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Cyber crime and reporting to the Charity Commission

The Charity Commission recently issued an alert to the charity sector about cyber crime and how to report it to them.

Cyber crime has a number of definitions but will usually involve attacks on, or through, computer systems and networks. It often includes theft of data or disruption of systems to enable further crime.

Dependant on the nature of these crimes, trustees, staff, volunteers and beneficiaries of charities may be adversely affected. Negative publicity could also impact on public trust and confidence in not only the charity affected, but the sector as a whole.

The alert explains more about this growing threat, and also includes links to useful guidance and tools to help you protect your charity.

Source: Charity Commission Newsletter issue 63


Improving Your Charity Finance Function

Many finance managers wish they could spend more time actually planning – thinking about the business and contributing to strategy. Instead they feel bogged down by the basic-level bookkeeping, correcting mis-codings, chasing paperwork and producing endless spreadsheets. Sayer Vincent take you through how to improve your charity finance function.

So where to start? Break the overall task down into a series of manageable steps. You do not have to do them in a strict order and your own particular circumstances might help you to focus on the right area first.

1. Free up some time

A good first step is to stop doing something so that you can free up some time. Consider some of the reports you write – do people actually use these? One way to find out is to stop sending them – see if anyone notices! More seriously, it is possible to ask for a moratorium and you can pick the time when you do this – first quarter management accounts comparing actual to budget do not usually reveal much and so may not be missed by managers.

2. Analyse existing data

Could you analyse existing data further and present it a different way in order to provide some useful information for managers? This does not have to be complicated – a recent example was some analysis that a new finance manager undertook for a charity. He showed managers the level of take-up needed for a particular type of project to breakeven. The managers were astounded, as they had been asking for similar information for years and had always been told it was too difficult. Now they could look at their decision-making process afresh and develop clear financial criteria for closing projects and opening new ones. This was an important step for that finance manager, as he now has credibility with other managers.

3. Reduce the number of errors

It is frustrating for finance departments and other staff to waste time sorting out mistakes. Even if the error is caused by staff outside the finance department, it still reflects on finance and undermines the confidence others have in their work. Having demonstrated that the finance department can add value, you can now ask others to make changes to the way they do things. You will need to find out the cause of the errors. In one example, the cause was an old print out of the chart of accounts which was completely out of date, so people were using the wrong codes. For years, the finance staff had simply been correcting these codes.

To read the full Directory of Social Change article click here.

Source: The Directory of Social Change


A Five Step Plan to Reduce Charity Fraud

Fraud is on the rise and it’s estimated by the Annual Fraud Indicator 2017 to cost the UK economy £190bn per year. Charities are far from immune. Recent cases have highlighted the vulnerability of the sector. Jonathan Orchard, Partner at Sayer Vincent, has put together a five step plan to help your charity avoid the financial and reputational damage that fraud can wreak.

Accept that fraud exists

Organisations are estimated to be losing between 3 to 8 per cent of their income due to fraud – income that won’t get through to beneficiaries. Additionally, the impact of fraud on a charity’s work, beneficiaries and reputation can be hugely damaging, so the first step towards reducing fraud is to accept it exists.

Understand your own vulnerabilities

Charities need to think like fraudsters and really scrutinise their organisation’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. There are common areas for fraud such as payroll and expenses, payment and procurement processes, fundraising and of course cyber risks –which must all be considered.

Given the scale of cyber risks, we advise that charities should consider what information they are putting in the public domain and how that information could be used in the wrong hands. For example, publishing important contact details such as finance personnel or the names of key suppliers or senior managers on their website. Having access to these contacts makes it easier for fraudsters to engage in phishing.

Build awareness and the right culture

Fraud risks should be openly discussed internally with trustees, staff and volunteers. There needs to be clear policies around fraud, bribery and corruption that everyone understands. To develop the right culture, employees need to understand what fraud and theft means to the charity, the responsibilities of staff in managing fraud, details of any whistle blowing plan or policy and crucially, how the charity will react to fraud.

Review and assess controls

Just because your charity has controls in place, don’t assume you are safe. Risks keep evolving and charities must too. New trends are always emerging and controls must be up dated and regularly assessed. Charities should also be regularly stress testing their controls to ensure they aren’t weak and ensure their board is making decisions based on risk assessment. If Chester Zoo had questioned the email and called up their contractor to double check if their bank details had been changed, perhaps they would have been alerted to the email scam before paying the invoice.

Report and take action

Does your charity have a fraud response plan in place or does it need one? How will it respond to fraud? If the fraud response policy is to take decisive action against fraud, then the organisation must follow through and report fraud to the police or Action Fraud. With charities having to work harder than ever to survive, it’s imperative they take fraud seriously and ensure they have robust checks in place to minimise the risks.

Source: The Directory of Social Change


Major Risks All Charity Board Members Need To Think About – Part 1

Charities need to take risks as well as avoid them, so trustees and managers should draw up a policy to put these in context.

Charities often deal with risk by preparing a register of all the things that could go wrong. But a long list, ranked for probability and impact, does not necessarily mean that you are managing risk.

A better approach is to start by having a conversation among trustees and senior managers about what the risk policy of your charity ought to be. This is about setting the tone from the top. But it is not about avoiding or minimising all risk: a charity’s risk policy needs to state where the charity is prepared to take risks as well.

A simple risk policy for a hypothetical children’s charity might state: “ABC Charity is committed to improving life outcomes for children. The charity is completely intolerant of all risks to children and young people. But to fulfil the charity’s objectives, it has to raise funds and will therefore accept some risk in undertaking new fundraising activities.”

Setting the initial framework allows the board to see the risk register in a context. The trustees of ABC Charity might question whether enough risk is being taken in fundraising. This changes the tone of the conversation at board level, which is too often focused on avoiding risk.

Board members are also much more likely to engage with high-level analysis of the strategic risks if they are small in number. This approach does away with number-based ranking and relies instead on descriptions of the risks and regular monitoring. It can be helpful to think in terms of the big five risks:

Impact

ABC Charity runs a number of programmes to improve children’s lives. While it believes that the programmes are well run and are well received, it needs evidence of outcomes. Unless the charity is able to demonstrate impact, it will not be achieving its objects and is unlikely to receive future funding.

Reputation

A charity’s reputation is everything, but it can be a slippery concept. Boards and senior managers need to understand how reputation weaves through everything a charity does. Inadvertently, you could be giving out contradictory messages that jeopardise your reputation. In fundraising, for example, you might adopt an ethical fundraising policy, but then give the fundraising team aggressive targets; which will matter most to the team?

Source: Directory of Social Change


Top Tips: Creating Effective Corporate Partnerships

A strong corporate-charity partnership is a powerful way to unlock opportunities, form key relationships, attract funding and gain longer-term support for your organisation.

Small charities play a distinct and vital role in building stronger communities and addressing some of our most persistent social challenges. That’s why Aviva works to unlock their potential by finding, funding and empowering small charities to face the future with confidence.

One way we’re doing this is through partnerships. We know that developing strong and fruitful corporate partnerships can be challenging – particularly for resource-stretched, time-poor grassroots organisations. Yet, they have the potential to fundamentally change the trajectory of your organisation.  So, we’ve distilled three fundamentals to getting corporate-charity partnerships right.

Focus on relationship building, over transactional fundraising

Lucrative, strategic partnerships take time. Focus on thoroughly researching each company and the right people to connect with, so you can develop a proposition tailored to their corporate responsibility focus and wider business objectives.

Work as a team and focus on warm prospects. Relationship building shouldn’t be the sole responsibility of fundraisers within your organisation, it’s everyone’s role to get out there, build strong relationships and tap into the connections you already have. Cold approaches rarely bear fruit, so it’s important to only consider how you can meet your contact in person – this really goes a long way.

This type of strategic partnership beyond transactional fundraising is certainly a longer-term game, however the time invested will pay off when the opportunity is ripe.

Think beyond funding and be open-minded 

So often, the first thing charities think about in partnerships is the funding opportunities. To make the most of a strategic partnership it’s important to consider other opportunities and resources you could tap into, such as skills development, IT/software, office space, staff volunteering, and more.

Many corporates out there offer capacity building and resource support, for instance Aviva runs a Facebook Group called Aviva Community Group, where charities of all shapes and sizes can join to share ideas, network with like-minded people, and get advice from experts in the sector. The key with partnership opportunities that go beyond funding is to ensure they’re shaped by clear expectations and mutually beneficial outcomes.

Demonstrate your passion

No partnership ‘pitch’ is static, so when you’re approaching a prospective corporate partner make sure your key messages and story will resonate – speak their language (it’s easy to get stuck in the habit of using industry-specific buzz words…) and make sure you clearly articulate how the partnership will solve challenges they may be facing.

Demonstrate your passion about why you love what you do and the difference you’re making in the community. One of the oldest maxims of fundraising is that “people don’t give to causes; they give to people with causes”. And, this is still true today. The most memorable stories that really shine are those by individuals who have a personal connection, an authentic relationship to the cause they’re promoting.

Source: FSI


How to Reinvigorate Your Fundraising Strategy with Storytelling

How to reinvigorate your fundraising strategy with storStorytelling has always been key to human interaction. Stories engage us, they connect us, and they shape how we make sense of the world. When it comes to fundraising, storytelling is the most powerful way to transform passion into action and connect with the hearts and minds of your supporters.

Now more than ever non-profits need to tap into the power of sharing stories and equip themselves with the tools and knowledge to share a compelling, authentic story that is captivating and memorable. Because no matter what your cause is, your future could depend on the quality of your spiel.

1.Identify your ‘why’

Knowing and clearly articulating the “why” of your organisation can be challenging, but it’s incredibly important. Share your passion for why you love what you do, why it is so important, and why someone should support your cause over another. Take a look at Simon Sinek’s famous TED Talk on ‘How Great Leaders Inspire Action’ starting with the golden circle.

•Share your personal connection

The most effective stories come from people who have a personal connection to the cause they’re promoting. This injects passion, life and connection as well as enabling you to demonstrate your strong belief in the impact you’re having in the community. It’s the vulnerability and the personal stories that draw people in and present a stronger, more compelling, and more memorable story.

•Know your ‘WHO’

No pitch is static. It evolves based on who you’re talking to, where you are, and what you wish to convey. That’s not to say you need to do extensive research on your audience, but it is important to do the necessary checks to make sure your language, key messages, and story will resonate. Then, you need to vary your story accordingly.

•Show don’t tell

Let your beneficiaries be heard and let them tell their own personal stories. This is the best way to provide insight into their experiences. Video and photos direct from the field is the most compelling and powerful way to achieve this. It’s also the perfect opportunity to think about how you can keep donors engaged and creatively report on how their money is being spent and the impact it is having.

Source: FSI

 


Communications Capacity Building Tips

Follow these 10 principles and you are sure to see an improvement in not only your charity’s communications but your financial sustainability as well.

1. Ensure you have a clear mission, succinct messaging and overall objectives (your audience need to understand what it is you are offering).

You should be able to clearly convey your organisational purpose in an ‘elevator pitch’ style delivery – within no more than 30 seconds. It is important to always have a call to action which could be encouraging your target audience to visit your website, or contact a telephone number. This serves two purposes; to make it easy for people to contact you and to ultimately increase your number of supporters.

2. Understand your audience. You need to be able to clearly identify who your audience is – maybe you need to break it down into a primary target audience with other secondary audiences. It is important to frame your message for each audience.

Types of audience can range from your clients, volunteers, partners and stakeholders, as well as potential beneficiaries. Segmentation is key when communicating with and addressing your various audiences. Not only will segmentation allow you to frame and convey the correct messages for your target audience, it will also ensure that you do not saturate your audiences with irrelevant communications.

3. Always plan your communications ahead, ideally with a communications calendar. The calendar should map out all planned communications activity, content themes as well as wider landmarks in the communications calendar (like a specific Volunteer’s Week or an event on your local calendar). It is good to use a combination of social media channels, Facebook and Twitter for a general(and slightly older audience), Instagram and Youtube for a younger audience.

To read the full Media Trust Communication Tips click here.

Source: Media Trust


How to Raise More Unrestricted Income from Trusts and Foundations

Lime Green Consulting often get asked by charities and social enterprises for advice on how they can raise more unrestricted funding from trusts and foundations.

Many organisations are very successful at securing grant income, yet still find themselves in a tight financial position because the majority of funding tends to be restricted to a specific purpose. While project funding is vital, it rarely gives you the flexibility you need to thrive as a resilient and innovative organisation.

We’ve compiled some of our best tips on how to achieve the holy grail of unrestricted grant income – from some obvious funders to approach, to how to think outside the box when it comes to improving your financial position through trusts and foundations fundraising.

1. APPLY TO SPECIALIST CORE FUNDERS

While it’s understandably tempting for funders to want to fund tangible and exciting projects, this doesn’t give organisations the freedom to pay key staff or cover central costs. Not unlike yoga, strengthening your core is vital and will make you much better at everything else you’re trying to achieve too.

There’s a growing recognition in the sector that smaller organisations in particular need access to more flexible funding if they are to survive and thrive, particularly at a time when so much local authority funding has dried up. Lloyds Bank Foundation CEO Paul Streets has been particularly vocal about the damage caused by ‘projectitis’.

Here are a few funders that give core funding to a broad range of charitable causes:

  • Lloyds Bank Foundation (no surprise given the above)
  • Tudor Trust
  • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
  • Masonic Charitable Foundation
  • Paul Hamlyn Foundation

If you’re looking for core funding, here are a few tips:

  • Check out the above funders and see if your organisation is eligible to apply.
  • Use a funding directory like Funds Online or Funding Central to search for other core funders. We suspect that other funders will pop up over the coming months. These directories have a subscription fee for most organisations but it’s often a worthwhile investment, as they have an option to search specifically for core funding.
  • Develop a strong case for support for why you really need core funding. For example: why don’t you have much unrestricted funding already? Why would it be so valuable to you – would it enable you to recruit a key member of staff, respond to a new opportunity or restructure in an important way? What makes your organisation such an expert at what it does, therefore such a strong candidate for core funding?

To read the full Lime Green Consulting Blog click here.

Source: Lime Green Consulting


The Best Artificial Intelligence Resources for Charities

Charity Digital News has collated a list of the best resources, grants and educational sources for charities to start getting to grips with the benefits of artificial intelligence (AI).

While it’s still early days for most in the charity sector, artificial intelligence is now far from being just a buzzword. Charities are using technology such as machine learning, chatbots and algorithmic decision making to do everything from serving information and telling stories online, to taking voice-based donations, driving innovative research and serving beneficiaries. The possibilities are incredibly wide-ranging. Experts are saying that artificial intelligence will shape society more than any other technology in the next few decades, so why would civil society be any exception?

We’ve put together a list of some of the top artificial intelligence tools, training, grants and education resources for charities and non-profit organisations: whether you’re completely new to the concepts behind artificial intelligence and machine learning, or already well versed and ready to take your ideas to the next level.

To read the full Charity Digital News article click here.

Source: Charity Digital News


6 Tips For Developing An Effective Charity Marketing Strategy

One question that we are frequently asked is how to develop a marketing strategy.

To start with, we should be clear that a marketing strategy and marketing plan are different, albeit overlapping, things. Their relationship is similar to that of your vision and mission.

• Your strategy is about identifying your overarching goals and the tactics you will use to achieve these.
• Your plan is about the execution of this strategy – the actions that you will take to reach your goals.

With that said, here are our top-tips for helping you develop your charity’s marketing strategy:

Define Your Goals
The first thing you need to consider is what you are trying to achieve with your strategy. Think carefully about how your marketing strategy supports your charity’s mission and vision. Are you looking to increase donations, raise awareness of a cause or reach new beneficiaries? Without clearly defined goals you’re not going to be able to work out which marketing channels you should and shouldn’t be using.

Identify Your Key Audiences
The next thing to ask yourself is who you are trying to engage with your strategy. This will depend on your chosen goals. If your goal is to bring in major donors, you should probably reconsider a strategy geared towards teenagers in socially deprived areas.

Tailor Your Messaging
Marketing is essentially about relationship building. As individuals, we naturally speak to different people about different subject – often (subconsciously or not) altering our vocabulary accordingly. We have our literature friends, our football mates, and our political comrades (ok, just me).

This is the way we should approach our audiences. Different demographic groups have different interests and consume and engage with content in very different ways. The messaging, tactics and channels you use to reach and ignite the passions of young people in central London will almost certainly diverge from those you use to engage older people in rural Norfolk (Hey Mum).

To read the full Local Giving article click here.

Source: Local Giving

 


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