Government cutbacks and intense competition for public donations have increased anxiety amongst not-for-profit organisations who were already feeling the strain from dwindling budgets. In May, The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) warned that public funding for charities could be £1.7 billion (12%) lower by 2017/18.
More recently, a survey of more than 1,000 professionals conducted in the Guardian’s voluntary sector network (July 2013) revealed that nearly one charity in ten thinks it will cease to exist in five years primarily due to a lack of funding.
While these statistics paint a gloomy outlook, with robust systems and automated processes in place, charities can feel more optimistic about not only surviving, but increasing funds and tightening cost savings to drive future growth.
Integrated financial management, eProcurement and CRM solutions, tailored to suit charitable organisations’ needs, transform efficiency by helping to control costs and improve the planning, management and measurement of fundraising campaigns.
By enabling managers to proactively analyse overspending, budget shortfalls and other essential campaign data, organisations will find themselves in a much stronger position to manage resources effectively, provide vital feedback to financial supporters and crucially achieve more for the charity’s beneficiaries.
Benefits of integrated business technology include:
- Cost Control – through improved spend control and visibility of procurement
- Automation – eliminating inefficient paper-based processes in finance and expenses
- More effective and informed planning by greater budgeting and forecasting transparency
- Improved spend analysis and risk reduction – providing clear visibility of who is spending what and when, avoiding maverick spending and wasteful use of resources
- The ability to track and control costs in complex workplace scenarios e.g. preventing expenses escalating when volunteers work from home.
Now more than ever, charities need to streamline their back-office processes to make every penny count. Despite this, there is a feeling among some industry experts that organisations still lag behind when it comes to leveraging technology to increase business efficiency.
Grant Thornton’s advice column on The Guardian’s Finance Hub in July 2012 offered guidance on how non-for-profit organisations can succeed in economic adversity. Thornton suggested that charities are much less likely to receive bailouts and it is vital for the voluntary sector to ‘get a grip on their finances’. He advised that charities shouldn’t make the simple mistake of cutting services if they can make them more efficient.
There is a double-edged sword here as more charities battle for survival. Increasingly, supporters will question whether their donations are being used effectively, which in turn may make them more reluctant to contribute funds in the future. Now more than ever it is vital that organisations invest in effective ERP systems from a proven supplier that can be seamlessly implemented, are scalable and fully integrated to allow them to draw on crucial elements of business including accounting, e-commerce, and project and HR management.
These comprehensive systems also exist to support charities and not-for-profit organisations in monitoring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, allowing them to re-focus their energies on planning current and future activities based on their success, enabling them to operate more effectively.
If charities wish to succeed long-term, the reality is they can no longer rely on good will and passion as a support system alone. It’s imperative that adopt a business mindset and place user-friendly and tailored business solutions from proven suppliers at the heart of their organisation in order to compete in the current economic climate.
Andrew Hayward is Managing Director of m-hance, the UK’s fastest growing provider of innovative business solutions to organisations in the mid-market. Since being appointed as Managing Director of m-hance, Andrew Hayward has led the company through a period of unprecedented growth following the acquisitions of several leading businesses including elements of Maxima Holdings plc, Touchstone Group and Calyx Software. Andrew has been with m-hance (albeit under different brands) since 1999, firstly as a sales professional and then as a business head. Prior to becoming involved in the business applications arena, he worked in an accountancy practice and the motor, leisure and logistics industries.