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Middlesborough Voluntary Development Agency

Dinah Lane
Chief Executive Officer

Middlesborough Voluntary and Community Action logo

Prior to purchasing VC Connect, MVDA held data in various different places across the organisation, as individual teams kept hold of their own data. I couldn’t really see the ‘bigger picture’ across the organisation, or the sector.

I was also aware that we were probably duplicating a lot of data on these various different systems, which isn’t a good use of anyone’s time and that there were lots of discrepancies on the data we did hold, which made it difficult to assess which was the most up to date record.

We also didn’t have a clear picture on who we were reaching or not reaching, we couldn’t easily evidence what difference we were making out there, or how organisations are progressing as a result of our interventions. We wanted to find a database that would hopefully enable us to do this.

We originally heard about VC Connect through NAVCA’s Chief Officers Information Network. At this time we were also considering other systems including, ThankQ and Volbase.

We decided to purchase VC Connect for the following reasons:

  • VC Connect looked the most user friendly of all the systems we reviewed
  • The fact that it is owned and supported by the sector, and also that it is the users (the voluntary sector) that dictate how the system is developed and changes. Customers are consulted on proposed changes, and can directly feed into the development process
  • We also liked the fact that it is supported by people who actually use the system on a daily basis, and it’s not just technical support you get, but good practical advice on how to get the most out of the system by people who actually use the system too
  • There was no need to spend time customising and developing it to meet our needs – it was pretty much available ‘off the shelf’
  • The monitoring reports and mailshots functionality were specifically tailored to meet the needs of voluntary organisations and how they work. For example, we often have contacts who are attached to many organisations e.g. volunteer at one organisation, are a paid staff member for another – so rather than duplicate contacts, VC Connect allows you to store the contact record just once so you can book them on an event or training course, add your case notes, add them to a mailshot, whatever you need.

The benefits VC Connect has brought to our organisation

We can now easily evidence our outputs and impact and also have a tool which makes evaluating our effectiveness much easier. We now have a consistent way of recording all our activities and outputs in one place, and can share information across projects – so it also facilitates more ‘joined up’ working. For example, I can search for an organisation and instantly see a summary of the work we’ve done with them, the staff they’ve worked with, the outputs and the time spent with that organisation – across teams.

We can also easily produce reports on the groups we’ve worked with and supported, and identify specific areas where we have given assistance i.e. funding, governance, legal and best practice. We also use VC Connect to match hard outputs to our business objectives. VC Connect maps activities and outputs to your over arching objectives, so you can track how you are doing in relation to these, by searching on each objective.

Now we’re able to provide a much better service to our service-users – when someone rings us with an enquiry, we can call up their record, and see a history of work we have done with them, which mailings they receive, which staff normally work with them. We have a wealth of intelligence which was just not accessible before VC Connect.

We know if we’re reaching our target audience, or if we need to make changes to reach out to the people we’re not. We’ve recently started a programme of outreach work to engage more neighbourhood groups.

It’s also really easy to use, which is a bonus. We can give all our staff access to the database (not just administrators), without the worry of data being accidentally deleted or changed, through user permissions. We now have 16 staff using it regularly as part of their everyday work and because VC Connect is web-based it’s really helpful for staff to continue to use when they’re working offsite.

Maintaining our VC Connect database

We have now been using VC Connect for almost a year and I can honestly say it has changed how we work as an organisation for the better. It has brought efficiency savings, (centralising our administrative systems), improved the sharing of information between different parts of the organisation, and allowed us to measure performance, supported reporting and enabled better communication with the local VCS.

It has been really helpful to have a member of staff with a good understanding of databases and reporting requirements to oversee the project and support the transition to VC Connect, during the implementation.

We are currently reviewing our first year of using VC Connect and plan to make a number of changes to our drop-down options, in response to staff suggestions and to extend use of the system to staff who use it less frequently.

Interested?

If you would like to chat with us about the benefits of VC Connect, Volunteer Connect or VC Connect for Wellbeing, our team are ready to help!