Thursday, 9 October 2014

Brainstorming No-brainer

Very interesting article explaining why brainstorming doesn't work so well, and suggesting another approach, the equally buzzwordish 'brainswarming':

While the traditional brainstorming has always involved a room full of collaborators blurting out ideas, McCaffrey proposes a more silent approach called “brainswarming,” which encourages individual ideation within the context of a larger objective. You start brainswarming by placing a goal or problem at the top of a white board, then listing the resources available to meet these problems at the bottom. Members of your team sit independently and write down ideas for tackling the problem from either end. 
McCaffrey has found that natural “top-down” thinkers will begin refining the goal, while “bottom-up” thinkers will either add more resources or analyze how resources can be used to solve problems. The magic happens in the middle, where these two factions connect. 

One for the workshop toolbox.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Charity Merger

If your organisation is thinking of a merger, check out The Good Merger Guide

The Good Merger Guide is a practical, logical and succinct guide which is offered as a free resource, for any charity or civil society organisation looking to explore a pathway to a successful merger

Top tips and considerations on where to go next.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Charity Commission Website Change

The Charity Commission website is about to move over to the UK Government pages according to their recent update. I don't know whether this means that previous links on this blog will stop working - quite probably. When I get the time I will go through and amend them.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Hola! VPN

Ex-pats and those working overseas are going to love this.

It's a free VPN (Virtual Private Network). A little tool that allows you to access things like BBC iPlayer and home TV channels even when you're out of the country. There are lots of VPNs available, but most of them charge you. Hola is completely free. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Going Mobile

We've talked before about text giving and apptivism, but that only works if charities get to grips with what phone users want to see. This article warns Charities failing to address shift to mobile devices.

The widespread failure among charities to address the new challenges presented by the shift to mobile and tablet devices as the primary point of access to the internet is highlighted by the following findings:
  • Of the 50 charities surveyed, only three (6%) had created donation journeys specific to mobile devices.
  • Four in ten charity (42%) websites are not optimised for mobile devices in any way.
  • Even where a site is optimised for mobile devices, the donation screens of four in five charities (80%) then revert to desktop donation journeys which are poorly suited to mobile.

Animal charities came top when it came to having the most donation-friendly websites, having made the greatest efforts to adapt their websites to the increasing volume of visits via mobile and tablet devices. Environment and health charities had the least donation-friendly websites.

Hmmm. If one or two charities are falling behind, perhaps it's their problem. If so many of them are, maybe it's a problem with skills transfer in general?

Just for once, wouldn't it be nice to see the onus on the techies to teach the newbies? Rather than adding to the increasing list of all the world's ills that charities are failing to address, perhaps app developers and mobile giants could set up straightforward, easy to understand, plain English step-by-step YouTube tutorials for training charities in using their products? Maybe even software that automatically deals with the change in device?

I'm sure it's not for lack of enthusiasm these charities are falling behind in the technological race. There are just too few hours left in the day, between researching cancer and rounding up mistreated animals, to read the instruction manuals.

How about meeting them halfway? What is good for the Voluntary Sector can only be good for business, and humanity at large? 

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Tell it Like Gandalf

An entertaining article on the importance of telling a good story: The storytelling secrets charities can learn from Gandalf

Talk to any charity fundraising or communications professional about what's needed to engage with supporters online and they'll say "good content". But what exactly is "good content"? 
Good content is about storytelling. Storytelling is not exactly new - people have been telling stories since time began, passing them down from generation to generation. However, about 70 years ago this process changed. Television altered the way stories were delivered - instead of people taking an active role in storytelling, they became passive consumers.

It talks about digital marketing, turning stories into donations, and the impact of imagery.

Are we sitting comfortably?

Monday, 4 August 2014

Call for Evidence

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) has today launched a call for evidence as part of a review into the voluntary sector’s finances, alongside its partners Charity Finance Group, the Institute of Fundraising, Navca and Small Charities Coalition. 
The call for evidence, which is open to all voluntary organisations, provides the opportunity for respondents to tell their story about the impact of the recession on their organisation and how they have adapted to the changing funding environment. 

The call for evidence closes on 30th September 2014. If you're a UK charity and you'd like more information, contact Aidan Warner, NCVO External Relations Manager: UK 020 7520 2413 /

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Workplace Sexism

I was talking to a friend last night and she asked me if I had ever read Every Day Sexism, which is a website and very active Twitter feed exposing the daily harassment that women are faced with in the streets, at home, and at work.

One of the first tweets I noticed was a link to an article: 10 sexist scenarios that women face at work

At the bottom, it asks women how many they've faced.

For my part:

  1. I've been expected to make tea, and handed the empty cups, even as the Office Manager
  2. I fully recognise the scenario of men getting the first handshake and then being deferred to throughout the conversation
  3. I've been called a 'good girl'
  4. I've experienced inappropriate solicitations and wandering eyes

Equality in the workplace, even in terms of pay, is still not a place we have arrived at. Do your part to stamp out inappropriate behaviour both in the office and in yourself. Team effort, people.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Top 10 Social Media Tips

Good Article here by The Guardian: 10 things your charity needs to know about social media

Worth taking five minutes out to read. If communications are an important growth point for your organisation at the moment, also check out my tab on Social Media & Networking.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Find Your Contact

Quick tip for charities applying for grants in the UK: don't just send it to 'Dear Sir/Madam'. It's hideously impersonal. Always try to address your application to a specific person at the organisation.

Even if names of staff are not listed on the Trust's website, you can still head to the Charity Commission website (in England & Wales, or Scotland) and search for the Trust. A Trust is a charity just like any other, and should have a registration entry. Type in the name of the organisation, then click the tab at the side which says Contact & Trustees.

Nine times out of ten, the main contact's name will appear above the organisation's address. If not, have another search through their website. Still no joy? Give them a call and ask.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Development Book Club

Somebody brought this to my attention. I thought I'd share. If you're up for an intellectual challenge, it's a book club with monthly discussions relating to international development.

Welcome to Development Novice! We’re an online book club for those beginning our careers in international development. We read one book a month then discuss its themes and relations to our work/studies. While the title of this blog is “Development Novice” anyone interested in development is encouraged to participate. Whether you are a young professional, student (you have time for this?), or established in the field, you are welcome to read and share your experiences.

The thinking person's book club.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Online Donations Change in Law

At the beginning of last month, a change came into effect which means that UK charities can no longer include an automatic donation alongside online purchases.

Charities selling online will now need to make it clear where there is an obligation to pay. This can be done by having a prominently displayed and clickable ‘pay now’ button on a web page so the customer is aware that their action will result in the order being completed and a charge being applied.
In the new rules, consumers will be able to cancel any order they make online or when not in the seller’s business premises for up to 14 days instead of the current 7 days. Charities will also need to provide consumers with a cancellation form.

So what does this actually affect?

Well, you know when someone buys something online, and there's the option to 'Donate £1 to charity'?

It's fine to have that, so long as the box is set to zero and the customer has to physically click to opt-in. It can't be set to an amount that is automatically charged. 

As the article heading above suggests: customers need to give active consent to add to their purchase total.

Which rather suggests they didn't have active consent before.

There's an interesting discussion on LinkedIn, where I outline why I'm in favour of this rule. It also gives an example of a charity who has suffered a drop in donations since it came in.

Ethically, it's a bit like lemons. However, as one poster suggested, it may encourage charities to re-think how they ask for donations. My post on the Science of Persuasion might help to fruit ideas.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Science of Persuasion

Here's a useful video for Social Enterprises and Charities alike, whether fundraising or trying to increase your business flow.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Passport Power

A very interesting map detailing who has the most freedom to travel in the world, based on passports and visa regulations. There is also a really useful online site called Do You Need a Visa, which tells you whether you need one based on the country you are in and the country you are travelling to.

Friday, 27 June 2014


You really want this.

Logframer a freeware programme that helps you to build logframes (logic frameworks). These are summary boxes that outline your project objectives, actions and results, and help you to monitor and evaluate the progress of your project.

The logical framework or logframe is a project management tool, that can be used to design, implement, monitor and evaluate a project. The logframe presents a wealth of information related to your project in a 4x4 matrix. The logframe can help you reflect on the basic elements of your project, such as its objectives, the activities that you want to do, the resources that you're going to need, how you are going to follow-up your project's progress and results, and what risk could threaten your project.

This free programme will assist you in mapping out your logframes and timelines, helping to present your project in a professional manner. 

Logframer 1.2 is a free project management application for projects based on the logical framework method. Logframer was designed with NGO projects for development and humanitarian assistance in mind, but can also be used for other kinds of projects in other sectors.

Major brownie points with donors.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Volunteering is Good for Mental Health

[F]our in five volunteers believe their volunteering activity has had a positive effect on their health. 
Research published today by Citizens Advice Bureau indicates that volunteering boosts self-esteem, employabilty and health – especially mental health. 

Giving is receiving and all that.

Shame the national volunteering centres have had their funding slashed.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Kumva Consulting

Hope everybody has enjoyed the restful down-time and used it to brush up on the archives?

I've decided to extend my trip to East Africa, having just relocated the majority of my services to Kigali in the form of Kumva Consulting (Facebook/Twitter @KumvaConsulting).

Umva is one of the best known words in Kinyarwanda, meaning 'listen!' but practically it can be used to mean just about anything you want it to: 'oy!, come here, over there, pay attention, this way...' Everybody knows the word umva.

Adding the K before it turns it into 'to listen/to understand,' which we reckon is a good name for a consultancy.

I'm still running charity start-up and remote services in the UK, but training and in-house work is now focused on Rwanda. It's been interesting returning to the country after a five-year absence, but surprising how quickly it starts to feel like home again.

If you are a consultant working in the public or voluntary sector in Rwanda, or more widely throughout East Africa, please do drop me a line. We're always on the look-out for talented associates.

I'll be back to blogging more regularly now.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Over and Out

I'm taking a short break from blogging as I'm off to Asia and then East Africa.

In my absence, please take a moment to flip through the archives. You'll find a list of all the catagories down the right-hand side, but some of the most active have been:

If you're having a tough day, you might enjoy the Voluntary Sector Humour tab.

You can also find me via my website, LinkedIn and on Twitter: @ConsultantMGW

Failing all that, drop me a line:

Keep on keeping on!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Who Decides a Charity?

Just wanted to clarify something that confuses a lot of my charity start-up clients.

When people think 'charity,' their first thought is usually the Charity Commission, and there is a persistent belief that the Charity Commission decide who gets to be a charity in the United Kingdom.

This isn't actually true.

We operate a rather odd dual registration process between Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Charity Commission.

HMRC are the authority on who qualifies for tax exemption as a charitable organisation.

There are then three charity commission, one for England & Wales, one for Scotland, and one for Northern Ireland.

In England & Wales, you can't apply for a charity registration number until you have more than £5,000 annual income in the bank. This is mostly because there are just so many charities that it's impractical to keep track of them all. Whereas in Scotland, with a smaller population of people and charities, you are expected to register straight away.

However, you do not need a registration number to be classed as a 'small charity' in England & Wales. Provided you satisfy the criteria of a non-profit organisation under HMRC, you're a charity.

You still have tax exemption, you can still apply for GiftAid, and you carry the rights and responsibilities of any other charity under charity law - including the right to seek funding.

Many organisations worry that if they don't have a charity number from the Commission, they are not a legitimate charity.

This simply isn't true.

In fact, such is the strange nature of this duel registration, that even if the Charity Commission decline your application to register, some organisations still continue as charities under Companies House. 

A registration number may instill greater trust in the public and allow you to apply to a few more donors, but on the whole it makes little difference. It's more important to focus on building the capacity of your organisation, and undertaking charitable projects, than to focus solely on attaining a registration number.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Friday, 4 April 2014

Facebook Algorithms

Last September I took on a special interest Facebook group which had 14,000 likes. That was pretty good going by anyone's standards, but over the next three months, along with a team of volunteers I put together, we took that past 50,000. Today, we're a little over 62,000 likes.

The reason it took the same time to add 12,000 likes as 36,000 is because of changes to Facebook's algorithms.

An algorithm, in the context of Facebook, is a process which decides who gets to see which posts. When you post to your feed, not all of your friends or followers will see every post you make. In fact, very few will, because Facebook want you to pay to promote your posts and reach a wider audience. On our page of over 60,000 followers, we're lucky if even 1% view each post. 

When people see your posts, they're more likely to comment or share, so more of their friends are likely to see it and like your page. That's why you want the algorithms to work in your favour.

As you can see above, in November 2013 the page went viral and we started getting higher and higher views per post. Then, in December, Facebook seem to have fiddled with their algorithms and we were lucky if 200 people viewed a post, despite having the highest number of likes ever.

It was hugely frustrating - the most anti-social network ever.

However, certain types of post gain far more views than others.

Simply posting links gets you a very low view count, whereas posting plain text (without links) gets you more, as does posting/uploading new images.

Views also increase the more people interact with a post, so a top-scoring post would be something like a question. No links, just 'What did you do at the weekend?' because it's a text-only post and people are likely to start interacting with it.

This works two ways because the more a person interacts with posts from your page, and visits your page, the more of your posts start to show up in their news feed.

Have a go at posting different types of content to your page, and watch what it does to the view count. You'll soon learn which posts, and which times of day, gather the biggest crowds. 

If you'd like to know more about how this whole Facebook charade plays out, check this article: 8 Ways Your Nonprofit Can Combat Facebook’s Algorithm Changes

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Screen Capture and Screenshots

If you follow this blog regularly, you've probably seen some of the step-by-step guides I write for things like scheduling tweets with FutureTweets and setting up a domain name.

The reason these guides are so easy to follow is because they contain screenshots. These are captured images of the computer screen which illustrate which button to click on and which part of the screen to look at.

If you Google 'free screen capture tools,' you'll find plenty of them. My personal favourite is Greenshot

Once installed, it runs quietly in the background until you hit the Print Screen button on your keyboard. This is usually somewhere along the top-right of your keyboard, and often abbreviated to prt scrn or prt sc. Sometimes it's above another command and you may have to hold down the Function (fn) key or Shift at the same time.

When you do this with Greenshot installed, your cursor will turn into a target. Simply drag and drop this over the part of the screen you want to capture.

Once you let go of the mouse button you will get an option menu:

This allows you to save the screen capture to a specific place. 

Clicking the first option will bring up the browser window so that you can decide the file destination (i.e. Desktop) and type (i.e. JPG).

If you have lots of instructions to capture, you can then hit the second option Save Directly, which will save to the same location and file type as you did the first time.

You can then copy/paste or import the screenshots into a Word document or blog, or attach them to e-mails. Or, like me, upload the Word documents to Google Drive or Dropbox and make a public link available so that people can download the instructions.

It's a great tool for HowTo procedures in the office, especially for sharing skills among volunteers and staff. Add simple instructions to the Intranet or a folder for people to access whenever they need help. 

Monday, 31 March 2014

Cycle of Emotional Change

(click to enlarge)

This is a really useful graphic which helps to explain the peaks and slumps of project management. It's not only worth looking at from a project management point of view, but also if you're:

  • Volunteering for a charity
  • Working with volunteers
  • Starting a new job
  • Working with a consultant

The emotional cycle of change has quite a profound effect whether we like it or not. Awareness is empowerment!

The Cycle

Change is Needed: You've recognised a need for change in the office. Perhaps you need more volunteer support because there's too much to do, or you need to call in a professional for technical advice. Maybe you need to start a new project to achieve the things that aren't being achieved. You know something needs improving, so you go looking for the solution.

Uninformed Optimism: We all have it, though we rarely admit to it. It's called Optimism Bias (very good TED talk here). Once you've found that manager/administrator/volunteer/consultant, there's a tendency to expect the unrealistic. You identified the problem, now here stands the solution, everything is going to be peachy from hereon in. It has to be, because that's how we're wired to think.

Informed Pessimism: Oh dear.  Your  new manager/ administrator/volunteer/consultant is not the Messiah, they're merely mortal. This is the point at which you realise that the fix you've found for your problem isn't able to wave a magic wand and instantly make everything better. They may need support, perhaps some extra training, maybe they've made a mistake or two themselves. Because of our tendency towards optimism, the sense of doubt we feel when we hit the first hurdle tends to make everything seem a hundred times worse than it actually is. One minute everything was peachy, so now everything is black. We skip the middle ground, especially in stressful situations. Just as we're hardwired to hope for the best, we're also hardwired to make poorer, or more risky, decisions when we think we're losing. A natural instinct when we feel disappointed is to try to cut our perceived losses. This is the point at which most projects fail, and most volunteers leave

How you handle this period of doubt (or disappointment) sets the tone for the rest of the project.

Hopeful Realism: The best thing to do when you're feeling that sense of doubt is to put the overall end-goal to one side for a moment and assess the reality of the situation. What are people actually capable of, rather than what you wish them to be capable of? Often you'll find that your team, or colleagues, are capable of getting you where you want to go, but not always along the route you hoped to get there. Things may take a little longer, you may need some additional resources, you may even need to listen to (and accept) bad news before you can move beyond it towards a  sustainable fix. 

Informed Optimism: Once you've paused to take stock, and you've set people working on tasks they can realistically achieve, progress should start to become apparent. With each success, your confidence will grow, and setbacks will seem less world-ending than they did before, because you know you can handle them. This is the point at which informed optimism (knowing what people can do) overtakes uninformed optimism (presuming what people can do). 

Rewarding Completion: From this point on, projects stand a greater chance of successful completion, employees and volunteers stick around longer because the work environment is more positive, and teams work better together because everyone knows what their role is.

The adage 'hope for the best, expect the worst,' is not a bad one to recite, though mostly things fall somewhere in the middle.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Review Function

(Image courtesy of henry…)

At some point, you are likely to collaborate on projects and documents. Most people do this using Google Drive or DropBox, which allows you to make real-time changes to documents you're collaborating on.

If you want to go in-depth on changes, or you want to keep track of your edits, there's another tool you can use on MS Word. It's called the Review Function.

First off, open MS Word and choose the Review tab.

There are two main functions that you'll probably find most useful.


Directly beneath the Review tab you'll see this:

Simply highlight any part of the text, click that button and enter your comment.

(click to enlarge)

As you can see, you then have a Delete button to get rid of any comments, and you can jump forward and backwards through all of the comments in the document. You can also delete a comment by right clicking on it and choosing Delete Comment.

The note function creates a margin down the right-hand side of the document with all of the comments listed. It prevents you having to disturb the layout of the work whilst making suggestions. You can hide the comments within the lines, or choose to show all edits in the margin by playing with the Balloons function.

To comment on somebody else's comment, simply click on that comment and hit the New Comment button. It will then show the comments in order, along with the initial of the person making the comment.


Before you start making changes to a collaborative document, click the Track Changes button and select Track Changes.

This is a very clever tool. It will cross out anything you delete, and show your suggestions in red.

click to enlarge

As well as showing omissions as crossed-out, and additions in red, the tracking function also places a black line at the beginning of any row that has been altered. This is handy if you've only made a small change, such as adding a comma or a line break. These might otherwise be missed by the naked eye.

The person receiving the changes can choose to accept or reject those changes by highlighting them and clicking one of two buttons:

Unless you choose otherwise from the drop-down menu, the programme will automatically take you to the next change, speeding up the process.

After hitting Accept Changes

After hitting Reject Changes

Hitting Accept Changes will replace all of the crossed-out text with the new suggestions. Rejecting the changes will return the text to its original state.

A thoroughly useful piece of kit, and one that still has a place in document collaboration and editing.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

UNICEF Misjudge Social Media

I know you shouldn't laugh, but it is rather ironic that less than a year after UNICEF claimed liking Facebook wouldn't save lives (in fact, went so far as wasting money on an advert telling its faithful followers this), they suddenly find themselves having to pay Cancer Research thousands of pounds in mistakenly donated funds raised through... Facebook.

More than £8m has been raised after the craze of taking a self-portrait with no make-up spread virally. 
But those texting "DONATE" rather than "BEAT" found their money sent to the wrong charity... 
UN agency Unicef told the BBC that so far £18,625 has been identified as being accidentally pledged. 
It said it was now working with Cancer Research UK to transfer the funds donated so they can be used as intended.

It's a warning to charities to watch their text giving tags, but it's certainly a humbling lesson for UNICEF on the power of social media. If they had invested their time in inventive social media campaigns, rather than dissing social media, just think what they might have raised.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Budget 2014

NCVO's Andrew O’Brien takes a look at what this year's budget means for the Voluntary Sector: Budget 2014: No surprises for the sector as Chancellor plays it safe

Covering, in plain English:

  • Changes to digital Gift Aid
  • More support for small charities to claim tax reliefs
  • Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR)
  • AME Cap confirmed
  • Air ambulances, emergency services, scouts and guides

Happy budgeting, and don't forget your tax free income levels for the year.

Friday, 21 March 2014


This is interesting and worth keeping an eye on. Find out more on their website. It's linked to PayPal, so probably a bit limited in the countries you can currently use it in, but undoubtedly set to spread. Could really revolutionise international aid if you could cut out half the bank charges.

You can also check out FIRMA Exchange as an option on large transfers, and find the latest exchange rates on

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Political Campaigning Rules

If your organisation is involved in political lobbying or policy influence, you need to be aware that there are some rules in the run-up to elections. These rules are changing in September 2014. You can find them in this guide:

There are rules that govern people and organisations who campaign in the run up to elections but are not standing as a political party or candidate. We call these people “non-party campaigners”. The rules for non-party campaigners have been changed by the Transparency of Lobbying, Non Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014.  

The rules will change from 19 September 2014. This update looks at when a non-party campaigner must register with us and the rules that apply to registered non-party campaigners. We have already published updates on:  

We will publish further updates to explain the new rules and we will publish full guidance on the new rules by early July 2014

If you're not sure whether these rules apply to you, check regulated activities. There is more advice for non-party campaigners on the Electoral Commission website.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Computer Viruses and Free Antivirus Protection

One thing that amazed me when I first arrived in Africa was the amount of money available to kit out offices with computers, and the underwhelming amount of IT training and support.

The result? Offices full of computers that didn't work, even when the electricity was on. My colleagues were constantly using flash disks (USB drives) to transport files between computers, spreading viruses to offices and internet cafes. 

It was reminiscent of Damberger's experience with wells, where he turned up in the middle of rural areas to find half-a-dozen water pumps donated by different aid agencies, none of which worked because nobody had explained how to maintain them. 

Even in the UK I have worked in offices with a low level of understanding when it comes to basic protection. Often they throw money at expensive programmes like Norton, which only serve to slow everything down, or suffer the malfunction that comes from accidentally installing more than one antivirus.

Here's some quick tips that should help any office:


You don't have to pay for protection. There are several excellent free programmes out there. My personal favourite is Avast, but AVG is also good:

Of course they will try to up-sell you to a bigger package, but the basic free protection is fine. It wouldn't be much of an advert for their other products if it didn't work.

Best to avoid Norton as, although effective, it is notorious for being clunky and has a reputation for slowing things down.

Download a copy to every PC and laptop in your office and run the setup.

If you have iPhones and tablets, you can also download apps for those. Search for Avast in your app store.


I found that most offices I went to did have a free antivirus installed, but often it was out of date.

There are two main consideration when it comes to expiry dates:

Software Expiry

Most free antivirus software used to come with the condition that you had to re-install it once a year. You would get an e-mail notification or a pop-up on the programme reminding you to do this. If you failed to follow the instructions, your antivirus software would stop working or become ineffectual. Many offices I worked with didn't realise this and had not renewed their software, so it no longer worked. 

If you get a legitimate notice from the software provider asking you to update your software, always follow the instructions. A few moments out of your day will save you a lot more time and money replacing computers when they stop working.

Virus List Updates

Nowadays, most antivirus software updates itself automatically and you don't get the annual renewal notice. However, new viruses are being invented all the time. In order to prevent these viruses from infecting your computer, your antivirus software needs an up-to-date list of solutions. 

It gets this list automatically, but it needs to be connected to the internet to do so. The problem in many offices in developing areas is that regular internet access can be hard to obtain. If the computer doesn't have access to the internet, its ability to fight new viruses will start to weaken. 

The only way to protect a machine at this point is to take precautions to prevent it from being exposed to new viruses. If your computer has been without internet access for several days, do not allow people to plug in flash disks (USB drives) or any other data storage devices, such as external hard-drives or memory cards, until your internet connection has been restored and your computer has had time to update its virus protection list.

If somebody has been using their flash drive at an internet cafe and contracted a virus that was invented yesterday, then they introduce it to a computer with an antivirus list that was last updated a week ago, the computer won't know how to fight it.


Something that's worth knowing is that if you install two antivirus programmes on the same computer, it is likely to crash (stop working).

Many people quite logically think that the more protection you have, the better. 

In the case of computer antivirus software - pick on and stick to it.

This sounds easier than it actually is, because there are a lot of programmes that try to sneakily install other software on your machine.

One of the major offenders is Adobe. If you download Adobe Flash Player, it will automatically install McAfee antivirus software at the same time.

If you already have an antivirus programme (which you should have!) this can cause horrible problems, such as your machine running much slower than normal, problems opening files, connecting to the internet or downloading e-mails.

Top tips:

  1. Never willingly install more than one antivirus on a computer.
  2. When you install a new programme, you will almost always get the option to Customise Setup or Customise Installation, always select this option instead of Standard/Recommended Installation. Most people don't, because it sounds technical, but it will show you any other programmes installed along with the programme you want, and it will give you the option not to install them. If you choose the standard installation, you will usually get lots of other programmes you don't want. Take a moment to check what is being installed, and remove additional software such as  unwanted antiviruses.
  3. If you think you might have accidentally installed a second antivirus, go to your computer's Control Panel and Uninstall Software. This will bring up a list of all the programmes installed on your computer. If you see two antivirus programmes (usually the second will be McAfee, but there's a full list here) simply right-click on it and Uninstall.
  4. If you want to change your antivirus, download the installation/setup package for the new programme, remove the old one through Control Panel (restarting the computer afterwards to make sure the process is completed), then run the setup for the new one as soon as possible. You will need internet access to complete the setup. The longer you are connected to the internet without antivirus protection, the higher the risk, so work quickly.


Most e-mail programmes, such as Gmail, automatically scan file attachments for viruses before opening them, which adds an extra level of protection as most viruses spread through the internet.

However, it's always wise to check files, flash disks, memory cards and hard drives for viruses before opening them. When you have installed an antivirus like Avast, when you right-click over a file, folder or drive, you should see the Avast icon with the option to Scan

Especially in high-risk environments where viruses are regularly spread by USB from computer to computer, it's always worth scanning the entire device before opening it.

Again, a few extra moments of caution can save you a lot of stress and money later on.


Antivirus programmes come with the option to scan your entire computer. They will often perform this function automatically when you first install them, or you can choose to start the process once installed.

Avast comes with both a Quick Scan and a Full Scan option. A quick scan usually takes less than an hour, a full scan can take several hours. It's worth performing a quick scan every week or two, and a full scan once a month if you are working in a high-risk area, or if you suspect there might have been an infection.


Computers, like people, tend to slow down as they get older. Software and drivers go out of date, temporary files clog up memory, and things take longer to open.

If your computers are a bit old, or they're starting to perform badly and you've run a scan to determine that it's not caused by a virus, then it's time to run a tidy-up.

Avast offer an excellent tool called Grimefighters. You do have to pay for it, but it's cheaper than most of the other options on the market, and the interface is extremely user-friendly, providing good results.

In the UK you can find it here. Elsewhere, either look for it directly on Avast's website, or search 'avast grimefighters'.

Run the free scan, then purchase and run the full package.

It can take several hours to complete, so it's best to do this in the morning on a day when you don't need to use the computer, or last thing and leave it running overnight.

Once it's finished, your computer should run faster, be more secure, and have some extra storage space.

Safe Computing!