Charity Survey Shows 'Big Issues,' But No IT Spending Plans

Importance of organisational issues is understood, but charities are struggling to justify the IT spend needed to address them

April 27, 2005 -- IT Services company Touchstone Tate Bramald has released new survey findings indicating that despite widespread concerns expressed by charities about a wide range of organisational issues, more than 40% of charities admit to having no IT investment plans in place to address them. The survey was conducted for Touchstone Tate Bramald by market research firm Vanson Bourne Ltd, in partnership with Third Sector Magazine.

The research showed that a huge majority of managers in charities see 'better financial software and processes to improve financial control and aid compliance' (44%), 'better fundraising software and processes to help improve fundraising effectiveness' (43%) and 'better membership software and processes to help optimise relationships with supporters, stakeholders and beneficiaries'(42%) as the major success criteria. Yet when asked what business applications investments are being planned, 43% said "none", 27% said fundraising, 20% said accounting or budgeting, and 19% said supporter management.    

Even in the largest organisations between one-quarter and one-third had no investment plans aimed specifically at addressing the Big Issues. These included: reducing costs, improving financial control, relationship management, fundraising and compliance.

These findings were especially pronounced among the three-quarters of respondents who cited fundraising and relationship management as chief concerns with only 22% showing any plans to invest in these areas. This paradox is compounded by the fact that almost half the organisations surveyed have no fundraising software (47%) or membership software (45%) in place.

On the other hand, 64% of charities say they couldn't function without IT. One respondent stated, "Over the past two years IT has allowed us a small charity to punch well over our weight, and what was a small charity now has international scope and reach thanks to IT."

Andes Loukianos, Director at Touchstone Tate Bramald, said, "Based on the results of the survey, it's clear IT suppliers have to work closer with charities in order to demonstrate the true value of technology solutions. We believe that IT suppliers sell technology to customers on the assumption that they will derive some return or other, but without building a tightly-argued investment case based on practical benefit."

Loukianos adds, "Our experience suggests that successful IT projects involve suppliers working closely with charity mangers to draw up a comprehensive list of benefits that can be realised after implementing. Speaking to other charities that have successfully implemented technology projects is also key, as is the support of organisations such as ACEVO, NCVO and the CFDG who can offer advice and guidance in these areas."

The survey was carried out on behalf of Touchstone Tate Bramald by research specialists Vanson Bourne. They interviewed 300 senior charity decision makers in UK charities. Participants were invited using Third Sector's extensive circulation list within the UK charitable sector. Overall, the seniority of respondents was high - 25% of respondents were Chief Executives or Executive Directors, 41% were Senior Managers and 26% were Managers. Where there was a specific area of management responsibility this was typically in Finance, IT or Fundraising. Organisations spanned the full size range; in broad terms one-third had up to 25 employees, one-third had between 26 and 100, the remainder having more than 100 employees.

The research results have been used in a special report published in Third Sector Magazine in April. Third Sector is the leading weekly magazine for the charity and not-for-profit sector. It offers the latest news, views and analysis on the key issues facing the sector.

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