked great. However when we tried to put it into practice it wasn’t the right solution for us, people preferred Eventbrite and getting the tickets online was more difficult than before. We are glad we experimented and we would try another solution again. In the experimenting we understood more about what we need from a product and how we need it to work. Another solution that we experimented with was Slack– a team working app. It’s allowed us to streamline our work, reduced the need for ploughing through emails to find where we were with something, and keep a track of what we have got booked in and when!  That experimentation worked really well for the Third Sector Cafe it suited our needs and was a good fit for our organisation and our skill level. 

We also asked Resolve IT to give the three common IT problems for Charities:

1) I think the backup is working
Recently I visited a charity and I asked about the backup for their finances and database. The individual confidently told me “we have a backup nightly, and I take the USB drives home with me”. Great, I thought, they have an offsite backup. I then asked when the last time was they checked it was working; “I *think* the backup is working …” was the response. I checked, and it hadn’t been working for the past eight months. I showed them how to check the backup was working, and how to setup a simple email on a daily basis to give them peace of mind. They were hugely relieved!

2) We don’t have the money for ....
I am often told by charity clients that they don’t have the money for ... (insert an IT solution here!) The truth is, simple solutions to make things easier don’t have to cost money – there are some amazing free tools that can save you huge amounts of time. Recently, I visited someone who was struggling with keeping track of what their team was doing – they had been told that they needed to invest thousands of pounds in a complicated system. I showed them Trello (https://trello.com/), which is both free for what they wanted to do, but powerful. Within 20 minutes they had a free, simple, and easy to use way of keeping track of their team, saving both money and time.
3) The (over)eager volunteer
The final issue I see regularly is if a well-meaning but over-eager volunteer who has some IT knowledge taking responsibility for the IT. Often, this leads to people experimenting or “trying something new” on the charity’s IT. I have seen small charities have very over-complex systems that are both unreliable and hard to support because of an over-eager volunteer. The volunteer experiments with the IT not quite knowing what they are doing, but giving it a go. This is perhaps the trickiest issue to fix of all – my suggestion would be to get a professional in before any changes are made, to agree what the plan would be, and then for them to check over it afterwards.
— https://resolve.co.uk/