Not-for-profit bodies offer a different kind of ICT support

Youthline, CCS and the Louise Perkins Foundation are finalists in the Not-for-Profit Organisation category

The work of not-for-profit organisations is arguably harder than for most businesses. While many of the same operational requirements and ensuing pressures apply to NPOs, resources to deal with them tend to be thinner on the ground. Many rely on volunteer efforts and have fixed budgets determined by funding and not revenue streams.

This is where ICT can make a tremendous difference, as the candidates in the Not-for-Profit Organisation category of the Computerworld Excellence Awards are showing us.

Through the use of a software system called Benecura, the New Zealand CCS, which works with disabled people, is able to integrate its 16 independent incorporated member societies around the country.

The CCS worked together with software developer Augen to build Benecura over two and a half years, and has now brought together the databases of sixteen branches at 22 sites and over 500 staff into a single national one.

CCS IT project manager Madalin Ciubotaru says the key benefit of Benecura is that it frees up staff time to provide the actual services for some 6,000 clients, rather than losing precious hours with administrative tasks.

Benecura tracks all aspects of CCS’s activities, according to Ciubotaru, helping the organisation plan and record the services provided, and to be more efficient overall, as well as being fully accountable to clients and funders alike.

Deva St John-Parisian, funding projects coordinator of Youthline, says the charitable trust needed to be able to roster over nine-hundred phone counsellors around the country, every day of the week. Youthline’s volunteers are stationed in 10 call centres across New Zealand, and take some 70,000 calls each year from young people.

The system created together with online software developer Tim Jacobsen is known as Youthline Online Roster Application, or YORA. St John-Parisian says YORA ensures there are always volunteers to answer calls to Youthline, as it makes the rostering process easier and faster for people, and lets coordinators know which shifts are being covered and if there are gaps in staffing.

Instead of having to go into each Youthline centre to manually sign up for shifts, volunteers can now make use of a web-based application with calendaring to enter information, which saves hours of time for people. YORA also provides flexible scheduling of volunteers, and uses Voice over IP. Before YORA was implemented, shifts were often imbalanced with either too many or too few volunteers coming in.

Metastatic breast cancer patients face a daunting range of physical, financial and practical issues, and having support for these can make a huge difference to the quality of their lives, says Jennifer Clark of the Louise Perkins Foundation.

The Foundation’s answer to providing the support is the Sweet Louise System, developed with Gen-i, Sandfield, Management Tool Box, and KPMG, with funding from Lion. Sweet Louise is a voucher-based system, which includes services to complement traditional medicine such as reiki, positive mind techniques, dietary advice, counselling and specialised exercise programmes. It can also help with practical matters such as home and child care assistance, and transport.

Using Microsoft technologies, the developers behind Sweet Louise built a comprehensive web-based system that manages all aspects of the foundation’s services. Perkins says Sweet Louise is very intuitive, requiring only a small amount of training for support coordinators. What’s more, Sweet Louise saves the foundation over $100,000 a year on costs associated with premises, services, equipment and staff.

Perkins believes Sweet Louise could be put to use for other organisations in the charitable sector, and is keen to share the experience and knowledge gleaned during the development process.

Overall, Sweet Louise has been a resounding success with those it matters to — the women the foundation seeks to support.

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