Monday, 30 January 2012

$38 Billion Lost Because Volunteers Leave

(Image courtesy of jk5854)

According to the New Volunteer Workforce, an article by David Eisner et al in the March 2009 Stanford Social Service Review, not for profit companies lose roughly $38 billion each year because hard won volunteers choose not to continue their work with the organisation:

Nonprofits rely heavily on volunteers, but most CEOs do a poor job of managing them. As a result, more than one-third of those who volunteer one year do not donate their time the next year—at any nonprofit. That adds up to an estimated $38 billion in lost labor. To remedy this situation, nonprofit leaders must develop a more strategic approach to managing this overlooked and undervalued talent pool.

If you think that your working environment isn't nurturing volunteer talent, or you'd like to look at ways of improving your volunteer management structure, get in contact for information about my UK and international Volunteer Management Training.

Friday, 27 January 2012

How to Ask for Legacies

(Image courtesy of johncooke)

A charitable legacy is when somebody leaves money to charity in their will. In 2009 it was estimates that around 6-7% of the total charity sector income in the UK came from legacies. However, charitable legacies have been in decline over the past few decades.

Recently, I wrote a KnowHow NonProfit HowTo entitled: How to Ask for Legacies

Check it out. It offers some tips and advice on how to increase this area of income for your organisation, whilst tactfully broaching a difficult subject that people don't often like to talk about.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Hans Rosling on Development Statistics

Today's post is courtesy of @andre_crow who twittered this recently. It's a fascinating look at the relationship of economy, health, family size and our preconceptions of the gap between 'rich' and 'poor' across the globe. Really worth watching.

Beyond anything, it highlights the need for a freely accessible statistical and analytical resource.

Monday, 23 January 2012

£5,000 Threshold

(Image courtesy of 401K)

Yesterday, a friend asked me about setting up a charity. She helps a community organisation in Africa and wanted to set up a charity in the UK in order to collect donations for them. She felt that having a UK registered charity number would improve confidence in donors.

This is a question I get quite often: 'How do you set up a charity?'

It is worth knowing that, before you can even think about registering your community group or organisation as a charity in England or Wales, you currently have to bring in over £5,000. As the Charity Commission website explains in its article: Can our charity register even though its income is less than £5,000?

No - you should only apply to register your charity once its income is over £5,000. You will need to provide evidence of its income in your registration application.

Just something to be aware of.

This isn't the case in Scotland, where you are expected to apply for registration as soon as possible. See the Scottish Charity Commission guidelines for more info.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Friday, 13 January 2012

Easy Monitoring & Evaluation: Qualitative Data

Numbers don't tell the whole story. Give your monitoring and evaluation a boost by getting input from the people who matter.

Nobody is a number! But, all too often, project reports and proposals focus on the statistical and quantitative aspect of monitoring and evaluation.

What is Qualitative Data?

Qualitative data is simply about collecting people's stories and feedback. It's anything that can't outrightly be counted.

Whereas knowing the statistical figures on something may tell you whether a situation has changed, it doesn't always tell you why it has changed. Qualitative data can do that.

For example, perhaps over the past couple of years there's been a steady increase in the number of people using an advocacy service. And perhaps the biggest increase has been in people asking for help with drug abuse.

The only way to find out why there has been an increase, is to ask people. Perhaps they'll explain that drugs are much more available now than they used to be. Maybe there's been a leap in unemployment and people have lost self-esteem and turned to drugs. Maybe there's not been an increase in drug taking, but an increase in the number of people seeking help.

Are People's Stories Legitimate Data?

Yes! A good, strong project report should generally include a balance of both quantitative (numerical) and qualitative (narrative) data to support each other. You can't get the whole picture from one method alone. Qualitative data can also be extremely useful in helping to prove the need for projects in a community, or the impact that a project has had on the lives of service users. This can be extremely persuasive when approaching donors.

How to Collect Qualitative Data

This sort of data is available every day. It comes from people dropping into the office to talk about their problems, it comes from support groups lobbying on issues, it comes from members who phone up for help. The key point is to capture this information so that it can be used in the future.

Ways of doing this include:

  • Feedback Forms: a simple box in the office for people's suggestions and complaints, or open-ended questionnaires that allow people to write down their thoughts.
  • Video & Audio Recordings: getting people to tell their stories or agree to an interview that is videoed or recorded can be a powerful way of getting the message across to the public and to donors.
  • Photographs: a picture can tell a thousand words. They're great to include in project proposals and reports because they breathe life into large chunks of text.
  • Diaries and Creative Writing: asking members to participate in a long-term community writing projects can be useful in monitoring how projects create visible change over a longer period.
  • Online: social networking sites and forums are just as legitimate for collecting qualitative data. If your members are discussing something on your website, it may be worth using.
  • Consultations: the most traditional way of gathering qualitative input is through member and community consultation days.

Even if it's not immediately useful now, it's still worth collecting for future proposals and reports.


Especially in regards to video and audio recordings, it's extremely important that people are aware that they are being recorded and that they have given their written consent.

With items such as questionnaires and feedback forms it can be assumed that participants understand that they are feeding information back to the organisation, but it's still worth asking whether people can be identified by the information used. If so, it's best to ask for permission. Names can also be changed to make the information anonymous.

See Also:

Easy Monitoring & Evaluation: Quantitative Data

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Easy Monitoring & Evaluation: Quantitative Data

Monitoring and evaluation is important for project management and maintaining donor relations. Here's how to make data collection easy in any organisation.

Quantitative, or statistical, monitoring is often synonymous with 'too complicated' for many organisations. The mention of numerical data can strike fear into the heart of any manager. But it's both extremely important, and rather easy.

Why is Quantitative Monitoring Important? 

Numbers aren't the full story, of course not. But they can be an accurate indicator of whether things are going to plan - and if not, where they need improvement.

Having the figures to hand can allow for a number of things:

  • Looking professional 
  • Proving your project is making a difference, and how much of one 
  • Showing where there's a need, and how big it is 
  • Backing up any claims being made 
  • Knowing when something isn't worth pursuing 
  • Displaying trends and information visually with pie charts and graphs (see also Information is Beautiful)

Sprucing up a presentation with hard numerical evidence can make the world of difference to its credibility.

Who is Responsible for Collecting Statistical Data?

First of all, in any project, there should be something against which to measure progress. These objectives should have been outlined at the very beginning, and will be what donors and stakeholders will be looking for in mid and end-of-term reports.

The important thing for making quantitative monitoring and evaluation easy, is to identify the people involved in achieving these targets. For instance:

Target: To improve access to advocacy for service users

Staff Involved: Joe Bloggs, Advocacy Manager and Jane Doe, Community Outreach Worker

How: Joe mans a drop-in centre once a week, Jane goes into the community to support people

Potentially, both Joe and Jane have the opportunity to find out:

  • How many people ask for advocacy assistance each week/month/year 
  • What demand is for, i.e.: help with health care, police, homelessness, benefits etc. 
  • Whether there's a gender, disability, income or other split in service users 
  • The geographical spread of service demand, i.e.: where are people asking for help 
  • How many cases are resolved, how many are ongoing and how many can't be fixed 

Any member of staff or volunteer has the potential to help collect information about the organisation and its projects.

Making Data Collection Easy 

Once the right people have been identified, and the type of information they are expected to collect has been decided, it's important to find ways of easing this collection process into their daily jobs. Lengthy forms and questionnaires take up a lot of time and cause a lot more work.

Remember: quantitative data is just about counting things.

So try a few simple methods:

Tally Chart: a simple stick chart can be used in consultation rooms or out in the community to keep tally of which services people are coming in to use, or how many clients are male/female.

Log Book: a tick-sheet by the telephone allows the administrator to log which services people have phoned about.

Busyness Graph: a sheet of graph paper on the wall where one block equals one client. Staff can fill in how many people they've seen each day so that patterns of demand show which days/months are the busiest and how many people have been seen in total. Spice it up by giving each department a different colour.

Sticker Chart: each time someone goes out to deliver a service, get them to stick a little sticker on the location they're going to. Over time this will map out the geography of demand for the organisation's services.

Data collection doesn't have to be hard work. It can even be fun.

Confidentiality in Data Collection 

It's important to remember that it's the numbers that need counting, not the individual people. That may sound like the same thing, but it isn't necessary to list individual names of clients or their addresses. Just which services they use and the town they are in. It's important that nobody can identify clients by the statistics presented. That would be a breach of data protection.

Bringing Data Together to Make a Point 

Organisations are constantly being asked to provide evidence of project success and need. Tally and sticker charts are the original proof of this monitoring process, but it helps to start a simple Excel database that everybody can feed into.

Once a month, schedule half a day to take the charts off the wall and input the data onto Excel. This way changes can be tracked over time and turned into pie charts and other useful visual presentations to include in reports.

By keeping the monitoring process simple, it will make the reporting and evaluation process much easier too. Even a little numerical information can go a long way.

If you need help making sense of the data you've collected, contact me through my website: 

See also:

Easy Monitoring & Evaluation: Qualitative Data

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Martin Price: Social Enterprise

Through the Operational Research Society it has been my pleasure to make the acquaintance of Dr. Martin Price.

In 2008 Martin founded Fflan Publications. Its slogan reads: Publishers to the Third Sector. In his own words, Fflan seeks to:
...publish basic books for the Third Sector – charities and social enterprises – written by grass-roots practitioners.

Here, I talk to Martin about his own book: Social Enterprise: What it is and Why it Matters.


First Find your Social Entrepreneur

As with any business, there has to be someone who cares enough to set it up and drive it forward. But Social Enterprises are special beasts. They need to be business savvy, but they also need to have empathy for the other intangibles I have been talking about.

I have a profoundly politically incorrect view that the most effective Social Enterprises and the best charities are created and led by people who are at least slightly unhinged. They are people who do not accept that it is impossible to employ people with learning disabilities at a normal wage doing normal jobs. They are people like Tim Smit who would not accept that it was not possible to turn some old clay-pits in Cornwall into the glass domes of the Eden project.

Is it possible to create a social entrepreneur? Are they born not made? The debate continues, just as it does in the world of “real” business. How many Richard Bransons can the world cope with?

In a nutshell, for those who don't know, what is Social Enterprise?

A Social Enterprise is a business which uses some of its profit for social benefit. The word business is important. Social enterprises trade. This differentiates them from charities, which ask people for money. The word profit is also important. There must be more money coming in than going out.

Profit can be used in different ways. For example, a Social Enterprise may make less profit because it employs people with disabilities or others disadvantaged in the job market. It may operate in a place that the Private Sector has abandoned, such as a community shop or pub, say. Then there are worker or consumer cooperatives which share their profits. Finally, you can get straight businesses which may be owned by a charity and give all of their profits to the charity’s work. An example of this would be Oxfam’s large clothes and book recycling business, or Cardiff YMCA’s funeral homes.

The first edition of Social Enterprise: What it is and Why it Matters was published in 2008. In 2009 you brought out the second edition. Was that because a lot had changed in that time?

Social Enterprise is a moving target. In the past couple of years it has become much more well-known. The current Government sees it as a big part of its Big Society initiative, although there is still a lot of uncertainty over what Big Society is.

At the same time, there has been a major push over the past few years to move some public services over to social enterprises. The previous Government started it, and it is continuing. For example, there are now a number of cooperatives delivering health and social care around the UK, and a large number of social enterprise leisure centres and swimming pools.

You mention the Elizabethan traditions of Voluntary Sector organisations. Do you think that it's time for an overhaul of the way 'charity' is viewed? If so, what role can Social Enterprise play in this?

The definition of what is charitable was first laid down legally in 1601 by Elizabeth I. The position was reviewed in the 1890s, but Lord Macnaghten thought that it was still ok. The first major change came in the 2006 Charities Act. This made a number of things explicitly charitable which had been considered under the catch-all heading of: “items for the common good”. These included the welfare of animals, promoting human rights, etc.

It also said that charities should have clear “public benefit”, but without defining it. The courts are already looking at what this is likely to mean for the future. A good example is the current controversy over fee-paying schools, most of which are registered charities. What is the public benefit of Eton and Harrow, both of which probably meet the definition of being Social Enterprises?

Some Social Enterprises are charities, or closely associated with charities, but many are not keen to be tarred with the old-fashioned paternalistic concept of Victorian philanthropy. I know a number of organizations run by people with disabilities who want nothing to do with charities who have patronised them for years.

'Capitalism' and 'charity' are often considered to be two words at the end of an economic spectrum. Do you think Social Enterprise bridges this gap? Does it make the best of both worlds?

It can be the best of both, or the worst of both. Good Social Enterprises are well-run businesses providing goods or services which people want and are prepared to buy. Most customers are not concerned by how the product is made or who makes it; they want a decent handbag at a reasonable price. If the manufacturer chooses to make less profit by employing recovering drug-users, that is their affair.

Trading on the social aspect can be problematical. Very few people will buy an inferior product just because it has been made by someone who has a visual impairment. Those businesses which still have a charity mindset – poor quality because they are doing good, or a reliance on donations rather than generating income – can do the sector a disservice.

Essentially, there are some very good, efficient, Social Enterprises and there are also some very poorly run ones. Just as there are well and poorly organised private businesses and public services.

Can you give an example of a long-running success story you have worked with? One that has proven the benefits of Social Enterprise over a lasting period of time?

I have been Chair of the Board of Pack-It in Cardiff Bay for more than ten years. It started as an occupation for people with learning disabilities - stuffing envelopes for the council in a hut on the remains of the old East Moors Steel Works. It now employs more than twenty people - many of whom have learning or physical disabilities - in postal mailing and internet fulfilment.

Last October it moved to a humongous warehouse which does the distribution for more than thirty internet businesses. When you order a product on the web, it may well be sent out to you from Pack-It. Their turnover is over £1 million per annum, and Pack-It has won a number of international awards for its working practices.

Do you have any plans for further books?

I have one on Business Planning for Social Enterprises and Charities mapped out, based on experience with a large number of lovely organizations. It won't take long to complete.

Can you tell us a bit about Fflan publishing?

I set up Fflan to publish basic books for the Third Sector – charities and social enterprises – written by grass-roots practitioners. A number of books have been commissioned and will be coming out in due course. For example, one on how important a charity’s annual report is in presenting its work to potential funders.

Earlier this year, we also published a family memoir: Our Story by Mary Price. Edited by her granddaughter, Eleri Price. 

Are Fflan open to submissions?

We are always happy to consider proposals for books which might be attractive to our market.


All books by Fflan are available in paperback from Amazon, and on Kindle.

See Also: