Time to share
We need to be more open in sharing information between staff teams and volunteers. This is my challenge to us all to work in a more joined-up way.
Whether we are staff or volunteers, based in the local communities or based in Northampton; to ensure local people get great support from the Association, we need to coordinate our volunteer activities and share information between us. We are all part of the same great Association, and we are most effective in helping people affected by MND, when we can act together, as one organisation.
But achieving such seamless exchanging of information and joined-up working, in a complex and geographically dispersed organisation such as ours, can be somewhat of a challenge. Each of us, in our day-to-day volunteering or work will gather information that, if we are to be joined up in our efforts for those we support, needs sharing and recording in a secure and appropriate way, and with all the right permissions.
The design of databases that enable us all to have access to securely stored, relevant information, which aids us in helping others, is amazingly complex. We have been working for over a year to replace our old Raiser’s Edge system (essentially a fundraising platform) and the infamous Information Exchange with a fit-for-the-future system. But we have done more than just replicate these systems, we have tried to create a more flexible and user-friendly database.
Many of you will have had a chance to learn how to use our new ‘Volunteer Portal’ which is the volunteer interface for our new system. This is much more than a new Information Exchange. This is a tool for AVs to manage their support of individuals and a tool for branch and group officers to manage their local support and communication with people in the local area. But it also has added features, it allows us to share details of grants and equipment loans given to people in your area but are administered in Northampton.
Volunteers often tell me that they would find it useful to know what is being spent centrally on the people that they support locally. This allows you to make more informed decisions with up-to-date information when you receive requests for local help.
Wouldn’t it be great to see a richer picture of the support available, including all grants spend, whether they’re administered in Northampton or locally by branches and groups? I asked the finance team how we can merge this data. I was a little surprised to discover that such information is not routinely available for the care grants team in Northampton, about how local Quality of Life Grants are spent and who the recipients are.
This seems to me, to be rather essential information that we must be recording and analysing. Having all this information on spend from the centre and the local teams in one place, on one system, will truly facilitate the sharing and coordinated joined-up action between us all. Sharing this information will help us all to understand which quality of life requests are most popular. It will help us all to monitor the amounts given each year to individuals, and it will lower the risk of fraudulent or duplicate claims for our money, ensuring we focus our help on those that need it most.
So, I am asking Branch Treasurers to ensure that this detail is included on the regular returns to the finance team. I understand that there are fields on the return to allow you to add the recipient’s ID number and some description about the grant. This detail would be tremendously helpful. I will then work with the system designers to find a mechanism to ensure branch officers have access to the combined information through the Volunteer Portal. Hopefully, you will in due course be able to input the data straight into the portal.
I never like asking volunteers to do more admin tasks, but I hope you will agree, that if we give grants locally, we must ensure that the finance teams and those administering grants centrally also have access to this data?
Director of Engagement