One of the greatest fundraising days of the year - The London Marathon Charities, make sure you are making the most of this opportunity

by Simon Fowler 14. April 2014 10:30

Yesterday, 13th April, was an inspirational day for the thousands of people who took park in running the London Marathon. It also involved thousands of other people supporting the event, who either helped organise it, simply spectate, or those who made donations to the runners each raising money for their chosen charity.

The London Marathon has become one of the most significant fundraising events in the UK. It’s predicted that more than 1,300 charities across Britain will benefit from additional funds as a result of the sheer hard work, training and dedication of each runner. Just last week, Nick Bitel, chief executive of the Virgin Money London Marathon, said: "All indications are that the fundraising figures for the 2014 Virgin Money London Marathon will hit another record-breaking amount, and will be up on last year’s figure of £53m.” (read more here)

What especially interests me is whether those charities will be maximising the opportunity that each new donation – instigated by the London marathon - might offer, by making sure they engage with those new donors into the future.

Just imagine the scenario – you commit to support your friends very generously in their marathon run and during their training, get involved in the tale around their chosen charity. You are perhaps already quite familiar with the reasons behind why they picked that cause. Assuming you’ve had the opportunity to (and are happy to) share your data with the charity, a few days or weeks after the London Marathon you get an email from the charity. This is thanking you for your donation and even more, tells you what your donation will be spent on – how it will make a difference to a particular individual, community or organisation. It might prompt you to donate again, get more involved and perhaps become a regular donor – who knows, you might even decide to run the London Marathon yourself next year and choose that charity to benefit from any money you raise.

Personalised communication is a win-win for everyone – the donor feels great and the charity benefits from regular and/or increased donations. But fundamentally, this engagement will only happen if you – as the person responsible for fundraising in the charity you work - send that tailored and targeted email to the individual. To do that, you have to be able to capture, segment and act upon that data which is usually held within a robust CRM system.

Just last month, we carried out some independent research which showed that a lack of data management was one of the biggest threats to the future fundraising potential of charities. Our State of the Nation Data Report showed that nearly all NFP organisations – including charities - are struggling to effectively collect and analyse valuable data which, as a result, threatens to erode hard-won loyalty from those people willing to donate to charities. It also revealed that 75% of NFPs surveyed don’t have the time, skills or funds to resolve these issues- threatening their long-term success.

Almost all (96%) of respondents revealed that they could make better use of the data they already have, with most saying they don’t have accurate information on their organisational effectiveness, marketing effectiveness, service users or projects, their members and or supporters, employees and even finances.

If our research is of interest, you will find a recent release on the topline findings here

The final and full report is available for download here

I hope you’ll be in touch if you’re one of those charities concerned that perhaps you might not be capitalising on the wealth of data that you hold, or in fact worried that you’re not even capturing the information you could from potential donors. Technology can play a significant role in helping you overcome these challenges to realise the potential of every donation.

Simon Fowler, Managing Director

Advanced Business Solutions

For all news and stories see our website or follow us on Twitter: @Advanced_NFP and @SimonFowlerADV

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Charity Software | Events

How important is data to not-for-profit organisations?

by jbuckley 25. March 2014 14:50

And should it be higher up the agenda?

Only last week I woke up to BBC 5 Live’s breakfast programme to hear about new research, from nfpSynergy, revealing which fundraising methods were most popular – and the most irritating - with the public. The headline focused on how more than half of people find it ‘very annoying’ to be asked for money on their doorstep or the telephone.  More modern methods of fundraising are apparently also unpopular, with 33% irritated by text messages and 20% unhappy with receiving emails.

You can read the full findings by clicking here. Despite the high levels of annoyance, the report revealed that people did understand that some methods are effective ways to raise money. These included newspaper/magazine adverts (42%), radio (40%), collection tins (35%) and mailing appeals (31%).

Having recently shared my predictions about the most compelling technology trends for not-for-profit organisations in 2014 (you can read more here), the report brought to mind some of these points, especially looking at the importance of personalisation and big data. Surely organisations that are engaged with their donors effectively can inform and target them in a more tailored way, providing they have been able to analyse the data they hold on their donors in (effective) CRM systems. They should be able to act upon this information to drive personalised conversations and ensure they are using the methods and channels of communication based on information about customers’ preferences and habits.

Later this week, we will be announcing new independent research that Advanced Business Solutions commissioned which reveal insights about the role of data for not-for-profit organisations and whether the power of data is being harnessed effectively by charities and memberships. The research backs up my views that the focus on delivering a richer, more personalised experience needs to remain high on the agenda. The reality is that NFP organisations must ensure their IT systems give them access to a connected view of their customers’ data. The ability to act on this to deliver a tailored and targeted experience for the customer can only enhance and drive closer engagement, encouraging more donations and more effective fund-raising.

As charities and memberships embrace the role of data, I’m looking forward to seeing new research reveal how charities have transformed fund-raising methods based on insights from customer data resulting in increased donations from existing and new donors. Wouldn’t that be an incredible endorsement for the role in which data can play in driving relevant engagement with the public?

Simon Fowler, Managing Director
Advanced Business Solutions


CHASE kicks off with news from us

by jbuckley 11. February 2014 06:24

Today, the 22nd Charities and Associations Event (CHASE 2014) opens for two days at the Business Design Centre in Islington. Advanced is a headline sponsor and we’ll be hosting two seminars taking place during the event. The one I’m really excited about will examine the hybrid best-of-breed and generic CRM approach for NFP organisations and the role Microsoft Dynamics™ plays in that; we believe charity and membership organisations such as professional associations and fundraising bodies can have it all, benefitting from the rich functionality they need to run membership management and fundraising programmes but without a hefty bill for a bespoke project.

We want to open the debate on this hybrid approach to CRM; you can read more about it here. The time is definitely right for us at Advanced, following our acquisition of the NFP business from CSH Group last year. We are seeing demand from new, and existing customers which is fuelling growth - in fact, we’ve had more than 40 new organisations go live with our CRM fundraising and membership solutions since the acquisition in March 2013. There are some incredible brands amongst our new clients, including the CIPD, Royal Geographical Society, Victim Support, Care for the Family and the FSB, to name but a few. Please click through here to read about this latest news.

Overall, feedback from customers is positive about our commitment and investment in the sector, which culminated at NFP World in October last year with a rallying speech from our CEO, Vin Murria. It was here that we first announced our intention to introduce a Microsoft Dynamics™ CRM interface to our solution and confirmed the future intention around our existing solutions.

The CHASE event marks our continued and ongoing focus in this sector and we hope to see packed rooms at our seminars. Of course, feel free to come over to meet the team at our stand – we look forward to meeting you.

Simon Fowler, Managing Director
Advanced Business Solutions

For all news and stories see our website or follow us on Twitter: @Advanced_NFP or follow me directly: @SimonFowlerADV


Call to action for not-for-profit organisations - do European payments effect you?

by jbuckley 27. January 2014 17:13

On the 1st February 2014, the Single European Payments Area (SEPA) regulation comes into effect. The whole concept of SEPA revolves around the principles of integration and harmonisation. The regulation establishes the rules and technical requirements for credit transfers and direct debits in euros. It’s true that this only effects a small percentage of not-for-profit organisations in the UK – it only covers payments in euros - the UK’s sterling direct debit scheme is not effected. However, for those British based organisations that handle direct debit payments for members or donors, for example in Ireland or elsewhere in Europe, they will have to ensure their systems adhere to the new regulations.

We’ve had some customers request help to ensure they are ready for the changes. The development work required for software vendors to provide for this is not minor. Within the Advanced not-for-profit CRM and membership systems, we have ensured conformity to the SEPA XML standards and have made the necessary database changes to ensure data validity with regards to international bank account numbers. All of our customers can rest assured they are covered when payments in euros effect their customer base.

Technology is a driving force in ensuring organisations can operate in an integrated manner, be it how they engage with customers through to how they manage payments. The premise behind this harmonisation of payments in euros represents a desire to remove barriers to doing business together, something which I wholeheartedly support.  For charity and membership organisations it means our systems can handle the growing number of donors or members who live in one country but have their bank account in another Eurozone country. In the short-term it may represent a degree of pain as organisations need to embrace a change in working practices and financial procedures to meet the new requirements. However, looking ahead, encouraging integration across Europe can only be a good thing for everyone involved. So be sure to check that you’re ready for the new SEPA regulations if they affect your not-for-profit and that your CRM technology has kept up with the new legislation changes.

Further information can be found here:

As ever do get in touch if you have any comments or queries.

Simon Fowler, Managing Director
Advanced Business Solutions

For all news and stories see our website or follow us on Twitter: @Advanced_NFP and @SimonFowlerADV




Advanced NFP news | Charity Software

2014 technology predictions for the not-for-profit sector

by Simon Fowler 2. January 2014 08:00

As we enter into 2014, I thought it was a great opportunity to reflect on the previous year and consider what my top technology predictions are for the not-for-profit (NFP) sector in the year ahead.  During the past year I have met with lots of our customers in the not-for-profit sector and have considered their views, those of our partners and information I’ve gathered at industry events. As you can imagine, there’s a degree of personal opinion here too, so I’m keen to get your feedback.

1. Mobile as the norm

It’s been a key trend on the top prediction lists for several years but this is the year where mobile access will become the norm. As more and more people choose mobile devices to access the internet for everything from information searches through to purchasing, the need for websites to be fully optimised for mobiles is now a pre-requisite rather than a nice to have. 

Watch those companies and brands that fail to embrace this development as they lose market share – there will be no room for a second chance as customers expectations rise in their requirement to have an excellent online experience, regardless of the device being used.

2. Personalisation

This has become one of the most hotly reported issues recently, specifically looking at how brands will embrace personalisation to ensure they grab a piece of the ecommerce opportunity. One of the best pieces I’ve seen recently regarding this is by The Drum, but it’s been reiterated in many places. This article may be retail focused but I believe the focus on delivering a richer, more personalised experience online – whether purchasing membership renewals or donating to a charity – will remain high on the agenda.

Engagement online will be increased based on information about customer preferences and habits. Charities and membership organisations need to ensure their IT systems provide access to member or supporter data giving them the ability to act on this and deliver a tailored and targeted personal experience for the customer.

3. A connected view

Building on the personalisation trend, to deliver this unique customer experience, organisations need a truly connected view of their customer. More than ever before, there will be no room for silos of information held in a fragmented nature across the organisation. Integration of data is a must.

This also includes integration with your website; if you don’t know what your customers are doing when they browse your website, and if you can’t integrate this into your core CRM system, it won’t be possible to have a completely informed view of your customers’ habits and preferences and so be able to deliver that unique customer journey.

4. Content marketing 

Another core trend, customers are becoming increasingly switched on to the way they are being targeted.  It’s now very much about engagement rather than hard selling with the use of visual content such as video and infographics becoming increasingly popular.

Some might argue that this has always been the case for effective communications and marketing; but just as personalisation is one of the new buzz words to watch out for, content marketing is the hot topic for ensuring your marketing is relevant, engaging, optimised across all the channels available to you and therefore stands a chance to be heard from the crowd. I’d argue that using technology to ensure you know what is relevant – from that effective connected customer view – is at the heart of effective story-telling.

5. Bite-sized information

The way in which people consume information is changing, and organisations that fail to adapt will find themselves losing out, whether it’s retaining members, or donations. At our annual event in October, NFP World, leading consultant Joe Saxton talked about the best way to engage people is to appeal to their ever-decreasing attention span. He explored the concept of ‘smart boredom’ - the continuous partial attention of consumers and how this is contributing to ‘micro-volunteering’ in the not-for-profit space - everything is done in bite-sized chunks. Smart organisations will adapt their marketing to map onto these trends – using video, infographics and snap shots of summary info where people can drill down into the detail, if they choose

6. Social media

Ignore it at your peril. Where people choose to go to for information and how they choose to engage with businesses and friends has changed dramatically. Whether it’s LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or a favourite blog, organisations need to be close enough to their customers to understand where they are engaging, influencing and turning for information. The need to be relevant is essential; the challenge for membership organisations and charities is how to communicate to their ‘connected’ customers in the new social world, ensuring an opportunity to connect is not missed.

7. The rise of online self-service 

I never cease to be amazed by the cost savings and service improvements membership organisations and charities see when they push out control to their customers – whether members or donors.  

This DIY approach to engaging with organisations is more than acceptable, in fact preferable. Individuals register and manage their renewals or donations themselves, meaning contact data is accurate and up-to-date. They enjoy a level of control and immediacy, engaging more closely with organisations because they can decide the information they reveal and receive and experience a more personalised service as a result.

For charities and membership organisations themselves, there are significant cost savings in this approach, reducing administration and re-allocating staff to more effective tasks. We will also see this trend in the way not-for-profit organisations administer their back office.  Most recently we saw the launch of online gift aid processing.  This trend is going to spread as everyone wakes up to the win-win benefits.

8. Cloud, cloud, cloud 

The rise in cloud based systems will continue to increase.  Charity and membership organisations will choose to opt for fully managed, hosted systems and realise the cost efficiencies in infrastructure and resources required to administer core business applications enabling them to dedicate more resources to their membership and charitable objectives.

9. Big data, analytics and the basics 

Big data has been a big trend during 2013 and I see this continuing. In fact, I see this progressing to include the application of analytics to this data, to enable a better understanding of customers and business processes. However, it’s important to get the basics right. Every organisation involved in the online gift aid launch this year went through a data cleansing process that was required to ensure each transaction went through successfully.  It’s important to ensure that ‘big data’ is rooted in accuracy, where the room for error is eradicated wherever possible.

10. Return on investment 

My final prediction has been driven by feedback from customers, who are more and more looking at the KPIs they monitor internally to gage the success of technology projects. So my prediction here is that businesses are taking the area of ROI measurement much more seriously as a result of the changing business environment, encapsulating many of the above issues. Social media will be used, but under the measurement spotlight is personalisation which will be increasingly embraced.  Equally, the metrics around how new targeted membership and fundraising campaigns are measured will become embedded into practices, ensuring the technology is used more effectively to deliver ROI. Customers are increasingly telling me that if you can’t measure the impact of activity, you have to question its value – it’s certainly something we adhere to within Advanced.


As ever, I’m keen to get your views on the above, especially and if you have some more hotly contested predictions we should be incorporating within our top 10. I look forward to hearing from you – whether by email, online, a tweet or on LinkedIn – the current channels that we’re most actively engaged in.


Simon Fowler, Managing Director
Advanced Business Solutions

Time to go mobile…why mobile is important for NFP organisations to optimise fundraising.

by jbuckley 12. December 2013 08:37

We know from ongoing customer feedback in the NFP sector that fundraising has never been more challenging.  Organisations are being called on to do more for less in order to achieve their targets.  It’s clear that charities and fundraising organisations are constantly searching for new ways to engage more closely with existing and new stakeholders.

Having an effective mobile strategy is certainly one solution.  With the huge rise in use of mobile devices, organisations are recognising the new channels opening up, enabling more effective engagement strategies. We know fundraising success lies in building long term relationships with donors and turning occasional donors into regular givers.  We’re finding that organisations are now seeking guidance on how to integrate a mobile strategy into their overall technology structure.

Simon Morrison, Director of Marketing and Communications at the Institute of Fundraising (IoF), spoke at one of our events earlier this year. He spoke about how digital and mobile technologies were “changing the way charities work”  by offering new and exciting opportunities to fundraisers offering a more personal, integrated, experimental and collaborative engagement.

He remarked how mobile and text-giving, and the use of social media, was enabling charities to reach and engage with new donors, particularly 18-24 year olds – an audience traditionally viewed by fundraisers as difficult to reach. According to the IoF figures, text-giving had increased 12% in the past year, against a background of an 11% decrease in overall fundraising income since 2008.

We believe this trend to be some of the most important fundraising strategies for organisations in the future – specifically how to integrate mobile effectively into organisations’ outreach campaigns.

I’ve listed some of the areas that people need to consider before moving ahead with a mobile strategy:-


Ensure mobile transactions are enjoyable and provide benefit to donors – that way charitable organisations   can start to reach this group of more digital savvy donors easily anytime, anyplace, anywhere.

  Ensure mobile apps have the relevant security where required; essentially, think through all security aspects.
Consider the needs of your mobile application:- what is the quickest and simplest way to engage your donors and how automated can you make it?  Also think about how you can integrate it into popular social media tools.
There needs to be a compelling reason to use a mobile app to justify your investment in development. Ensure your mobile app exploits all the best aspects of a mobile device.
Ensure you add the new information gathered on each donor into the core donor CRM database, to optimise future donations both mobile and offline.
Finally, although mobile represents new ways to engage with your audiences, bear in mind it is not a replacement. The opportunity is to integrate mobile with your overall communication strategies to ensure your organisation is interacting with donors through as many channels as possible.


If there are other considerations that you’ve worked through, please get in touch as we’re always interested in hearing about new ideas and trends.

Simon Fowler, Managing Director
Advanced Business Solutions
For all news and stories see our website or follow us on Twitter: @SimonFowlerADV


Advanced NFP news | Charity Software | Events | Membership Software

A resounding commitment to our NFP customers

by jbuckley 24. October 2013 13:06

Yesterday’s NFP World was a milestone for Advanced NFP. We had our highest number of attendees since this now established annual event began. It was also our first event since the recent acquisition by Advanced Computer Software Group plc. We were able to showcase the group’s broad portfolio of solutions that our NFP customers could benefit from.

This was one of the overriding themes in the lively keynote from our CEO, Vin Murria. She sent a resounding message to our existing and new customers about the company’s commitment to the NFP sector. She outlined the new opportunity for NFP companies working with Advanced given the group’s technology capabilities, skills and experience. Vin covered how customers’ ability to benefit from immediate access to the group’s product development capabilities delivers efficiencies  from the integration of services from payroll, HR through to back office, managed services and hosting.

With Vin’s additional focus on her very own charity, the NFP sector is close to her heart and her assurance to support customers in the challenges they face was at the forefront of her keynote.  This acknowledged previous issues around supporting solutions in the long-term, from which loyal customers want to base their plans for the future. Fundamentally, Vin pledged her commitment to the continual support of all our existing CRM solutions, to allay any industry uncertainties.

It wasn’t all about us at Advanced either. Joe Saxton from nfpSynergy gave an insightful presentation about industry trends, exploring ‘smart boredom’, the continuous partial attention of consumers and how this is contributing to ‘micro- volunteering’ in the NFP space and how everything is done in bite-sized chunks. He also explored the ubiquitous nature of social networking and mobile computing came across, peppered with a killer stat claiming 40% connectivity amongst over 75s by 2017.

One of the key take-aways that I took from this was the need to integrate ‘giving and living’ to make sure membership organisations and charities are at the heart of people’s lives and their efforts are relevant. A good example Saxton gave was the Race for Life and the London Marathon, making this part of everyday life whilst incorporating charitable activities. Saxton concluded that the challenge is how to communicate to the connected customers in the new social world and how many membership organisations and charities would fall behind if they didn’t become relevant.

For me, this is all about helping NFP organisations communicate in a targeted and tailored manner to their respected audiences. This is where the role of technology and its ability to segment and profile customers from the data held within CRM systems becomes critical.

It was a topic debated heatedly throughout the day, in breakout sessions and during the informal networking sessions. We’ll certainly be returning to this topic over the forthcoming months.

The day was rounded off by the announcement of our new Halo customer awards, which recognised excellence and best practice of our solutions within our customer organisations. Here’s the link to the official press release announcing the categories and winners in 2013 We caught up with our winners after the event to get their thoughts and after some film editing and approvals, due to take place over the next few days; we’ll be sharing these clips with you next week. 

As always, please get in touch if you have any comments on the above.  I look forward to hearing from you.

Simon Fowler, Managing Director
Advanced Business Solutions
For all news and stories see our website or follow us on Twitter: @Advanced_NFP and @NFP_World and @SimonFowlerADV


Advanced NFP news | Charity Software | Events | Membership Software

Online Gift Aid Submission – ONE WEEK TO GO!

by jbuckley 24. September 2013 12:57

There is now only one full week to go before all Gift Aid claims must be made online directly to HMRC.

As of 30 September 2013 Gift Aid claims must be made online, and if you’re processing claims in excess of 1,000 records they must be made via an XML upload directly to the Government Gateway.  Are you ready?

The new online method will deliver significant benefits to not for profit organisations in terms of cash-flow with monies from Gift Aid being received within 3-5 working days compared to the current 3-4 weeks.   It does however involve a considerable data cleansing job for organisations. It is now necessary for every claim to be validated at the time of submission, including the requirement of a forename, surname and a valid postcode.  There is no room for inaccurate data; one error will result in the whole claim being rejected and needing to be re-submitted.

HRMC recognise that the bar has been raised high and they’ve now relented in that until the end of April 2014, organisations can submit claims without valid postcodes, providing there is a valid address. However, we still believe it’s a missed opportunity that the government didn’t relax the rules on early submissions, by providing warnings on errors rather than errors resulting in failed claims. For example, there could have been a warning only on missing forenames which most probably arise from inaccurate data capture rather than invalid declarations. This would have avoided the time-consuming administration involved in the resubmissions of such claims.

Although the government has introduced a simple method for uploading any claims of up to 1,000 records, anything over this requires an XML upload direct to the Government Gateway. This applies to a large percentage of not-for-profit organisations using Advanced NFP Solutions, and is a complicated IT task. In light of this, we felt we couldn’t leave customers that fall into this category to do it themselves and have introduced a SAAS application portal to help manage this process.

It’s been a very welcome addition to help our customers prepare for the change. Last week we successfully submitted an end-to-end claim of 220,000 records for one of our customers using the portal in just over an hour passing all HMRC validation tests.

We are encouraging organisations not to hold back from submitting large test claims; you need to be sure all your records will pass ahead of the deadline next week.  So the message for our customers is loud and clear: if you have not yet submitted a test claim, then please do so. If you have submitted a test claim, you should now proceed to submitting a live claim, and look forward to that new fast turnaround time.

On a final note, let’s not lose sight of why the HMRC are making these changes. With the move to the new online Gift Aid claims, organisations are going to benefit from faster access to the critical cash-flow raised from it. Whereas the average processing time between claiming and receipt of gift aid was previously 3-4 weeks, the new methods will reduce this to between 3-5 days. We all agree that this is very impressive and welcome, especially given the number of transactions that the HMRC will be processing.

Simon Fowler
Managing Director
Advanced Business Solutions
For all news and stories see our website or follow us on Twitter: @Advanced_NFP and @NFP_World


Advanced NFP news | Charity Software | Events | Membership Software

Advanced NFP sets the world in motion

by jbuckley 19. September 2013 15:33

Since officially becoming Managing Director of the Advanced NFP business, I’ve enjoyed meeting with some of our customers and partners. They’ve been critical to our success over recent years and it’s been a pleasure to get positive feedback from them on the latest plans for our products and services.  I’m looking forward to sharing these developments and more with our broader community at our annual event NFP World 2013. This event will bring together the latest technology and insight for the charity and membership organisations sector.  It is taking place on Wednesday 23 October at the Royal College of Surgeons in London, and will focus on Mobile, Cloud and the Integrated Workplace.

There will be a strong focus on showing organisations how they can embrace the latest developments in the area of cloud and mobile computing through our vision to enable our customers to engage more closely with existing and new stakeholders, both internally and externally.

Organisations continually strive to achieve a connected view of their audience – whether members, donors or supporters. The event will provide insight into how the sector can develop more effective engagement strategies through a variety of technologies, from intuitive interfaces on a range of devices,  hosting and other managed services through to integration across all the key applications and platforms.

NFP World 2013 will be Advanced NFP’s first event since its recent acquisition by Advanced Computer Software Group plc.  As such, it will be the first time the enlarged Group has come together to showcase products within the group’s wider portfolio of solutions which  address the needs of the NFP-specific market. Vin Murria, CEO of Advanced , will be at the event and is looking forward to meeting  Advanced NFP customers and prospective customers alike. 

We certainly hope you can attend this free one-day event. For further information and to book your place visit and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter for the latest news on what’s happening at the event @NFP_World. 

Simon Fowler, Managing Director
Advanced Business Solutions

For all news and stories see our website or follow us on Twitter: @Advanced_NFP and @NFP_World





Advanced NFP news | Charity Software | Events | Membership Software

Advanced Computer Software Group PLC (ACS) to provide extensive experience in the NFP Sector

by John Buckley 10. June 2013 11:29

On Friday 8th March 2013, Advanced Computer Software Group PLC (ACS) announced the purchase of Computer Software Holdings Ltd (CSH) – which includes Advanced NFP - from HG Capital.

As part of this process we are changing our branding to become Advanced NFP from IRIS NFP.

For more information please read the news article on the main website.


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