Plan UK, generating over £50 million a year through 114,000 individual and corporate sponsors, is one of the largest international charities in the UK. It empowers children, families and entire communities to move from a life of poverty. It is on the panel of the UK Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), which launches and coordinates responses to major disasters overseas.
“We followed the RFI procurement process set out by the Business Application Software Developers Association (BASDA) and clarified our functionality, support and governance requirements. We invited eight suppliers to tender. The process involved holding detailed software presentations and reference calls with charity customers. The shortlist was quickly narrowed down to IRIS Financials – the outstanding financial partner with the right support credentials,” explains Webb.
“IRIS Financials allows us to replicate the complexity of the UK operations, whilst catering to the different and changing requirements for international reporting – and it is so easy to output information into spreadsheets. The software is ahead of the competition, delivering powerful multidimensional analysis to interrogate information at any level; from single
projects to charity-wide expenditure.”
Changing systems is often a worrying time and it was no different for Plan UK. “The Board and trustees were concerned about the transition – and we had identified it on the risk register. As a complex organisation it took us about six months to change over and we always felt fully in control of the project. The design of the codes was crucial for us and we received a lot of support from IRIS Financials with set up, screen designs, processing and reporting.”
“The transition went well and was completed on schedule. We got what we wanted from the system and were pleasantly surprised with how well the implementation went. The software is ahead of the competition, delivering powerful multidimensional analysis to interrogate information at any level; from single projects to charity-wide expenditure.” says Mark.
Mark Webb, Head of Finance at Plan UK, talks about choosing and using IRIS Financials. “We expanded fast over four years and with just 12 people in the finance team, the previous Sage Line 50 system could not keep up. It was creating a lot of additional work to provide the departments with the information they required to manage their fundraising work.”
Mark went on to say, “The structure of Plan UK – with cost centres, projects and numerous currencies – as well as international consolidation and reporting requirements – meant that a flexible solution was required. We wanted to work with a software provider that had specific experience in the charity sector; one that truly understood the pressures and challenges we faced day-to-day.”
There were complex reporting requirements – looking at the dozen cost centres, hundreds of projects and numerous category and sub-category codes (for example, pension and travel costs) to track each item of expenditure. There was also the challenge of accounting in Dollars, Euros and Sterling.
Modern charities are enterprise-level businesses. Plan UK is no exception and operates with:
– Multiple companies, projects, income streams and currencies
– Various fixed assets
– Project & fund accounting, including restricted & unrestricted funds
– Reporting to partners, donors and charity standards (such as SOFA/SORP)
– Integration with other operational systems,including CRM and payroll
– Numerous internal and external stakeholders
– Complex VAT requirements
– Management of multiple budgets and forecasts
“We wanted to work with a software provider that had specific experience in the charity sector; one that truly understood the pressures and challenges we faced day-to-day” Commented Mark.
Plan UK has received many benefits from using IRIS Financials – both in operational and strategic terms. They found it straightforward to customise input screens to match their forms and automate the data input process. This has made it easy for users, both finance staff and budget holders, who access the system daily.
Faster and more accurate results
“It is easier to sort out any anomalies and we have an accurate picture far sooner than was possible before. The inbuilt pivot-table functionality means finance staff can automatically sort, count, total and interpret data. We can demonstrate due diligence with income and deliver best value to our stakeholders. It takes us less time to provide the information that is required.”
“By integrating to our new CRM system we will be able to analyse the effectiveness of our fundraising campaigns. For example, a key campaign is ‘Banking on Change’ (a partnership with Barclays and NGO Care International) where we can now manage UK expenditure and compare the costs and effectiveness of our train advertisements with the income generated through our CRM system. “Our campaigns team have immediate access to information that allows them to test the effectiveness of campaigns – whether online or street-giving – before selecting the most effective. They can even drill down to the actual scanned documents for each expenditure item. They have tailored reports and it gives them real control.”
Project and Fund Accounting
Project accounting is crucial to international charities, with a need to monitor expenditure by fund type. Plan UK is able to accurately track the financial progress of a project, with clearer formats and detailed information on restricted, unrestricted and endowment funds. Webb explains: “The projects ledger was a big step for us – it captures both income and expenditure and meets our fund accounting requirements.”
A complete picture for decisions with confidence
“As a high-profile, internationally-recognised charity, we are accountable and must be transparent and use money prudently and wisely. IRIS Financials enables us to measure our impact through key performance indicators (KPIs) and to maximise returns. We received a complete solution, one that presents us with a true financial picture so that we can make critical decisions with confidence.”
Mark is confident about Plan UK’s ability to cope with any future challenges. Plan UK recently integrated another charity – Interact Worldwide – a health charity acquired in 2009. Together with the trading company there are now three companies in the group. They plan to move to a new CRM system shortly and are certain that data integration will be seamless. Mark concludes: “I am confident that we have the capability and capacity to accommodate big projects and other developments such as further mergers. We now have the flexibility and tools to be able to deal with any future requirements.”