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!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Writing Funding Applications

Excellent little checklist by Northampton Volunteering Centre: Writing Funding Applications – What trusts are looking for

It covers all the essentials:

  • Planning an Application
  • Writing a Convincing Application 
  • The Budget
  • The Checklist

Excellent place to start - and always make it SMART.

Check out my fundraising tab for more tips.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Sadness of the Welsh Valleys


I read this article with interest: The unbearable sadness of the Welsh valleys

Several years ago, I was employed on a project in Wales that received its funding because it was in the number one category of EU areas of social deprivation, meaning that those areas were some of the poorest in the whole of Europe. Not what you'd expect to find in the UK, a region generally noted for its financial wealth.

I spent three years in South Wales, and still return now and then to catch up with friends. Cardiff is where my career in the Voluntary Sector began, and where I undertook my MA before leaving for Africa.

I think it's particularly telling the following clips from the above video:

The town, like the mine, feels abandoned. 
Good people have tried to help. The Ebbw Vale Development Trust has promised to regenerate the valley... The development trust, it turns out, has gone belly-up too. The Trust's projects were scrapped at short notice.
Valley boys and girls need work. One acclaimed local scheme to help them find it is Job Match... Job Match has gone out of business.

In fact, the only scheme that seems to be making a real impact is run by local mums, who have banded together to make sure  their children get at least one square meal a day.

Isolation and poverty are rife, yet funding and support for locally-led initiatives appears non-existent. Instead, the money gets thrown at large non-profits and social enterprises, then scrapped when they can't magically solve everything fast enough. Each time this deals another blow in morale, adding to the belief that nothing will ever get better. It's a highly irresponsible funding strategy.

At one point, Bridgend was dubbed the 'suicide capital of Britian,' with evidence in The Telegraph pointing to social deprivation:

"If you look at post-industrial areas you will find the conditions for suicide: social deprivation, lack of aspiration and no properly funded youth services. Society's aspirations for teenagers have also changed. They are expected to be brilliant in school, but most kids are average."
Bridgend was once notorious for hard-living, hard-working men who had well-paid jobs in the pits and steelworks, he says. But it now lacks focus, particularly for teenagers. There are few youth clubs and sports facilities and no major department stores. 

As austerity measures see youth services and recreational facilities slipping away from most councils, is this a trend about to spread? 

Meanwhile, Central Government continues bailing out banks and selling off national assets.

It does rather make one despair.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Quick Fundraising Tips

Nice article on the Idealist forum by Kaitlin McGlynn, covering four top tips for finding funds:

  • Go for a Grant
  • Make Your Virtual Home
  • Get Social
  • Go Mobile

She provides inspiration for each of those categories, and links to useful resources. 

If you're struggling with fundraising, don't forget to check out the fundraising tab on my blog.

Friday, 7 March 2014


Yesterday I introduced you to a free audio editing package called Audacity.

Today, I'd like to help you sidestep the tricky issue of music fees for promotional videos. 

Whether you're producing a YouTube advert, a video introduction for your website or a clip you're hoping to send viral through your social media, the chances are you'll want some music to go with it.

Most music is heavily licensed. If you want to use a Beatles clip, you're going to need to pay a hefty price - either in licensing, or in court fees later down the line.

However, there is a veritable mine of free-to-use music under Creative Commons licence. One of the best places to find this is Jamendo. It hosts lots of high-quality recordings by artists in every conceivable genre.

The music is free to download and distribute, provided you do so with attribution (so stick the song title and artist name in the credits!), plus you can choose to make a donation to an artist if you use their work.

Next to every track you'll find a download arrow, simply click it, and then Free Download.

Thursday, 6 March 2014


As organisations turn more and more towards social media and ways of engaging supporters through visual and audio means, I thought I'd share one of my favourite free programmes.

Audacity is an audio editor, which you can download for free.

It's perfect for editing sound for videos, podcasts and online presentations.

A couple of my favourite tricks include:

Background Noise Removal

If you've been recording in the office, the quality of the recording might not be that great, and you might find you have hissing or low-level background noise. You can clean this up really easily.

Load the sound file into Audacity and find a point of silence where nobody is speaking. It's good to leave a few seconds at the beginning of a recording to capture this background baseline.

Simply drag and drop to select a sample of this background sound.

Then select Effects and Noise Removal.

Don't be intimidated by the slide-bar options, just hit Get Noise Profile.

This will analyse the levels of the sound bite you've selected.

Next, highlight the entire track (hotkey: ctrl+a for 'all'), and go back to Effects,  Noise Removal.

This time, click OK.

Audacity will then remove any interference below the level of the background noise you selected, improving the quality of your recording.

If you accidentally select a sample with speech in, the baseline will be set too high and it will knock out some of the sound you want to keep.

To undo changes using Windows, simply use the hotkey ctrl+Z (undo) or ctrl+Y (redo) as you would in Word, or go to Edit then Undo/Redo (first two options).


When people know they're being recorded, they can get a little nervous, resulting in a lot of ummms, aaahs and deep breaths. With Audacity it's easy to remove these and make things sound a little smoother.

Play the sound bite a few times until you've isolated exactly where the problem is. With practise, you'll get good at spotting these quickly.

Highlight the problem by dragging and dropping your mouse over it (holding down the mouse key, then releasing). Then either hit del to delete the bite, or hit the silence button to silence that selection.

It really is point-and-click simple, and great fun for volunteers to learn, although the buttons are not that self explanatory. That's not a problem though, simply look up Audacity tutorials on YouTube if you're having trouble working out how to achieve the effects you need.

If you'd just like someone to do it for you, I offer audio and video editing assistance.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Limited Liability Crib Sheet

Update: I now offer a limited liability walkthrough service.

Although I provide training and consultancy, by far the greatest percentage of my time is spent assisting UK charity start-ups.

When we get to the end of the package, I provide follow-up advice on 'what to do next,' in terms of paperwork, funding and resources. 

The first thing most organisations need is to limit their liability. To begin with, a voluntary organisation or 'small charity' is unincorporated, which means it's simply a group of individuals working together, all of whom are financially liable in the event of disaster (i.e. someone running off with the money, or legal action against the group).

Limiting an organisation's liability establishes the organisation as a legal entity in its own right, and limits the personal liability of its members to a set amount, usually between £1-10. 

You don't need to be limited to take advantage of charity tax breaks or pursue funding for projects, but you do if the organisation wishes to own assets in its own name (rather than in the name of its individual members), plus it's generally a sensible precaution to take.

There are two ways to gain limited liability status.

  1. Companies House: Company Limited by Guarantee (LTD)
  2. Charity Commission: Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO)

If you're a charity in Scotland, I advise you to go straight to the Scottish Charity Commission registration section and apply to become a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO - application PDF).

If you're in England, it's a bit of a toss-up. CIOs have existed longer in Scotland, whereas they've only been phased in between 2013/14 in England & Wales. 

Until the administration settles down, I'd still recommend the Companies House route. It costs £40, takes 10 days, and is a well worn path to financial protection. There's also a next-day £100 fast track if you're in a hurry. 

When the Charity Commission finds its stride, you should be able to switch your liability to them at no extra cost (according to Companies House) once the legal framework to do so is completed (according to the Charity Commission). It's for these administrative uncertainties that I strongly recommend Companies House for the time being.

The main benefit of being a CIO is that you can file both your charity returns and your financial returns with the same body, but for small organisations with no charity returns to file, it hardly makes a difference. Most large charities display both a charity number and a company number on their websites, so you're following a tried and trusted path.

The reason for this post is that the Companies House forms are a pain in the proverbials, and many of my clients find them rather confusing. If you're planning to limit your liability via Companies House, this should speed things up:

  1. Don't just register yourself as a business - this will negate your charitable status.
  2. You can't register a charitable business online, you need to post the forms.
  3. This is the section of the website you want. This is the exact form you want (IN01).

The fiddly bits :-

  • A1: The name of the company should be the same as the name of your charity, though there are some restrictions on names. You can't use the word 'charity' or 'charitable' in the name unless you get permission from the Charity Commission first.
  • A3: You want to tick this. Charities don't have to include LTD at the end of their name - sounds a bit corporate.
  • A4: Tick Private Limited by Guarantee. A charitable company must always be limited by guarantee. To be limited by shares suggests there is profit to be distributed, and you're a not-for-profit organisation.
  • A5: This needs to be the country that your head office is registered in (usually the one you provided to open your bank account). If you are a Scottish charity, or a Scottish branch of a UK charity, apply to become an SCIO rather than doing this.
  • A7: I would strongly recommend you go for option three: bespoke articles.

Cut to the science bit...

When you started as a small charity, you wrote your Constitution. Limiting your liability with Companies House replaces your Constitution with a Memorandum (list of trustee signatures agreeing to found a company) and Articles of Association (your rules - like your Constitution).

I would strongly discourage anyone from adopting a template Articles of Association wholesale. This is the founding legal document which outlines how your organisation will be run - take the time to make sure it allows you to do what you need to do. 

Having said this, you can save a bit of time.

The Charity Commission offers a leg-up. There's a Memorandum, which you can use as is.

I then suggest you copy and paste their Articles of Association into a fresh Word document. Format it so that it looks neat, and go through it, comparing each clause against your existing Constitution.

Articles of Association are usually a bit longer than Constitutions, but essentially they're saying the same thing: what is your charitable purpose, who are your members, how is the organisation run, who can vote and how. Your existing Constitution should already explain this, so it can help to make sure that your new governing document is in line with how things need to be. Spending the time writing your own governing document also allows you to tweak any regulations on trading or commissioning that you might want to expand on. Time spent making sure your governing document is fit for purpose will save you a lot of hassle in the future coming back to change it.

  • After you've seen to all of that, you then need to appoint your Secretary (Secretary) under B1 and list all other trustees as Director under D1. It is a requirement of the Charity Commission that all trustees be listed directors in the company.
  • Ignore Part 3 and anything to do with shareholders and shares - you don't have any. Under Part 4: Statement of Guarantee - everyone signs under Subscribers.
  • Under Amount Guaranteed, list £1 (or the amount each member is liable to pay if the company collapses).
  • Everyone signs H1.

Job done.

This walkthrough is no substitute for reading the form, but hopefully it helps to make things a little simpler. 

Don't forget to go through the checklist on the final page.

If you need a hand with your governing documents, you don't need to purchase the entire charity start-up package to ask for help. Drop me a line: