All posts by communityimpactbucksks

The independent charity that gives support, advice and training to other charities, community groups and rural communities throughout Bucks and also to those people who volunteer or wish to volunteer.

Oxfam. The fragile brand

By Nick Phillips, Community Impact Bucks 

For years, Oxfam has been one of the organisations that people looked upon as an example, an exemplar of charity. An organisation that was seen everywhere and its values, although not perhaps stated, were accepted as being some of the best. There is no doubt that lives have been saved and immeasurably improved over the years. Oxfam seems to have done great things in some of the worst places in the world. Its brand seems to speak for itself.

Yet, what will be the impact of these terrible disclosures on the brand of Oxfam? I suspect nothing short of catastrophic.

And as this horror story unfolded I thought how far from these giants of international development small charities like ourselves and those we work with are. We are a world apart, but equally we do share a lot. We, as small charities, survive by the good will of our volunteers and donors just as Oxfam do; even if their big donor is the UK government, many donations from the public and thousands of volunteers enable things to happen.

Listening to the story unfold it was interesting that it wasn’t long before someone asked, “where were the trustees?” and this again brought home the similarities between all charities that, although the executive carry the responsibility day to day, it is the trustees who hold the ultimate responsibilities to see that values and policies are being reflected in behaviour.

So, even though Oxfam is a million miles away from our local charities we share a lot.  There’s been lots of charity stories in the news recently, from Kids Company to the use of chuggers, but what is clear is that it doesn’t matter how well documented our values are – if they are not lived and seen to be lived as charities of any size our brand and the goodwill we hold can be found to be very fragile indeed.


Keeping your community pub alive

By Mimi Harker, OBE – Chair of Community Impact Bucks

The pub is the hub of the community. How many times have you heard that? But it is true! Pubs can be local heroes; open all hours and warm and welcoming. Pubs, especially in rural areas, can be the lifeblood of the community, especially where they run other services such as the post office, the village shop or coffee shop – to name just a few of the things they do as well as running a normal hostelry.

More people should be encouraged to use the pub as the hub of the community and more landlords should be persuaded to run other services alongside their normal beer and butties. It’s good for everyone and it is simply common sense. It’s nothing new really, but more and more evidence is building that what keeps people well in older life is three things – friends, exercise and a home (and two cups of coffee a day apparently?)

The post office has gone and the village shop has gone. The last bastions of safe, politically impartial space are now the village hall and the pub. The pub, with its warm fire, friendly chat, darts team and high-brow or low-brow conversation.

With most people driving to and from work, box sets being better than ever and the cost of a night out being so high, it’s not surprising that people aren’t meeting their neighbours. There is no incentive to go out. Nowhere really to go. Nowhere that you can just turn up, not organised, not planned, talk rubbish and share views over a drink. With the demise of people using their locals as much as they could, it is sad to see so many pubs being turned into houses.

If the evidence is clear, and it certainly seems to be consistent, that as we get older we need to spend time together with our neighbours then these places, which have been the focus for community life in one form or another since the middle ages, are essential for a long and happy life.

This is why Community Impact Bucks has spent time setting up over 30 pub lunch clubs in Bucks.  It’s not about the booze, it’s about the space, the social atmosphere, the unplanned chat, the chance to build relationships and meet new friends. This is one of the key pillars that keep elderly people well and happy at home for longer. A huge thank you to all our pubs who support this scheme and make a difference to the lives of some of our most vulnerable citizens.

Let’s have the community supporting our pubs, and let’s have our pubs supporting our communities and diversifying by running different services – serving coffee until 11.30 at night or creating the space for local lunch clubs – and helping protect that bit of community that is so important in creating a healthier, happy (and perhaps slightly more fun) elderly life!

Teenaged Trustee: Being a 19-Year-Old Board Member

By Jade Clarke, Aylesbury Youth Action

Jade Clarke
Jade Clarke

When I first got involved with youth volunteering charity Aylesbury Youth Action at the age of 14, it was motivated almost exclusively by the need to meet the volunteering requirement of my Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. Five years later, I’m 19 and the youngest Trustee the organisation has ever had. So how did this happen, and how do I go about being a Trustee whilst still being a volunteer within the charity?

Early Days

While I was signing up for my first project (gardening for a local disabled lady), the path was already being laid for young Trustees of AYA. In order to strive towards an objective of being youth-led, the existing Trustees decided to convert the charity’s structure to a CIO and begin accepting Trustees aged over 16. Initially, I felt somewhat detached from the idea –  when I was asked to participate in a poll on whether 16-year-olds should be allowed to be Trustees I had to ask my mother what a Trustee was. But as the concept was discussed more with volunteers, and as I became involved in more and more projects, I began to wonder whether I should give being a Trustee a go.

Throughout my volunteering journey I became increasingly interested in the work going on behind the scenes. I became part of the Management Advisory Committee, a board of volunteers who met regularly to discuss how projects were going. I started asking questions when I was in the office: where do grants come from? How do finances work in a not-for-profit organisation? Eventually, the decision was finalised and the paperwork done to allow 16- and 17-year-olds to become official Trustees of AYA. All that was needed was one volunteer to be the first to make the jump.

So I did.

Step by Step

I went along to a couple of board meetings before committing myself – partly to get used to the idea of what being a Trustee would truly mean, and partly to see how other board members would react to having a teenager in their midst. All were accepting, kind and patient, and the age gap wasn’t as great as I had anticipated: the then youngest Trustee was only in her twenties, and fitted seamlessly into the group. After a few months, the AGM came around and, aged only 17, I was officially appointed as a Trustee.

Balancing Act

Despite my increased involvement in the charity, I was – and am – still able to volunteer on projects. The contradiction of me being simultaneously above and below the Manager is simply a non-issue. In meetings, I’m a Trustee and treated the same as other board members. On projects, I’m just another volunteer, interacting with project workers the same way as I always have… despite the fact that by the time I sat my A Levels I had been involved in the recruitment of two staff members, including the current Manager.

Being a Trustee fitted easily around school and, more recently, university. Meetings don’t begin until 7:45pm and are currently planned to fall neatly within university holidays, but the use of video conferencing has been discussed in case dates change and I’m still at university on a meeting day. I travel home for big events such as the annual Celebration Evening, but can deal with everyday tasks and emails from my room in halls.

Final Thoughts

As well as the obvious experience and CV benefits I gain from being a Trustee, my role has given me invaluable knowledge of the charitable sector. Being both a Trustee and a volunteer has helped me narrow the gap between the two, facilitating greater awareness among fellow volunteers of how the charity functions. As AYA ages, I will age with it. But new young Trustees will come in to take my place, introducing more new values and ideas. And I, along with the rest of my organisation, am excited to see where that will lead.


To be, or not to be… a trustee

By Lesley Davies, CIB trustee

How it started for me

We’re all busy, and it’s rare to stop, or even pause, long enough to do a mental stock-take of life. I had this chance earlier in 2017 when I left my role as a People Director in a busy telecoms’ company. Instead of throwing all my energy into another paid position, I stopped to consider some of the things that I could do that might bring me deeper fulfillment.

Of course, on the list there was spending more quality time with my husband and family, the chance to care for my mum who has Alzheimer’s, and learning a new skill – which for me was swimming lessons.  But I also had a strong desire to be more involved in my local community, and to use what talent I had for the good of others. Food for the soul!

Where could I make a valuable contribution?

But that was just the beginning – what was right for me? Where could I offer a valuable contribution?  The web was my “go-to” place, and lady luck was shining as I quickly found an event for potential Trustees where I could find out more. I met a number of charities and community groups at Community Impact Buck’s (CIB’s) 2017 Trustee Fair. I was truly enthused, impressed and inspired by the number of people from all walks of life who were taking action to make lives better in their communities. Through conversation, I learnt how each charity needed and valued their Trustees, and gained clarification about the types of skills that would help them at their stage of development. I left the event with a shortlist, and a firm resolve!

Meet and Match

I started to really think both about what I could give as a Trustee … but also what I would get in return.

I did a mental list.

It was important to use my attitude, skills, experience, and to feel some satisfaction from doing this.

Teamwork is important to me, and after 25+ years of working in great teams, I liked the idea of joining another team who were passionate and committed.

I was planning to take a year out of work, but I knew that I would need mental stimulation, a challenge, and some level of responsibility.

I also wanted to continue learning, particularly about the voluntary and community sector, after years of the corporate world.

For me, joining the CIB Board seemed to be the right fit.

The Experience So Far

It is still early days for me as a Trustee at CIB; after several months of being “co-opted” onto the Board, I was formally appointed at the AGM last month.

I joined just as the team was bidding for funding for the next 2 years. It was an extremely busy period for CIB, and there was an anxious wait for the outcome…which was successful! In many ways, it was a great introduction to the organisation, and it certainly made me very aware of the value of my fellow Trustees, who gave outstanding expertise and support in this critical process.

There have been recent changes to the Trustee Board, with the appointment of a new Chair, Mimi Harker OBE, and a number of Trustees reaching the end of their terms. There are definitely some “big shoes to fill”, but I am enjoying the developing sense of teamwork within our Trustee Board.

I weighed up the time commitment required when I joined as a Trustee – would I have room in a busy life? As with anything important, you make time, and I find that the rewards of learning new things, stretching myself, and supporting others, more than compensates for the time invested.

My advice to anyone else asking themselves the question ….to be or not to be a Trustee? I would say just take the first step, and you will soon find that there are plenty of resources (for example from Reach Volunteering, a CIB partner) to help you work out if it is the right role for you –  and the right time for you.

For me, I am so glad I took the plunge, and I am looking forward to being actively involved during my 3 year term.

Good luck with your trustee search!


A Day in the Life of a Volunteer Co-ordinator

By Georgia Bowers, Community Engagement & Volunteer Co-ordinator, Spurgeons Children’s Charity

“I needed to get my confidence back… Volunteering opened my eyes to show me I could do more” (Spurgeons Aylesbury Volunteer)

In 1867, Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, driven by a desire to tackle poverty and injustice, founded an orphanage which became the children’s charity known as Spurgeons today. Although the face of our work has changed, the need is just as great today as it was then. Our mission is to give every child the opportunity of a hope-filled life. As an organisation we believe in the value and potential of every child, recognising every person as a unique individual, deserving of respect and we won’t walk away, even when that means making tough choices. We are a nationwide organisation, but in Aylesbury we are nestled in the heart of the community and offer a wide range of services such as:

  • Weekly activities and sessions for parents and their children (aged 0-5).
  • Family Support who work in partnership with local families to provide information and support.
  • And lastly we run an extensive volunteering programme, where members can work alongside our Early Years Team, Family Support Team, run their own group/activity, support administration and much more!!!

As I’m sure you can imagine, charitable organisations such as ours are always in need of extra support through volunteering and as the Community Engagement and Volunteer Co-ordinator that’s where I come in.

What do I actually do?

My dual role requires me to regularly and actively engage with the community, and explore how we as an organisation can build and forge lasting partnerships that can benefit not only us, but our local neighbours as well. Under this, I lead on the recruitment and management of our wonderful volunteer programme, which sees individuals from all walks of life offer a couple of hours or sometimes even a whole day of their time for free. Together with our dedicated team of specialists in the field of early years and child development, our volunteers are taken into the heart of our organisation as they help to support, assist and even run their own groups or activities at our busy children’s centre.

Taking this into consideration, my everyday routine is varied, and no day is the same. Often, I will be out in the community attending local events, community centre activities, or meeting with other charities to share practice and ideas regarding the recruitment of volunteers. Recruitment also often involves posters in local settings such as libraries or supermarkets, speaking at public events, visiting local colleges/universities, and I also find that utilising social media platforms are a great way to get our message out there. In the same day, I might also be back in the office interviewing potential volunteers, or supporting those who are working with us on that particular day. This might include a regular catch up to see how they are getting on, or seeing if there is any way that we can support their growth or development. Previous volunteers have taken part in staff training days and courses alongside our team which have supported their personal and professional development, and in turn, their new found knowledge feeds back in to our organisation.

What skills does a volunteer need?

To volunteer with us there are no set specific requirements or qualifications needed. Rather, we are always looking for those who are committed, open and trustworthy, who also have a real interest in the development and wellbeing of children. So, if you are interested in developing or gaining new skills, are passionate about children, or you would like to have the opportunity to give back to your community, then you are exactly what we are looking for!!!

Would you like to volunteer with us?

If you would like to volunteer with us please call: 01296 487 855 or email

The Volunteer Family

In the run up to International Volunteer Managers Day 2017, we meet Victoria Leedham – Volunteering Manager at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People – who tells us more about her role and why Hearing Dogs could not exist without its volunteer network…

Victoria Leedham

“Volunteers enrich our community, and the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 demonstrated on the most high-profile stage the positive impact volunteering can have if properly resourced, supported and managed.

My role, as Volunteering Manager, is to ensure that Hearing Dogs has enough volunteers to achieve its aims and that those volunteers feel as good, as valued, and as supported as those – now legendary – Games Makers.

It’s a fallacy that volunteering comes for free and it’s wrong to think volunteers are simply there to cut wage costs. Volunteers add value to organisations and complement what is offered by paid employees. All volunteers require support and it’s for that reason Hearing Dogs is committed to a dedicated, central volunteering team who uphold best practice, encourage volunteer recognition and ensure volunteering efforts are in line with our peers. With fifteen times more volunteers than staff, it is important work that affects a very significant number of people.

My background is in marketing and communications and I hope to have used those skills to promote volunteering and raise the profile of volunteers since joining Hearing Dogs five and a half years ago.

The term ‘volunteer family’ is something I introduced and a concept that caught on quickly because of the obvious parallels; on a weekly basis I witness joy and sorrow, synergy and occasional squabbles, standard days and truly exceptional ones. I meet volunteers for whom volunteering is their everything, and others who are more transient. Whatever the commitment, there is no pecking order of volunteer. To my mind, everyone in the family gives what they can, with the time they have available, to the best of their ability.

I’m proud to say there is now a well-established culture of volunteering at Hearing Dogs. It’s taken as read that volunteers are integral to delivering and supporting the Charity’s mission to offer greater independence, confidence and companionship to deaf people through the gift of a hearing dog.

My personal pledge on International Volunteer Managers Day is to now think in terms of a ‘one team’ integration of the wider community:  volunteers, staff, beneficiaries, supporters, plus – importantly – our new friends from Hearing Link, the leading hearing loss charity we proudly merged with earlier this year.

The doors to Hearing Dogs’ brand new Welcome Centre, situated between High Wycombe and Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire, will open early in 2018 and there could be no better metaphor. Do stop by for a coffee and, who knows, you may just be inspired to join our family.”

About Hearing Dogs for Deaf People

Hearing Dogs for Deaf People is a registered charity that trains dogs to alert deaf people to important sounds and danger signals such as the doorbell, telephone and smoke alarm – providing life-changing independence and confidence. Hearing Dogs provides a national service and no charge is made to recipients.

To find out about volunteer opportunities at Hearing Dogs for Deaf People please visit email or call 01844 348122.

Hearing Dogs Welcome Centre opening date to be announced soon. 



Key Steps to Reinvigorate your Board

By Hazel Finney, Lead – Volunteering, October 2017

Hazel Finney

Back in April, I wrote a blog highlighting the key points from the House of Lords’ report, ‘Stronger charities for a stronger community‘.  One of these points was the importance of having a diverse range of skill sets on Trustee Boards.

Trustees Week logoWith Trustees’ Week (13-17 November) fast approaching, now is an excellent time to take stock of your Board and work out if there are any skills’ gaps.  We might be in a digital age, but I find that the best way of doing this is sitting down with the Board and systematically completing a skills’ audit.  This is one time when the old-fashioned flipchart stands head and shoulders above any digital device!

Reach out for great resources!

Reach Volunteering, one of Community Impact Bucks’ (CIB) partners, has a Knowledge Centre packed with information for organisations looking to enhance their Boards; this includes a downloadable skills’ audit, model role descriptions, and 4 top tips for recruiting great Trustees.  Reach also runs a highly successful Trustee recruitment service called TrusteeWorks, which is free to charities with a turnover of less than £1m.  Having placed over 2,000 trustees since the service started in 2009, they must be doing something right!

As Janet Thorne, Reach Volunteering’s CEO, says: “Reach is a great way to find trustees. We attract a broad range of people who want to share their expertise and  many are actively looking for trustee positions. You can promote your role to this community of volunteers, and beyond through our partnerships with LinkedIn, businesses and others. You can also search for people who look like a great fit and approach them directly. Flattery can work wonders! Charities tell us that the trustees that they recruit through our service make a really positive difference to their Boards, so I’d encourage you to give it a try.”

If you advertise your Trustee roles with Reach, you will also benefit from the added bonus of having them streamed live on Volunteering Bucks, CIB’s online portal for volunteers in Buckinghamshire.

Building Boards for a Digital Age

The House of Lords’ report also stresses the importance of bringing on-board Trustees with digital skills.  And, in the words of Sarah Atkinson from the Charity Commission, “Digital trustees can contribute significantly to making sure Boards have the skills they need.”

Visit the Digital Boards’ section of Reach’s website for everything you need to build a Board for the digital age.

How CIB can help

If you’d prefer to sit down with someone face-to-face, then help is at hand!  On 7 November I am running a CPD-accredited afternoon workshop at our office in Monks Risborough on How to Find New Trustees, and on 14 November, an advice surgery in Beaconsfield.  Places at the advice surgery are FREE and confidential – they go fast, so book your slot whilst you can!

Finally, winter might be creeping upon us, but if you set some time aside now to plan for the future of your Board, you will hopefully be able to benefit from new growth and renewal before too long!


A Beginners Guide to Google Ad Grants

By Susan Lambiase, upriseUP

Susan Lambiase

At upriseUP we’re delighted to be part of Community Impact Bucks’ Digital Journey Conference, and can’t wait to run our session on one of our biggest loves – Google Ad Grants . In this blog we’ll explain the application process as we are evangelical about getting charities of all sizes to make the most of this fantastic resource.

What is a Google Ad Grant?
If you are a registered charity with a website you can (and should!) apply for an Ad Grant from Google where you are given the equivalent of $10,000 a month to spend on Pay Per Click advertising in Google AdWords to promote your organisation!

Why you can’t ignore them
You can use a Google Ad Grant to attract potential donors, raise awareness, promote campaigns and so much more. We love Google Grants because they are:

  • Effective
    Nothing is more effective than being in front of somebody at the exact time they are looking for your product or service. This can mean an extra 300+ well qualified web visits per day.
  • Quick
    After a little bit of admin at the start it can be quick to get your Google Ad Grant approved and as soon as you have that green light you can get going, having your ads show, straight away.
  • Free!
    This is advertising for free! In this case there IS such a thing as a free lunch. Yes there are some restrictions but can you really afford to not tap into this resource?

Am I eligible?
In the UK you need to be registered with the Charity Commission with a charity number, or have charitable exempt status with the HMRC. There are a few types of charities that are not eligible (including government entities, hospitals and academic institution) and google reserves the right to decline an application for any reason, but this is rare!

How do I apply?
There are a few steps but we’ve usually managed to get a grant within a month. Don’t be put off!

  • Register with TT-Exchange (Technology Trust)
    You may well already be registered, as TT-Exchange offer reduced cost software for charities. We often find someone else in your organisation has signed up. If not, signing up for is straightforward for registered charities, you will need basic information including your charities mission statement (those that are apply with only charitable exempt status from the HMRC will need to submit a number of supporting docs).
  • Apply for Google for Nonprofits
    You will need a ‘token’ that you generate from your TT-Exchange account once that is approved and again need to provide a few details including a one sentence mission statement.
  • Set up a Google AdWords Account
    Whilst step 2 is in progress you can set up a Google AdWords account. Make sure you set the currency as USD and that you don’t complete ANY billing details. You will need to set up at least one campaign, one active unpaused ad, and at least one keyword in order to be considered eligible. Your campaign must be set to the Search Network only, and the destination URL for your ad must be a location on your charities site.
  • Apply for a Google Ad Grant
    Once you receive the notification from Google for Nonprofits that you are signed up, and you have set up your AdWords account as per step 3, you can take the final step and apply for the Google Ad Grant.

Log into your Google for Non-Profits account, and click ‘Enrol for Google Ad Grants’ under My Organisations > Enrolments. The form requires your AdWords Customer ID, as well as a checklist that your account satisfies the criteria for the Google Ad Grant, you will also need to supply 300-500 words describing how your organisation plans to use AdWords to make a social impact.

Once the account has been authorised by the Google Grants Team (it can take 30 days from submission of the application, although in our experience it is reviewed much more quickly than this), you will have a $330 to ‘spend’ each day in Google AdWords!

Now what do I do?
Now the fun starts! At upriseUP we specialise in the charity sector and have worked on over 50 accounts. We are experts at getting the best results from Google AdWords and think it is time we shared some of our learnings.  To help charities understand where to start and where to concentrate their efforts we’ve pulled together a whole guide to help you .

We can help
Come along to our session at the Digital Journey Conference where we’ll be giving practical guidance on how to get the most out of Google AdWords – we’d love to see you. We’ll also be exhibiting so do pop by our stand.

If you would like any more information, or help with applying for a Google Ad Grant, then please get in touch .

3 things I’ll be talking about at The Digital Journey

By Zoe Amar, director, Zoe Amar Communications & keynote speaker at The Digital Journey conference

I’m really excited to be giving the key note speech at The Digital Journey, Community Impact Bucks’ conference on 5 October next week.

Ahead of that I’ve been asked to share a few thoughts on what I’ll be talking about. There are 3 key points I’ll be focusing on.

  • Why go digital? Nick Philips, CEO of Community Impact Bucks has tasked me with convincing everyone who comes to the conference about the value of digital in 45 minutes. This reminded me that a friend of mine was talking to a charity trustee recently who told her that digital was irrelevant to their charity. I would challenge this view. No organisation operates in a vacuum, and all the trends indicate that digital is going to be an increasingly important part of the way we live and work. According to digital agency’s We are Social’s latest data, 51% of the world’s population use the internet, with 40% actively using social media. Ofcom’s latest data also shows that two-thirds of adults in the UK use a computer, whether a desktop, laptop or netbook, with a quarter of 16-34 year olds (24%) now only using a device other than a computer to go online. And, dispelling the myth that digital is just for young people, that same report showed that there has also been a significant increase in the number of internet users aged 75 and over embracing social media, with 41% having a social media profile in 2016, compared to 19% the year before. The facts speak for themselves. The question shouldn’t be: why is digital relevant to my charity? Instead, organisations should be asking themselves, ‘How can we use digital to remain as relevant and closely connected to our audience as possible?’
  • You don’t need to be a big charity to do digital well. I’ve spoken to many small charities who think that you need a whole digital team and a budget with lots of 000s on the end to do digital effectively. I’ll be honest- whilst resources do help, it is just as important to have a clear sense of purpose. Take National Ugly Mugs, a project developed by The UK Network of Sex Work Projects, a non-profit voluntary association of agencies and individuals working with sex workers. National Ugly Mugs has a small team but have developed an online reporting system, emails and texts connecting thousands of sex workers and hundreds of support services.  The project collates reports of incidents from sex workers and shares anonymised warnings with sex workers and support projects across the UK. They also share this information with the police (once consent has been obtained) and sex workers make full reports. Almost 50% of the sex workers who receive their alerts have been able to avoid dangerous offenders. So, before your charity plans anything in digital, ask yourself: why do we exist and how can we use digital to improve the lives of your beneficiaries?
  • Your CEO and board need to lead from the front on digital. When we co-wrote The Charity Digital Skills Report earlier this year leaders and boards emerged as a major issue. 80% of respondents want their leadership team to provide a clear vision of digital and what it could help them achieve, whilst 66% want a good digital strategy. Almost three quarters (71%) of charities cite their board’s digital skills as low or having room for improvement. If you need to get your CEO and trustee up to speed with digital consider offering them training  or take a look at the Charity Commission’s guidelines on digital, Making Digital Work, for inspiration.

I can’t wait to meet you at The Digital Journey conference. Please do come and say hello.

Book your place at The Digital Journey, 5 October 2017, Aylesbury.

What does digital transformation mean to you and your social purpose organisation?

By Frazer Lewis, co-founder, Rephrase

Our take on digital transformation and what it means in a social purpose organisation

Digital Transformation is a popular phrase these days, especially in not for profit (or social purpose) organisations. But what does it actually mean? Almost certainly different things to different people. We have taken a look back at the projects we have delivered over the past few years and drawn our own conclusions which we are sharing in this blog post.

And to set a few parameters, we are looking at digital transformation in terms of organisations who are moving their operations from Excel, Outlook, paper and legacy databases no longer fit for purpose across to a centralised database such as

Also, digital transformation projects can be challenging since they leave no stone unturned. It’s rare to achieve the perfect solution and indeed, results are often iterative with progressive improvements being introduced over time. However, I think it’s fair to say that any initiative to “go digital” is a positive step forward and can yield meaningful results in a short space of time.

Here are our observations:

Structured information

Once data lives in a single system that is accessible by all staff members, amazing things begin to happen. Everyone is using the same source of data and adding their own contributions which help to create a common repository of knowledge for the benefit of all. Information becomes available on demand and since everything is inter-connected, it becomes easy to click through from record to record. Try doing that in a proliferation of Excel spreadsheets. The net result is that staff are able to quickly find the answers to questions and take informed decisions.

Streamlined processes

The great thing about a system is the way it can handle large amounts of information in a consistent and pre-defined way. This can be put to great effect where manual repetitive tasks can be automated thus saving enormous amounts of wasted time. Time that can then be put to good use elsewhere.  Taking this one step further, the system can be setup to send notifications or alerts to team members at critical process points which helps to keep data flowing around the organisation.

Scaleable solutions

I’m sure it’s fair to say that social purpose organisations are being asked to deliver more with less resource which puts them under increasing pressure. One of the outcomes from moving systems and processes across to digital is the additional capacity gain. Organisations can handle greater demand without the need to increase their resourcing levels.

Client and stakeholder engagement

We live in a connected society where individuals expect to receive communications which are relevant and tailored to them. Whilst this is not feasible when creating emails or letters one by one, it is easily achievable using a database system. Mass personalisation at the click of a button.

Improved analytics and insights

As organisations grow, so does the amount of data being collected. Spreadsheets or old databases no longer fit for purpose make life hard when it comes to making sense of all this information. A huge benefit of a successful digital transformation is the ability to easily segment data and then take action, obtain answers to specific questions using bang up to date information, generate dashboards that present key metrics graphically and make it easy to spot trends or exceptions. In summary, to equip you with all the information you need to really understand how your organisation is performing and the impact you are creating.

Enhanced team working

A recurring theme that every organisation experiences is data living in silos instead of residing in a central system. This clearly causes difficulties ranging from fragmented reporting to disconnects across teams. Moving data into a central database is no easy task, but once done, the benefits make it all worthwhile. Something as simple as updating basic contact details or logging a key interaction is no longer an isolated activity. Instead, all team members have access to this information. The system becomes a repository of knowledge for everyone to benefit from.

Stronger data governance

With data spread across multiple spreadsheets and other sources, a major challenge is knowing what is up to date, out of date or incomplete. And where multiple versions of data exist, which one is current. And whilst moving data into a single system is a challenge as we said earlier, cleaning it up takes further effort. But once this task is complete and a regular process to maintain data quality is up and running,  your organisation can begin to enjoy the benefits. Data accuracy improves and your team’s trust in this data grows (often from rock bottom levels). You are able to control access to data in ways that were simply never possible before. Changes to records are tracked so it’s clear who has done what. And the system can apply business logic to the entry of data to help keep it in good shape.


“Don’t fear failure. Fear being in the exact same place next year as you are today”.

Moving away from paper, email and Excel based processes is often seen as a revolution within organisations. There is often a sense of being liberated from the old ways of doing things which are recognised to be inefficient and frustrating. This is also present challenges of it’s own – change is difficult even if everyone knows it needs to happen. But the rewards are worth the effort since ultimately your organisation will be able to amplify its impact.

Frazer Lewis is a co-founder of Rephrase, a Chesham based consultancy that specialises in creating tailored solutions using the system.  Frazer is hosting the “Data and how to use it” breakout session at The Digital Journey conference on 5th October 2017.