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Martin Lewis Fund for Charities Used Algorithm To Skim Applications

The emergency fund set up by Martin Lewis to support charities during lockdown used a machine learning algorithm to skim the high number of applications it received.

On 19 March, Martin Lewis, the founder of comparison website Money Saving Expert, launched a £1m fund to help small charities during the crisis.

The fund closed on 25 March after receiving 7,000 applications in six days, totalling about £74m.

An algorithm looked at keywords in applications
Jonathan Cook, a fundraising consultant who worked as charity lead for the fund, spoke at the Chartered Institute of Fundraising’s Convention about how the team reviewed the applications in order to distribute the money to charities as soon as possible.

He said: “Martin was absolutely adamant that one week after opening, he wanted the first batch of grants to go out. So we made it quite an automated process involving a very simple application form done online with about five boxes.

“In order to plough through this enormous number of applications, we used some computer algorithms, which picked out key phrases and keywords that people can use in their applications. Phrases like ‘free school meals’ – if we discovered that phrase in an application, it drew attention to the fact that it might be talking about provision for people who are now no longer at school and might have a problem feeding their children.”

“We also looked at the locations [where the applications came from] – whether they were in areas with high incidence of Covid-19, whether they were in areas of high deprivation. That enabled us to focus our attention on a smaller number of grants and we could then have a human eye look through them.”

Unconscious bias
Cook also said the use of a computer algorithm removed potential issues with people’s unconscious bias, at least at that initial stage.

However, Fozia Irfan, CEO of Beds & Luton Community Foundation, who was speaking at the same panel discussion, pointed out that algorithms present their own issues in terms of equality, because they can reflect the unconscious bias of the people who originally wrote them. This is a phenomenon known as “algorithmic bias”.

The fund, which in the end amounted to £3.4m thanks to the support of other donors, had been distributed in its entirety by 26 May to a total of 415 organisations.

It focused on projects providing immediate relief during the crisis, prioritising “the provision and delivery of food, medicine, sanitary products and emergency hardship grants”.

Read the full Civil Society article by clicking here.

Source: Civil Society

Getting Started with Editing Software for Charities

Creating great content isn’t just for digital whizzes. We’re all creators now and using video and imagery can motivate digital fundraising efforts, so it is important to make sure content is sharp where possible. With editing software, charity digital professionals can create Instagram worthy photos and professional videos.

Starting with a few digital concepts, we showcase some of the most popular editing software tools available for users of all levels.

What are the key digital elements in photos and videos?
Starting with the basics, digital photos and videos have key elements which for the most part, are editable. Understanding pixels, size, sound, and picture quality impacts the extent to which photos and videos can be edited.

Pixels, in both videos and images, determine the quality and sharpness of the visual. Roughly, a pixel is a very small area of the screen, perhaps the size of a pinprick, which displays colour. Take lots of pixels together, and an image is formed. The resolution of the screen, video or photo tells you how detailed the picture is. At a low resolution and large size, pictures and videos will appear blurry and ‘pixelated’.

Digital sound works in a similar way. The term ‘high-res audio’ is a measure of how good the sound quality is by both the sampling rate and bit depth. Digital Trends online magazine explains that the sampling rate is the number of times sound is capture digitally per second, while the bit depth is the number of bits of information taken per second. Both measures need to be high to have high quality sound.

What elements are editable in photos?
Photos can be relatively easy to edit, particularly as many charity digital staff are already familiar with basic editing features for email marketing and other communications.

When selecting photos, remember that the resolution is important. The raw, unaltered content may ultimately be the deciding factor of how you use a photo because the resolution is very difficult to improve. Realistically, making the image smaller might work, but blowing up the size will dilute the quality of the image.

Basic photo editing software can then help with exposure, colour, contrast, sharpening, and for more experienced editors, layering. Editing software can fix problems of over-exposure, enhance colour, sharpen silhouettes, and add special effects like focus, blurred background, or filters. For more complex images, layers can also be edited – software can change a single layer of a multi-layered image.

To read the full article click here.

Source: Charity Digital News

Free Virtual Introduction to Writing an Elevator Pitch Webinar

You never get a second chance to make a good first impression! Whether you are raising funds, promoting your services, seeking participants or trying to attract new volunteers to your organisation. It is important that you communicate effectively who you are and your values to your intended audience. An elevator pitch is meant to do just that, by instilling enough intrigue to get the prospect to ask you to tell them more.

SCVO’s introduction to writing an elevator pitch webinar will explain this concept, enabling you to write and develop your own elevator pitch in our free one-and-a-half-hour long webinar, being held on Thursday 30th July 2020, 10am via a Zoom Conference call.

This webinar is aimed at Community Groups and Charities who are interested in learning how to craft their own elevator pitch with confidence and increasing their income through being able to effectively sell themselves to a variety of audiences.

The aims of the webinar are to:

  • introduce the concept and potential uses of an elevator pitch
  • understand the essential principles of an effective elevator pitch
  • explore the different approaches to crafting your elevator pitch
  • provide hints and tips that enable you to develop your own elevator pitch based on the principles discussed in this webinar

There is a maximum of 20 places available for this virtual webinar and all places must be booked through Eventbrite by clicking here.

Why not go to our website at to subscribe to our free weekly e-bulletin, so you get information automatically on SCVO webinars and training news straight to your inbox.

How to Run Your Own Charity Webinars

As more and more charities start to deliver their services digitally and find virtual ways to communicate with donors, the webinar can be a trusty tool in any charity’s arsenal. 

The hardest part of embarking any new program or initiative is starting. It’s easy to get bogged down in the specifics and over-do planning meetings. There are only 4 things you need to get going:

1. An audience
As with any content, your audience is key to success. They can help you determine your topic, time and platform. It’s essential to make sure there’s interest in a webinar programme before you put in action. Speak to your audience, find out if they’re interested and if so, what is the best time, best platform and key topics or services they’d like to hear about?

2. A topic
If your webinars are for donors, then ask them what they’d like to hear about. Lockdown has shown that donors can be charity’s most creative assets for content creation. They’ll not be short of an idea or two- be it a discussion with a service user who benefited from a donation or a seminar on what happens with a donation.

3. A time
Ask your audience what their time preferences are. This is a tough one, especially where services are concerned. Try and find the balance between flexibility and regularity. This might mean running 3 sessions a day at different times to be fully inclusive.

In our recent webinar with Thirtyone:Eight, they shared how they’d moved webinar training sessions to the evening to be more accessible and available to their service users. Similarly, for a donor audience we’ve found routine works best to increase engagement. If your survey comes back with a definitive time and date then stick to it until otherwise informed. Your audience will follow suit and start building into the daily, weekly or monthly routine

Read the full article by clicking here.

Source: Charity Digital News

Opening up your charity post Covid lockdown – free webinar recording

Delivered by the Cranfield Trust, the recent webinar – a practical guide to re-opening your charity after Covid lockdown – was extremely popular and is clearly a hot topic with charities.

The webinar covered some of the more important things to consider, including:

  • Staff availability and team rotations
  • Transportation to and from work
  •  Visitors Temperature and other screening
  •  Workspaces and common areas
  • Cleaning protocols and PPE
  • IT provision, accessories and furniture
  • Awareness and education
  • Handling unwell staff and reinfection responses
If you missed it, don’t worry, we have added a live recording of the webinar to our website, along with the notes and checklist for you to download.
View the webinar recording HERE.

McKinsey 7-S Framework

Making Every Part of Your Organization Work in Harmony.

Do you know how well your organization is positioned to achieve its goals? Or what elements influence its ability to implement change successfully?

Models of organizational effectiveness go in and out of fashion, but the McKinsey 7-S framework has stood the test of time.

The model was developed in the late 1970s by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman, former consultants at McKinsey & Company. They identified seven internal elements of an organization that need to align for it to be successful.

In this article, you can explore the seven elements in detail, and learn how to improve performance or manage change in your organization by ensuring that they all work in harmony.

When to Use the McKinsey 7-S Model
You can use the 7-S model in a wide variety of situations where it’s useful to examine how the various parts of your organization work together.

For example, it can help you to improve the performance of your organization, or to determine the best way to implement a proposed strategy.

The framework can be used to examine the likely effects of future changes in the organization, or to align departments and processes during a merger or acquisition. You can also apply the McKinsey 7-S model to elements of a team or a project.

To read the full Mind article click here.

Source: Mind Tools

Scenario Planning

What is scenario planning?
Scenario planning is used to help assess uncertainties in your external environment which allows you to open choices for the future. It involves making assumptions on what the future is going to be and how your operating environment will change over time.

Scenario planning helps you stimulate new thinking and explore uncertainties. Instead of focusing just on what you do know, you invest time on what you don’t know. Often, as a result, you end up being more certain about the future.

It can be used when you need to make sense of your future operating environment. This may be as part of a strategy exercise (see for example Brook’s use of scenarios), but is also helpful when something changes and the organisation faces a challenge or barrier.

Why use scenario planning?
Scenario planning can be used both to look generally at what might happen in the environment – eg the economy – and to help think specifically about how an organisation might fare within that particular environment.

Developing scenarios can help you understand the dynamics of change and makes the future more tangible and less frightening. When an organisation understands possible changes, and can put them in context, it is in a far better position to protect itself against possible threats.

Steps for scenario planning
There are three steps and some questions which can help you develop and plan scenarios for your organisation. NCVO have also listed considerations for any organisation embarking on scenario planning.

1. Mapping the environment
What is our objective, what do we want to achieve?
What are we most uncertain about in the future, what obstacles stand in our way?
What information do we have which can help inform our thinking on these uncertainties?
How significantly might these uncertainties impact on our work or organisation, how likely is this to happen? Remember this impact might be positive as well as negative.

2. Identifying scenarios
Identify a set of scenarios based on your mapping and decide some key timeframes, eg six months; one, three, five years.

How many scenarios you pick and the timeframe you decide to plan for will depend on your situation. Remember: perfect is the enemy of good. This is not an exact science, try and keep the number of scenarios manageable.

Try to avoid just picking the most likely outcomes, consider also mapping those which will have the most significant impact.

For each of your scenarios consider the impact on:

  • beneficiates and the work we do
  • staff and volunteers
  • income and investments
  • suppliers and funders
  • partners and other key stakeholders.

To read the full NCVO article click here.

Source: NCVO



New Online Tool Launched to Help Charity Leaders and trustees Improve Digital Skills

A new online tool has been launched to help charity trustees and leaders touch up on their digital skills.

The tool comprises a digital checklist, developed by experts from across the sector, and is designed to help support leaders in making effective decisions about digital during the coronavirus crisis – and beyond.

The free-to-access service includes best practice advice to encourage ongoing improvement in digital activity for charities.

Trustees and leaders will be able to refer to the checklist for tips on developing digital services, setting up remote working and people management systems, optimising digital fundraising platforms, digitalising governance processes, incorporating digital activity into strategy and making the most of resources.

The launch of the checklist follows the publication of the Charity Digital Code of Practice, which was launched in November 2018 and received sector-wide praise.

A need for the Code was recognised following the Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index 2017, which showed only 48 per cent of charities have full basic digital skills, and 50 per cent of charity leaders lack confidence in introducing digital change.

It’s managed by a steering group of representatives from across the sector and chaired by independent digital expert Zoe Amar.

The steering group said it was inspired to develop the digital checklist in response to the increased pressure on all charities due to the current climate.

It added that while many charities have long recognised the need to be more digitally ambitious, the effects of Covid-19 have meant many charities have had to adapt their business models to make greater use of digital an urgent priority.

Earlier this month, findings from the Charity Digital Skills Report survey revealed that during the pandemic, one in three charities has cancelled services due to a lack of digital skills.

“The last two months have been extremely challenging for the charity sector and it’s crucial that digital activity is prioritised if we are going to adapt and respond to the ‘new normal’,” chair of the Digital Code of Practice Steering Group, Zoe Amar said.

“Upskilling charity organisations of all sizes must include our charity trustees and advisors so they have a clear understanding of the threats and opportunities facing their organisations.

“I’m delighted that we can share this checklist as part of the wider Charity Digital Code of Practice to help boards tackle this challenging environment and inspire them to embrace digital activity. This ultimately will not just benefit the charities they support but also the service users and beneficiaries who rely on them.”

Charity trustees and leaders from organisations of all sizes can access the checklist here.

Source: Charity Times

Get Creative or Lose Supporters, Charities Warned

UK charities risk losing vital supporters if they don’t ‘get creative’ and allow donors to have more creative freedom, fundraising experts have warned.

Studio Republic, the designers behind the 2.6 Challenge – which was launched to replace the postponed London Marathon in April – and fundraising experts, Funraisin, have urged charities to adapt to the ‘new normal’ and allow supporters to be involved in fundraising in a more creative way.

The comments come as part of a white paper on the future of fundraising, which was launched this week to demonstrate why creative methods of fundraising such as the 2.6 Challenge, which raised £10m for 3,000 charities, are vital for the sector to combat ‘donor fatigue’.

Fundraising has taken a hit over the past few months as major events have been cancelled and charities have been forced into finding new ways to raise much-needed money.

Captain Tom Moore – a 100-year old veteran who raised millions for NHS charities by walking laps of his garden – demonstrated how the general public are increasingly drawn to more creative ways of raising funds.

Studio Republic and Funraisin said collectively, they’re aiming to ‘break-down the current conditioning of limitations’.

“Once the dust settles, the new normal will be a hyper-congested market and an economy under immense pressure,” Funraisin COO, Keith Williams said.

“Charities will not just be competing as a sector for donations, but will be competing with every other consumer good or service. Charities are the pillar and essential for every corner of the community.

“The 2.6 Challenge and other campaigns during the pandemic have proved that creativity & technology effectively engage fundraisers. Where the world has redefined what matters, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the world better.”

Studio Republic director, Fleurie Forbes-Martin added: “Fundraisers have seen and experienced a more flexible way of supporting causes close to their heart and they won’t want to revert back to the rigidity of traditional methods.

“Now it’s up to charities to meet these new fundraiser expectations head-on. The second half of 2020 is an opportune time to invest in the sophistication of planned events and campaigns.”

Source: Charity Times

Six Ways Digital Helps Charities Fundraise on a Budget

If your charity is dealing with a sudden restriction in funding, you’re not alone – charities around the UK are reporting that they expect to lose a third of their total income on average as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with 83% saying they will need access to emergency grant funding to survive.

But while the situation is unprecedented and worrying, in 2020 charities also have unprecedented opportunities to fundraise and spread the word about their cause on shoestring budgets thanks to digital technology and social media.

Here are some ways digital can help stretch your fundraising budget that little bit further:


Social media channels represent a cheap or even free opportunity for charities to reach a wider audience, forge valuable relationships and build an engaged community of fans. According to the 2019 CAF Giving report, one in seven people who donate using a website or app do so through social media.

But how do you manage the constant flow of social media posting and responding, with limited resources and time?

Social media management platforms such as Hootsuite, Buffer and TweetDeck can help charities automate a lot of the hard work behind scheduling content and understanding metrics to get the most out of their posting – we’ve covered a few of them here that feature free plans.

Google offers charities the chance to compete for free advertising space as part of its Google Grants programme, with over £7,500 a month in grants offered towards search engine marketing that can help your charity’s donation ask be seen.

To read the full Charity Digital article click here.

Source: Charity Digital

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