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The cloud paves the future of charity communications

15 August 2013

Demand for help with homelessness is 27 per cent higher than three years ago. At the same time, nearly half of homeless services have had their funding cut – making it more difficult for charities to support the people they are trying to help.

Homeless Link developed a custom cloud app to support people and organisations working directly with homeless people, demonstrating how charities can transform the way they work and deliver services.

Supporting greater collaboration

Many of the charities that make up our membership used their own applications or spreadsheets to record information about the tens of thousands of homeless people they help every year. They found it difficult to track homeless people moving in and out of services, and case workers didn’t have the most up-to-date information when speaking to people. Ultimately, it was hard to track progress and measure the outcome of their work.

We developed In-Form, a customised CRM (customer relationship management) solution, on the Salesforce Platform, which allows organisations to run cloud apps without the hassle of maintaining the hardware and software infrastructure. It is the only CRM solution built specifically for the charitable housing sector, and includes a wide range of customised tools and reports to help our partners track and report on their work.

Improving lives

When we created In-Form it was very clear a one-size-fits-all solution was not an option if it was going to be used by the very different charities we work with. Building a bespoke cloud-based application has transformed the way our partners work. It has streamlined processes, given access to real-time information, enabled more sophisticated support plans to be developed and reduced administration.

As In-Form is cloud-based, case workers can log-in from any web-enabled device to access and update records. This means they spend more time with clients and more importantly, clients do not need to retell their often difficult story every time they use a service.

Sophisticated reporting also provides useful visual graphics to show clients, so they can see how things are improving. Lastly, the workflow not only speeds up internal processes but also helps case workers manage difficult cases – for example, if risk reaches a certain level, the manager will receive an email to say the client is vulnerable. All of these benefits are vital in collaborating to serve the growing, and often diverse needs of homeless people across the country.

Making a difference

The rich data captured by In-Form is also vital in helping member organisations prove the value of their work. Since these charities are reliant on funding, this is essential in communicating with supporters. Real-time data can be extracted – as well as graphical representations – very quickly and efficiently, giving a clear picture of activity to help communicate the outcomes and value of their work.

“Analysing anonymous data from In-Form enables us to make a powerful case about why homelessness services are needed.

Not only do we have robust facts about the significant problems that homeless people often experience before getting help. We also are able to better communicate the human, social and economic benefits of supporting homeless people to get back on their feet.” Benedict Knox, Head of Communications for Homeless Link

Would it work for us?

Any charity that tracks information in different places will more than likely find that going through emails, files and presentations can be time consuming – and finding the right information is not even guaranteed. Cloud-based CRM solutions provide charities with a centralised place where they can track everything they need on a daily basis; from contacts and companies to fundraising and program records. With everything running in the cloud, the only thing required by any charity is a mobile device or a web browser to access it.

The benefits of using a CRM solution are significant: charities can get a complete picture of their donors, volunteers, clients and other constituents, all in one place; they can manage the donation cycle from pledge to payment including individual donations and grants, and can recruit, track and manage volunteers. Ultimately, the cloud enables charities to spend less time on administration and more time providing personalised care.

If your organisation is working with homeless people in the UK, you can request a free demonstration of In-Form to experience the benefits of the cloud first hand.

Jane Finucane

head of in-form, Homeless Link

Jane leads the team implementing new In-Form systems, developing the application and providing technical support and training for the 40+ organisations currently using it. Jane leads on marketing and product development and runs the In-Form user group. Her background is project management, marketing and managing information services in the voluntary sector.