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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Is IT helping or hindering your charity?

This opinion piece is about 7 years old

Jamie Buttle explains how better IT can lead to better outcomes for charities and their recipients

Charities and not-for-profits are under unprecedented scrutiny about how they allocate donations. It's fair enough. When you've sat in a bath of cold baked beans for a whole day to raise £145 it can be galling hearing that most of this goes into admin or processing.

An NfpSynergy report states the British public’s ideal charity would spend 42% of its income on campaigning, fundraising and running costs. The remaining 58% would be spent helping beneficiaries.

However, when it comes to IT, could charities doing their back office on the cheap be doing those beneficiaries a disservice?

Six-figure savings in your IT service delivery might not make headlines, but more efficient IT can help drive better outcomes for your key beneficiaries

To be effective, charities rely on an efficient back office operation, and as with any business, the best way to measure your capability is by evaluating your IT service operations.

As a regular donor to many charities, I often wonder how much they and their beneficiaries might gain from this process. Recently, I had the opportunity to find out when I worked with Action For Children (AfC), a UK-based children's charity providing services such as adoption, schools, residential homes, fostering, education and children’s centres, to more than 300,000 children, families, and young people.

With such worthwhile services, it’s essential that IT service improvements deliver real value. The headline benefit for AfC is up to £800k reinvested back into AfC’s core operations over five years thanks to a potential saving of 10% in operational costs.

The first step along this path to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of IT is knowing where you are. This assessment must include an understanding of the capability and maturity levels across all your IT processes. Via interviews and workshops with employees and key stakeholders, a current state can be established and a detailed roadmap of “next steps” for improvements can be recommended.

It is important that you understand your current state and how the next steps will move you towards your aim. If, like AfC, your mission is to drive IT service delivery improvements and efficiencies, and where possible reduce costs, challenge your team to explain how their recommendations will achieve this.

A service delivery assessment looking at service strategy, design, transition, operations and continual service improvement can show where charities can make improvements and efficiencies. AfC benefitted from a Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Assessment to fully understand their service functions’ effectiveness and identify improvement opportunities.

Six-figure savings in your IT service delivery might not make headlines, but more efficient IT can help drive better outcomes for your key beneficiaries – and make those baked bean-filled baths count for more!

Jamie Buttle is managing director of Stoneseed



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almost 7 years ago
I wonder if charities are sometimes overwhelmed by what is required with their IT systems. I've worked extensively with IT Outcomes who have specific support available for charities. Their information could prove very useful for others in similar circumstances?