Friday, 30 November 2012

Oh Dearism

Continuing the theme of Voluntary Sector Humour, a chance for us all to unwind at the end of the week. Here's an informative introduction to Oh Dearism.

Oh Dearism is the state attained when you look around at the world and all you can think is 'oh dear.'

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Red Bow White Box

Thought this was worth a mention. It's called Red Bow White Box.

It appears to be an even better alternative to JustGiving than the other JustGiving Alternatives.

The problem with most charity event giving pages is that they only allow you to donate to charities that have already paid to register with them. If I want to run an event for Cancer Research UK - no problem, they've probably singed up with JustGiving, Virgin Giving, or another website that allows their supporters to advertise their sponsored events.

If I want to run a marathon in aid of Bartholomew’s Donkey Sanctuary in Barbados (I made that up by the way) - no such luck.

Red Bow White Box is not specifically a charity giving site:
Red Bow White Box has templates for Birthdays, Weddings, Indie Films, Theatre Projects, and Bands.  There are even templates for support or help with Medical bills.

This makes it less secure than charity giving sites that send the donations directly to the charity's own bank account. But it still allows for Mary to do her school swimathon to raise money for absolutely any good cause she wants to, whenever she wants to. I think there's definitely a place for this type of crowd sourcing tool in the charity sector.

Plus, it appears to be free for both the charity and the fundraiser.

If you decide to give it a go, please drop a comment and let us know how you get on.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Open Source Accounting Software

(Image courtesy of o5com)

Interesting question from Michael on LinkedIn: "I am looking for recommendations on the best open source, free or inexpensive accounting packages available for small charities."

Keeping accurate accounts is so important for any organisation, and I'm a big fan of alternatives to market ransom prices.

To abbreviate the discussion:

Emma: Sage Instant Accounts £125 + VAT.

Holly: I work at an open source software consultancy, we would be more than happy to point you in the right direction for this. We offer configuration, support and training for open source software solutions so if you've got any questions or are looking for a helping hand feel free to call us on:  (UK) 01923 220121 .

Sarah: Our Community Accountants always recommend QuickBooks (but not Simple Start) to small groups/charities as it does restricted funding, which is often a necessity. Think Amazon is the cheapest place to buy - about £150? 

Shirley: Yes I would also recommend Quickbooks. Sage is ok if you are a trained accountant but Quickbooks is much easier to use. You can use a "class" for each fund and it makes reporting to fund providers easy. You can have a free trial for 30 days to see if you like it. 

John: VTCashbook is free and has inexpensive upgrades for paypal. Accounts Portal is another option.

Damian: I'm not from a financial background but I'm hearing a lot about how good Xero is so it's definitely worth having on your shortlist.

Ali: We use Xero and have found it to be easy to use and is cost-effective. It's early days for us but so far so good.

Michael: Thank you for all your comments, I have been looking through all the suggestions and liked the look of Quickbooks and Kashflow.


If you have any others to add, or if you know of any comparison review sites, please drop a comment below.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Closing the Gender Gap

(Image courtesy of Waterdotorg)

I'm a big fan of a women's news group: Women's Views on News. You can also find them on Twitter:@newsaboutwomen

The other week they posted the following article:

This year’s Global Gender Gap Report claims that only 20 per cent of the world’s women hold some form of political power... Commissioned by the World Economic Forum (WEF), the report utilises a ‘framework’ that tracks differences in the resources available to women and  men, in economics, politics, education, and health, and countries accordingly.

You can download the full report from the World Economic Forum (4th bullet-point down): 

Monday, 26 November 2012

Back Britain’s Charities

(Image courtesy of Images_of_Money)

Interesting e-mail went out the other week from Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of NCVO:

Today NCVO releases the results of our annual joint report with the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) - UK Giving 2012.

The findings are stark. They show a real terms 20% fall in donations to charities during the past year. Fewer people are giving and those who do are giving less. And this is against a backdrop of spending cuts and rising demand for services. Whilst the picture for individual charities varies this overall view of the sector is concerning.

Britain, however, remains a generous nation with donors supporting all manner of good causes, both at home and overseas. Preserving and making best use of that generosity is more important now than ever so that's why, together with CAF, we have launched a brand new campaign:

It has five key aims. We're asking...

  1. The public to support charities through regular giving, regardless of how much time or money they can give.
  2. The Government to modernise and promote Gift Aid and payroll giving so donations go further.
  3. The Government to ensure that public bodies do not cut funding for charities disproportionately when making spending reductions.
  4. Business to support charities, either through donations or through practical means.
  5. Charities to work with the Government to modernise and improve fundraising and to enhance their impact so that every pound given goes further to helping beneficiaries.
The letter goes on, asking you to show your support by signing up on the campaign website.

You can also show your support on Twitter using #backingcharity

Help spread the word.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Beware the Volunteer

Well, this concludes the theme week on 'volunteering'. We've covered Volunteering and Jobseeker's Allowance, Youth Volunteering, Volunteering in the UK & Ireland and Volunteering Overseas.

You can get more on volunteering by clicking the volunteering tab.

I recently decided to give Fridays over to Voluntary Sector Humour.

Erm... just exactly what is this woman volunteering to do at Volunteer Essex?!

(click to enlarge)

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Volunteering Overseas

I'm going to devote a separate week focusing solely on overseas volunteering at some point in the future. 

For now, I can't complete this week's theme of 'volunteering' without a brief mention of overseas opportunities.

I'll pick VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas) simply because it's the best know, has a fantastic reputation, and - well, because I had a very pleasurable two years with them in Africa. 

If you are a graduate, a professional, a crafts person, a retiree with time on your hands, or a young person aged 18-25 - check them out. There are so many different opportunities that I can't list them all, but you don't have to apply for a specific job. Go through their online application process and they will contact you if there is a match that you might be interested in.

By volunteering with VSO, you get to put your skills, energy and personal qualities to work helping people break out of poverty.

We’re currently looking for people from all sorts of backgrounds, from health and education through to engineering, IT and management.

We have placements in over 30 countries all over the world. 

VSO cover your travel, accommodation, a local allowance and medical cover. They really are the best of the best when it comes to volunteering in international development. Their intake includes the UK, Netherlands, Kenya, Ireland, India and the Philippines. I believe they also have recruitment partners for Canada and Australia.

Other countries also have long-established, reputable schemes such as Peace Corps in America. Please do share your country's equivalent in a comment below.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Volunteering UK

Continuing this week's theme of volunteering, and following on from yesterday's post on youth volunteering opportunities, here's where to look if you're an adult who wants to volunteer, or an organisation looking to recruit volunteers.

[UPDATE JUNE 2016 - Volunteering England has now become part of NCVO.]

Volunteering England is a great one-stop shop for information and resources:

Volunteering England is an independent charity and membership organisation, committed to supporting, enabling and celebrating volunteering in all its diversity. Our work links policy, research, innovation, good practice and programme management in the involvement of volunteers.

Volunteer Scotland, if you're in Scotland. Volunteering Wales, if you're in Wales. And... actually, Volunteer Now in Northern Ireland. If you're looking for opportunities in The Republic of Ireland, try Volunteer Ireland.

If you're reading this blog from outside the UK and Ireland, please feel free to share your country's volunteering centre link in a comment below.

For potential volunteers, these centres should be able to help match your skills and interests with opportunities in your local area. For organisations, they can help to provide tools and resources to help you manage your volunteers effectively.

You can also try a Google search for your location or county + 'volunteer centre' as there are local, regional centres for volunteering in most of the UK.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Youth Volunteering

vInspired, or just V for short, is a fantastic UK initiative to encourage young people aged 14-25 to volunteer in their communities, start projects, and even log the number of hours they've spent volunteering:

vInspired is an independent charity dedicated to helping young people volunteer in ways that matter to them...Since its launch in May 2006, vInspired has worked with over 500 charities and community organisations to create over 1 million youth volunteering opportunities.

You can search for opportunities in your area by typing in your postcode.

Fantastic idea.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Volunteering and Jobseeker's Allowance

Going to take a look at Volunteering this week.

First topic that comes up a lot: 'Will volunteering affect my Jobseeker's benefits if I'm unemployed?'

I'm not a benefits expert, so I suggest asking your benefits officer directly. However, there's an uplifting piece of advice from Westminster Volunteer Centre:

There is a common misconception that volunteering and being on benefits are not compatible. Actually the opposite is true: If you’re getting benefits, you can be a volunteer and, in nearly all cases, your benefits will not be affected.

Full article: Volunteering for Work.

To find out more about those 'nearly all cases' not included, you can find a helpful and detailed PDF here:

Volunteering While Getting Benefits
(scroll down from withdrawn notice)

Volunteering can be a fantastic way to get extra experience on your CV. If your organisation is a member of their local Voluntary Action Council (membership is usually gratis for smaller organisations) they may also be able to send you on some free accounting, administration or fundraising courses. 

Try to pick a charity:
  1. Devoted to a cause you are interested in
  2. That already has a healthy volunteering scheme (talk to your local Volunteer Centre)
  3. That you feel comfortable and valued within

Many volunteers go on to paid positions later down the line, and the networking opportunities gained from volunteering can be a real confidence boost.

If you do experience difficulties volunteering because you are unemployed, please share in a comment below.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Ode To A Trustee

(Image courtesy of Aman Deshmukh)
I'm giving Fridays over to funnies. We all need a little light relief come the end of the week.

Here is a wonderful poem posted on LinkedIn by Alexander Swallow, based on Kipling's If.

If you can keep your head when all about you,
Have read the briefings five times to your one,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
And feel that your duty has been done;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
And plan ahead so your intentions don't surprise,
If you let your brain be constantly creating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream- and not make dreams your master,
If you have patience for the long-term game,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear a new agenda topic,
When your stomach rumbles and you've a train to catch,
If the finance sheets are making you myopic,
But you're determined that they've met their match;

If you can keep your mind fixated,
On those the charity's there to serve,
If you're working harder than anticipated,
And you approach the lot with vim and verve;
If you keep fellow members smiling,
When your own is wearing thin,
And hang in there when the pressure's piling,
And take your setbacks on the chin;

If every time one's added to your number,
You're bothered to make them feel at ease,
If you can drag others from their slumber,
To see the options you must surely seize;
If you can fill the unforgiving meeting,
With two hours worth of good work done,
Yours is the Earth, and everything that's in it,
And- which is more- you'll be a Trustee, my son!
(or daughter!)

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Gap Analysis

One of those fancy-sounding processes that's actually rather simple and very useful.

A Gap Analysis is simply an overview of what's missing from your organisation or project. This might include:

  • Resources: training, equipment, premises
  • Staff: Administrator, Fundraiser, Trustee
  • Skills: accounting,  advocacy, planning

Here's a really nice, step-by-step guide to conducting a basic Gap Analysis:

Gap Analysis compares your current situation with the future state that you want to achieve once your project is complete. By conducting a Gap Analysis, you can identify what you need to do to "bridge the gap" and make your project a success.

It specifically talks about conducting the analysis on projects, but you can use it to take an overall look at your organisation in relation to where you want to be next year and the year after. Include one in your Operational Strategy.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Green Growth

An interesting tweet by the World Bank (@WorldBank): For the past 250 years, economic growth has come largely at the expense of the environment.

Original infographic here.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Charity Fraud

(Image courtesy of Images_of_Money)

The bank Lloyds TSB have sponsored the production of a useful PDF that all charities should have a read of:

This guide provides an overview of the key aspects of charity fraud. There is a lot of guidance already available on fraud and navigating through various sources can be difficult. This guide pulls together guidance from the organisations named on the inside cover, including the Charity Commission, Fraud Advisory Panel and National Fraud Authority, for trustees and staff to use as a starting point.

It covers everything from creating a culture of ethical behaviour to accounting and transactions.

For further information, check out the Charity Finance Group, who wrote it.

Monday, 12 November 2012

UK Ends Aid to India

(click to enlarge)

Looking back, my post last month on the Politics of UK Aid seems almost prophetic:

I was recently at a meeting where someone told me they wanted to volunteer in a 'real developing country - not somewhere like India.' When I asked what they considered a real developing country to be, they brought up India's recent economic growth as a case against its need for international aid.

The news last Friday was:

This will not prevent international charities operating in the country, working with the country's poorest and most disadvantaged communities, but it will mean that aid money currently given to India by the UK government will be redistributed amongst other countries and continents, such as Africa. 

The above article contains two videos putting across both sides of the argument. International Development Secretary, Justine Greening, explaining that India's economy is growing successfully, and Emma Seery of Oxfam pointing out that a third of the world's poorest people still live in India.

Advice and technical assistance from the UK will continue to be ongoing. 

As I mentioned in my politics post, I firmly, like most aid workers, believe that India should start to use its growing wealth to secure the welfare of all of its citizens. 

However, I worry that Justine Greening's emphasis is on developing India's Private Sector in poor areas. The emphasis should be on developing a Voluntary Sector. Private Sector ethics are no substitute for humanitarian assistance. What happens to the poor people you can't make money out of?

Friday, 9 November 2012

Charity Merchandise

(click to enlarge)


The theory behind traditional merchandising is to brand items (pens, T-shirts, bags etc.) with the  organisation’s logo and hand them out for free at events so that people will remember who you are. It’s still done widely.

But is this sustainable?

Free merchandise is a form of advertising, but you have to decide whether the amount of money you spend on these items is worth the return you get.

This week we've covered a number of the most successfully branded items of charity merchandise: ribbons, wristbands, coins, and poppies

There are some lessons all charities can take from the success of these items. When considering merchandising, ask yourself: 

  • Will it be something that people want – either because it’s fashionable or because it’s useful?
  • Will it appeal to enough people? Who is it aimed at?
  • Would you buy it? (If you wouldn’t, why not?)
  • Where can you sell it?
  • How much will you have to sell it for? If it costs too much people won’t buy it. If you don’t charge enough you may lose money on production.

Few organisations are lucky enough to come up with a brand new idea, like trolley coins. But most can get a little more inventive than printing T-shirts.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Merchandise: Poppies

Continuing this week's theme of charity merchandise, my final product pick is the remembrance poppy, worn throughout the UK, and by Brits abroad, to commemorate Armistice Day on 11th November. The money goes towards supporting our servicemen and women past and present.

The poppy factory was founded in 1922. The interesting thing about it, is that it is still run today as a Social Enterprise, employing a high proportion of staff with post-traumatic stress syndrome. 

As mentioned in the video below:

What we expect people to do here is to work to the best of their ability. That isn't judged at the speed they are able to produce product.

What a breath of fresh air.

Poppies are generally on sale in most larger shops, and public places such as libraries and hospitals, for however much people care to put in the collection tin.

Tomorrow, I will be giving some tips on successful charity merchandising.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Merchandise: Coins

A couple of years after wristbands, the next big charity merchandise craze hit.

Many supermarkets who were upset because their shopping trolleys were being stolen, fitted them with special release mechanisms. You put £1 in to a special slot and reclaimed it after shopping when you returned the trolley.

This meant that you always had to have a £1 coin when you went shopping in order to use a trolley.

Charities created the 'pound for life.' A small metal disk the same size and weight as a pound coin that you could clip on to a keyring.

People loved them because they were easy to carry around, so you didn’t have to remember to take £1 with you every time you went shopping. Charities branded these with their logos and created a double-win success. They became extremely popular and raised a lot of money.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Merchandising: Wristbands

Continuing on from ribbons, awareness raising bracelets were first introduced by the Lance Armstrong Foundation for cancer research in 2004.

By 2005, hundreds of charities including Make Poverty History, Testicular Cancer, Breast Cancer, Epilepsy and even Deaf Pride were selling wristbands to raise money. Depending on the size of the charity, these sold for anything between £1 and £5 pounds.

As with ribbons, different colours represent support for different causes. These colours usually remain the same as corresponding ribbons. Their use as a fashion accessory helped to secure their popularity amongst everyone from teenagers to office staff. Slightly more expensive to produce than ribbons, but a notable fashion accessory.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Merchandising: Ribbons

Merchandise is a form of advertising for your organisation, but you have to decide whether the amount of money you spend on it is worth the return you get.

In recent years, many charities have come up with new forms of merchandising. Over the next few days I'm going to cover some of the more successful ones.

As 1st December will be World AIDS Day, let's start with perhaps the most iconic piece of charity merchandising ever invented.

The ribbon.

The AIDS ribbon is one of the most widely recognised pieces of charity merchandise in the world.

It originally started in 1988 as a campaign for drug and alcohol prevention, but was re-branded in 1991 by a New York artist, to stand as an awareness raising symbol in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

It is made from a single ribbon and pin, making it extremely cheap to produce. Each one sells for a donation of around £1 per ribbon. That’s a good return for AIDS research charities.

It's spawned an entire range of different coloured awareness ribbons.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Crappy Graphs

Because it's Friday, and because we've been discussing some fairly high-brow topics lately, I thought I'd end the week with a bit of fun.

This is my favourite infographic, courtesy of Crappy Graphs

Every now and then we all need a break from data overload.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

My Giving Group

I follow David Hallett (@David_Hallett) on Twitter.

He tweets quite regularly about a site called Xperedon Instant Giving.

Give in 60 seconds or less in support of any of 5,871 charities in 29 countries

One of its key features is that it allows you to start your own My Giving Group, to promote your charity and fundraising activities.

It seems to have two functions.

  • For Donors: it allows individuals to suggest charities they wish to give to, make secure online payments and direct debits, tell people about the charities they support and set up giving pages. This suggests it may be another alternative to Just Giving.

  • For Charities: promotion, sophisticated online giving system, networking opportunities and an online method of managing your fundraising activities.

It also appears to be free.

I haven't used it yet. If you decide to give it a whirl, I'd appreciate it if you could feedback on your experiences by leaving a comment below.