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As a charity, our fundraising landscape has changed shape owing to the situation with COVID-19. We are looking at a significant time period where our usual funding input will be down. With the reduction in funding from our partner organisations, who are also facing a reduction in their own revenue, fundraising for our organisation has moved to more of a “face to face” model. With individuals signing up to donate or those using the lottery.
The current situation has resulted in additional pressure being placed on the operational front, for example on the helipad itself, juggling rotas, and managing operational staff. A lot of employees are in home isolation which of course has its own challenges with work and life balance, and some are working at base hospitals, so there is a lot that needs to be effectively managed on several fronts. Some employees are working in very close-knit and intense atmospheres partly due to the work we do as an organisation. In these situations, we are seeing a lot of great examples of teamwork and physical camaraderie, which is vital as we all need to look out for each other in these challenging times.
Our Board has gone from a membership of five to fourteen. Nine new Board members arrived in March. As CEO, I have a direct reporting line to our Board.
Aside from the Board itself, we have a further Directorship layer with me as CEO, our Medical Director, and Chief Operating Officer. We also have our Audit and Risk subcommittee. Now that the Board itself has expanded, we predict an increase in the number of committees, for example, a Medical Fundraising Committee to name just one. With the running of our existing committees and further expansion, considerable pressure was placed upon Administration.
Convene has been a valuable resource for running our committees and also for inducting new trustees and other new joiners to our organisation which has removed this pressure. For example, our Administrator has used the Document Library for adding and storing the documents that are needed by our new trustees. Historically, these would have been sent out on email. Instead of trustees and others being bombarded by email, with Convene, they are now able to access the important documents they need, for example, historic Board papers. As we expand, further subcommittees will be created, so it was becoming a challenge to disseminate our Board packs. Five Board meetings would generate forty attachments, and this was becoming a time-costly process.
Most of our trustees work for other large organisations, therefore email security is crucial. With Convene they can download documents via the app. This ensures that the documents are accessible to the intended audience only. We also found the some of our larger documents were not getting through, and some could be held in quarantine, for example. This is no longer an issue as a result of the Convene system which provides instant document accessibility without security becoming compromised.
We had previous experience of working with another Board solution in a different organisation with several committees all of which produced high paperwork volumes. We knew that our committees at London Air Ambulance would expand so we looked again at the provider we had used. Their costs had tripled, so implementing that particular provider was no longer an option for us as a charitable organisation.
As a result of our expansion, we required a system that could automate and therefore streamline our business processes. With one Administrator who was responsible for compiling all meeting packs, there was less time available for other all-important admin functions to be performed. This workload of course was predicted to increase with the formation of new committees.
There was the one we had already worked with, but their steep cost increase failed to take London Air Ambulance’s status as a charitable organisation into account. No concessionary offer was made, and we were treated as though we were a for-profit company. The low cost and generous approach shown to us by Convene made it an easy decision. Convene was highly recommended to us by our colleagues in Essex and Herts Ambulance services who were very happy with Convene, so we felt confident it would meet our needs.
Even though Convene is a paperless system, Board members like the fact that there is still the option to print documents especially an A3 size spreadsheet which can be printed if preferred.
Convene has been running since January this year, so it is still relatively early days. However, we are excited to see the full potential of Convene as a system as we move forward. The fact that our Board members have increased in numbers has added further impetus to see what the range of Convene’s functions can do.
There will be an increase in Convene use due to our expansion, so it will be a case of organic growth
It is too early on for us to produce specific metrics, however, we have noticed that the Convene system has made a difference as far as time is concerned. We are now able to make greater use of valuable time because the system takes care of functions that historically took much longer to execute. As far as cost metrics are concerned, again it’s too early to have seen any specific figures. We are always conscious of the fact that we need to justify each and every single reason for the need to write a cheque with charity money. Because of the reduction in funding, all costs must be heavily scrutinised. It really does come down to can we survive a cost. Convene did not come under the same spotlight since we already knew that its low cost represented value for our investment.
Convene works well for us as far as remote working is concerned. Due to COVID-19, forced home working has resulted in people becoming keener to embrace new technology. This has been one benefit that has arisen as a result of this current crisis. Technology is being more readily adopted out of necessity.
Yes definitely. Also as we are so heavily moderated as an organisation by the Charities Commission, the Civil Aviation Authority, and others, good governance is essential. Convene has proved to be the solution of choice for supporting us in this area.
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