Tim Davie, Chair - Comic Relief

Convene Customer Success

Comic Relief

Comic Relief has been using Convene since 2016. We spoke to Gita Van Bilsen, Executive Assistant to the COO, about their journey to digital meetings and their advice to other charities.

Image: Tim Davie, Chair

Since its foundation in 1985, Comic Relief has been at the forefront of tackling inequality and eradicating poverty in the UK and across the world. Comic Relief’s annual fund-raising campaigns such as Red Nose Day have raised over £1bn to help create a fairer and just world.

We have a large executive committee of 45-50 people internationally who meet twice a year for a very densely packed meeting schedule that runs over the course of 5 days. Meetings of this size generate a large number of different documents that need to be circulated; beginning with Presidential Reports, and Secretary-General reports through to policy papers, operational plans, and many others all of which resulted in considerable pressure being placed upon our administration function.

An opportunity to go digital

The search for a digital meeting solution was pro-active on our part. It was less to do with things being wrong and more to do with the fact that we saw a positive opportunity in what other services could be provided within Convene. An alternative provider was proposed to us by a board member at the time, and we ended up meeting with them. The demo opened our eyes to the fact that this kind of software actually existed and that it could log actions, have all the paperwork in one place, do edits, and capture notes; essentially all of the things that Convene can offer. After that demo, we decided to go out to the market and see what else was available. Just through pure research, we came across Convene and a few others. We invited you all for a chat and demos, and we ended up going with Convene.

Trustees take to Convene quickly

The trustees, particularly the new trustees, have taken to Convene really easily, and have not had an issue at all because it’s quite intuitive. Longer serving trustees, who were used to paper packs, readily accepted that we were ‘going digital’ and have adopted the software with little concern. Convene has enabled us to force the electronic point. Previously, we would have had to print a number of meeting packs, collate them, and send them over through the post to the board members. We definitely don’t do that anymore.

We did have a request from a new trustee for a paper pack, but we explained that Convene would enable her to annotate on her documents digitally and that she could get updated documents immediately. She was reassured by that, and we were pleased because we didn’t want to take any steps backward from the progress we’d made. Our trustees and administration team particularly like that documents can be attached to agenda items. It makes navigation very easy during a meeting.

“The trustees, particularly the new trustees, have taken to Convene really easily, and have not had an issue at all because it’s quite intuitive. Even the old-school trustees, who really loved the paper packs, just accepted that it is the way to work from now on. And they seem pretty happy with it.”
Security was a concern before Convene

Before Convene, we were distributing some committee papers via Dropbox. We had gone digital in some respects, but it was tedious setting up passwords each time and was complicated to keep track of. We do feel more at ease having a board platform that was built for board-level security instead of just a cloud solution.

Pay attention to all internal stakeholders

Make time to embed the functionality and train people internally, not just administrators but also people like the chair of the board. Identify your key internal stakeholders and your board stakeholders. Bring them along for the journey or keep them updated when you are setting up the system.

Responsive support

We really appreciated the responsiveness of the Convene staff. If we’ve been stuck or if we’ve had a problem, people respond quickly and clearly. We have even had refresher training sessions, which was nice and needed at the time.

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