This case study was gathered as part of the BIG Assist programme.
West Norfolk Voluntary and Community Action (WNVCA) is a relatively small support and development organisation covering a very large rural area with a population of 147,000.
We deliver community and voluntary sector (CVS) services and run the volunteer centre.
We also deliver community capacity building projects. Historically we used Access to manage our database of organisations and recorded monitoring on Excel spread sheets.
The issues we faced
We knew that staffing and funding would be reducing and we needed to find smarter ways of working and the ability to do more for less. Our systems while comprehensive were time consuming.
The actions we took
We applied for funding from the Big Lottery’s Awards for All to update our website and purchase a customer management system (CMS). The title of the project was Marketing for Maximum Impact. The application was successful.
We looked at a number of systems and opted for VC Connect. Our regional infrastructure organisation built the website and worked with VC Connect.
We carried out a complete update and clear-out of our database. Only organisations that responded to our request for current information were transferred to the new system.
The system has been very useful to promote the searchable directory which we now have on our website.
The CMS makes monitoring time and work on projects much easier.
Staff are able to see what they are each working on which helps with more efficient use of time.
Communications. It is more straightforward to arrange targeted mailings and emails.
Do not underestimate the amount of time setting up the CMS will take. While establishing the system only took a few months, the internal work around its introduction took much longer, and we would suggest allowing a year.
Appoint a project lead to work with the external companies and make sure staff deliver on what is required. After a decent period of time be ruthless about removing organisations from your database. Many who dropped off at the time have gradually come back. Be clear about what you want to monitor and why.
Make sure all staff use it. Have regular discussions about how you categorise data, it won’t always be obvious. Keep talking at team meetings about how the CMS can be used, otherwise there is the risk that it will be massively underutilised.
We haven’t run a full year of monitoring yet but the CMS has already been used to provide evidence to funders on the range of groups we work with. Pulling data off the system is fairly easy. The online directory has been very well received. Again, particularly by funders, but also by the voluntary organisations and individuals we work with.