Charity staff left ‘siloed’ by complicated digital systems

A report into productivity has found that many charities are operating with a patchwork of software systems leaving staff unable to swiftly access data.

Joe Lepper | 21st Nov 19
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Charity workers are finding themselves cut off within their organisation due to a reliance on a complicated network of digital systems, according to a report into productivity in the sector.

The report, called Exploring Productivity in the Not for profit sector, found that more than a third of charities (38 per cent) use between five to 10 different software systems. In addition, two thirds of these are not integrated.

While two thirds of charity leaders said they need quick access to information and data from other departments in the organisation, around half are unable to access it themselves and have to request it from other teams.

This is leaving charity staff “often siloed and using a number of separate systems”.

Productivity challenges

The efficiency survey also found that 87 per cent of charity leaders find productivity challenging.

Commenting on the findings Dan Fluskey, Head of Policy and External Affairs at the Institute of Fundraising said: “Charities are always looking at how they can do more for their beneficiaries and causes, and it is clear from this research that there are real opportunities to maximise that impact by looking at the work of an organisation through the lens of productivity.

“The need to embed a culture of improvement and skills, alongside technological solutions, to improve productivity within charities is a welcome focus and one which provides much food for thought for fundraising directors and senior leaders across the sector.”

Meredith Niles, Executive Director of Fundraising and Engagement at Marie Curie, added: “Because we are investing donors’ money to make a positive social impact, charities have a moral imperative to take productivity seriously.

“As a sector we are achieving great work, but often we end up cutting corners on core systems and processes in the well-intentioned desire to put as much resource as possible into the front line.

“This report is important because it highlights the false economy of this thinking and I encourage my peers to read it and share it with their executive teams and boards.”

The report urges charities to ensure they are able to measure productivity levels on an ongoing basis, covering areas such as fundraising to back office administration.

Digital training

They should also assess how well the software systems they have in place link up. Charities should also ensure they are providing digital training to staff, says the report, which has been published by business software firm Access.

“Every charity is under increasing pressure, as well as scrutiny to demonstrate efficiency and transparency while achieving more within a restricted funding environment, which means productivity is as much an issue in the not-for-profit sector as it is for any commercial organisation,” said Simon Baines, Managing Director of The Access Group’s not-for-profit software and service division.:

“It is hugely encouraging then that there is clear appetite for greater productivity and that the benefits of improving it are well recognised. There is a call to action in the findings of this report, particularly in terms of reviewing and assessing where effective changes can be made across an organisation and the positive impact this can have on its culture, its people and ultimately frontline services and beneficiaries.”