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How better IT can lead to better outcomes for charities and their recipients

Charities and not for profit organisations are under unprecedented scrutiny about how they allocate funds donated by the public. From remuneration packages awarded to CEOs to the cost of essential administration and advertising, it seems that everyone has a view.

It’s fair enough. After all, when you’ve sat in a bath of cold baked beans for a whole day to raise £145 it can be galling to hear that the head of the charity trousers a thousand times that per annum for a three day week.

According to a new report by nfpSynergy, the British public’s “ideal charity” would spend 42% of its income on campaigning, fundraising and running costs. The remaining 58 percent 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? Will more money make it to the needy if you “make do” when it comes to IT or could recipients actually get better outcomes if charities and not-for-profit organisations deploy IT that is fit for the scale and purpose of their organisations?

To be effective, a charity is reliant on an efficient back office operation, and as with any business, the best way to measure your capability is through a rigorous evaluation of your IT Service Operations. I do this all the time with businesses of different sizes and from various industries.

As a regular donor to a number of charities close to my heart I have often wondered how much they and indeed their beneficiaries might gain from such a process. Recently, I had the opportunity to find out when I had the privilege of working 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 to provide it is essential that any IT service improvements deliver real value. The headline benefit from work with AfC is up to £800k reinvested back into AfC’s core operations over 5 years thanks to a potential saving of 10% in operational costs.

Think of your favourite charity. Imagine if they announced savings that allowed that kind of reinvestment in their core activities. Imagine the extra research into cancer or heart disease, prevention of child or animal cruelty, care for the elderly or restoration and preservation of historic houses or gardens.

On the flip side, imagine that inefficient IT could be costing your favourite charity £800k. That’s a lot of baths of cold beans!

Like with AfC, your charity could benefit from an assessment that measures the capability and maturity levels across all its IT processes. Via interviews and workshops with employees and key stakeholders a current state can be established and a detailed, practical roadmap of “Next Steps” for both short and longer term improvements can be recommended.

You should choose a partner with a reputation for a “clientside” approach. This is important with any review of IT business systems but when you are dealing with money donated by the public, either directly or through government grants, I think that it is imperative. Select a partner with a vendor neutral approach so that you are assured of best fit IT for your specific needs and not a clumsy fit that best suits the IT provider or intermediary agents.

Your IT partner should first get to know you. They should be able to state your goals back to you with the same clarity and passion that you would yourself and provide targeted solutions that clearly service those goals in a way that is understandable to you.

It is important, therefore, that you understand your current state and how the ‘next steps’ will move you in the direction of your aim. If, like AfC, your mission is to drive IT Service Delivery improvements and efficiencies, and where possible drive down cost then you should challenge your partner to explain (in a way that you understand) how their recommendations will achieve this. Of course, if you’ve chosen the right partner – you won’t even need to ask! An effective partner will have got to know you and your team as well as they did your IT estate and they will already be talking your language.

A Service Delivery Assessment looking at service strategy, design, transition, operations and continual service improvement can really shine a light on where charities can make improvements and efficiencies. AfC benefitted from a Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) Assessment to help fully understand the effectiveness of their service functions and identify opportunities for improvement.

AfC’s CIO Alan Crawford said, “Service Delivery Assessment and maturity modelling, identified areas where there were definite process efficiencies, that lead to people efficiencies of 10% or 4 to 5 people, and in action for children’s case, they also identified other areas where those resources needed to be re-allocated where a service or process was under-resourced”.

Service Delivery Assessments are now available on G-Cloud.

As previously acknowledged, spending by charitable organisations is under ever closer scrutiny.

Six-figure savings in your IT Service Delivery might not make headlines in the way that a six figure salary for a CEO might but more efficient IT can help drive better outcomes for those for whom you set up the charity.

Read the Action for Children case study

Contact us to Find out more about how your business could benefit from a Service Delivery Assessment.

Find out more about Service Delivery Assessments from Stoneseed

Source: Civil Society :Ideal charity would spend 42%of income on campaigning fundraising and running costs