Fredericks Foundation Online Community Roadmap

In September 2016 the suggestion was first put forward, by a volunteer, that it would benefit the Fredericks Foundation to find a way for all clients, volunteers, mentors, trustees, partners and sponsors to be able to communicate with each other and with the Foundation. The idea of an online Fredericks Foundation community was born.

The objective is to create a community that enables all stakeholders to simply and easily communicate, via forums and bulletin boards, with each other and share information about themselves, their products or services, their ideas and challenges, their solutions, successes and user stories. There is a huge amount of knowledge available within our network of volunteers and mentors, that if made available to our clients could greatly enhance their chance of success.

We would like to:

  • Create an online community so that all stakeholders, clients, volunteers, mentors, partners and sponsors can share information and knowledge for the benefit of all. Creating greater success for our clients

  • Create an online market for our clients to market their products and services to other community members, past and present, to help them grow their businesses and secure their futures.

  • Enable our sponsors and partners to better understand the work that we do in this under supported sector

  • Improve communications between the Foundation and our network of clients and volunteers, to maintain engagement.

  • Keep in touch with past clients to help them with future funding needs. 

  • Increase the information available to volunteers and mentors, as well as Panel members, about the performance of the charity, and also for the panel members to be informed of the progress of the clients that they made the decision to lend to. This is important for the retention of good volunteers and panel members.

As always there were several obstacles to overcome before the community could become a reality. These were:

  • The lack of available funding to create, support and run such a community.

  • The lack of available internal resources to research, chose, configure and rollout the final solution.

The funding obstacle still has not been solved and we are still looking for sponsorship from our donors, partners and supporters to help us provide this addition support for our clients.

The resource issue has been solved in two ways, the community will be mainly run by volunteers and therefore not require significant input from the internal team, and an incredible group of volunteer consultants were approached to carry out the time-consuming research and planning phases.

It was not until approximately 10 months later that we solved the lack of resources issue. We came across an amazing organisation called ‘Beyond Me’, www.beyondme.org . After a rigorous selection process, they provide teams of independent, experienced volunteers, who would, over a 12-month period, act as a valuable additional resource for the selected charities. We completed our application in June 2017, were invited to present our proposal on 13th October and we were lucky enough to be chosen by a great team who then took charge of the project. Our team kick off meeting happened in the second week of October.

Since then a small team from Fredericks has worked closely with our team of 7 ‘Beyond me’ consultants.

The stages of the project that have so far been finalised include:

  • The canvassing of Fredericks staff, clients, mentors and volunteers to compile a list of required functionalities

  • The market research to match requirements to available off the shelf community software systems

  • The choice of a short list of 3 systems out of a total of 25 researched

  • The viewing of all 3 systems on the short list and the choice of the final system

  • Configuration and testing of the chosen system

Stages yet to be completed at the time of writing:

  • The finalisation of a communications plan to all stakeholders

  • The final roll out to the online community

The goal is to have the community fully functioning and growing by the autumn of this year.

The Fredericks Community is a great step forward for all involved, if you would like to help sponsor the community, be one of the first to join the community or help to run the community, by being a forum moderator, please do contact peter@fredericksfoundation.org or on 01276 472722.

What role should Government have with charities?

By Paul Barry-Walsh, Founder of Fredericks Foundation

Back at the start of the Millennium I’d had no dealings with government nor did I really have a view of their capabilities.  If asked, I would have said that government should have a role to play in the charity sector  though if pressed I am not sure I could have articulated what.

However, I have now been involved in four government contracts whilst chairing  a charity I founded. EVERY one in its own way has been a disaster for the charity, though in different ways.

There are some common characteristics:-

1 Excessive monitoring  and information requirements

2 Late payment to the charity

3 Difficult to deal with changing individuals, excessive reliance on procedures, lack of common sense.

4 Very slow response to enquiries with an expectation of instant responses from the charity.

You might deduce that I have concluded that government should clearly exit the charity sector completely. However my view is more nuanced than that.

Government can be good for a charity giving stability, credibility and direction. Furthermore charities can deliver at a fraction of the cost in a more flexible way than government agencies.

How can government and charities work together more effectively?

1 We all agree that there should be bi partisan support for infrastructure projects so money does not get chopped and re-diverted with each new administration, well this is even more true of charity because each minister will have his (or her) views. Charities need continuity.

2 .Most big businesses run on a few Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) for a very good reason  because we as humans can only concentrate on a few items, look no further than a car it has the speedometer, fuel gauge and maybe a tachometer. Government have 147 KPI’s for local authorities! I suggest that no matter what the programme, government should ask only for  3 simple KPI’s. ( In one government scheme they wanted to know the sexual orientation of those receiving loans - why?)

3.Those running government schemes should be given authority to make decisions.

4. Government can devise financial infrastructure to help charities. One of the best schemes government have done for this charity sector is a scheme called CITR ( Community Investment Tax Relief). Of course it is overly complex but the scheme itself is as great for individual investors as it is for charities giving 5% pa off the tax bill for those that lend to charities. The other great government initiative is of course gift aid which probably does more good for charities than all their other single projects helping small as well as big organisations.

Government does have a role for charities

setting infrastructure and working at the top level. The further they get involved in the nitty gritty the worse they are at delivering effectively. That is not to say they should delegate to big charities, for big charities that rely on government money  to become like an arm of government and their mission becomes perverted as government drives their agenda. To prevent that our charity resolved never to have more  than 50% of our income from government, perhaps all charities should adopt that idea. So government could do a lot but currently they are doing a great deal of harm to this vibrant sector.

 

Good Credit Control & Why it is so Important

By Paul Maddison

Owner of Bookkeeping Intelligence & Finance Manager at Fredericks Foundation.

Paul Maddison (2).jpg


Here are 12 top tips to help you manage the money owed to you and rightly have the cash in your bank account and not that of your customers. After all, you are not a lender and cash in your accounts gives you better options.


1) Measure your debtor days - not just the number of days it takes to collect your debts on average, but also the value of lost cash to your bank account that someone else is using, usually for free.


2) Send statements to your customers at least monthly and the first statement should be before the actual invoice falls due.


3) Don't be afraid to write / call and ask for the monies due to you.

womans_hand_passing_stack_of_coins_to_another_hand.jpg


4) Produce accurate information and paperwork, as an easy delay tactic is to state a missing invoice or credit note.


5) Have good terms and conditions that give you control, especially to retain ownership of product.


6) Have an audit trail of delivery. Delivery notes signed for products or something like a time-sheet for service businesses.

terms-and-conditions-generator-free-online.jpg


7) Have an application form for credit and start new customers or start-ups with 'cash on delivery' or short managed terms until the relationship is established and known.


8) If considering legal action, then ensure you can evidence that the customer understood the offer / product, understood the pricing & terms, and has received delivery.


9) Undertake vetting of your new credit customers.

checklist.jpg


10) Use credit limits and be aware of customers taking extended terms to fund their lack of working capital.


11) Share experiences with other credit controllers.

 

12) Stay in control when collecting your money. Record conversations, refer to them and know the excuses.

Celebrating Our Volunteers

It’s National Volunteers Week and we would like to say a huge thank you to each and every one of our wonderful Volunteers for their hard work and commitment.

NC839-Volunteers-Week-Logo_square_colour_2018_notag-300x203.png

 

Since the Fredericks Foundation started in 2001 volunteers have played a very important part in our success. Their professionalism, dedication and energy has helped not only the foundation but more importantly many of our deserving and inexperienced clients to start their own businesses and change their lives and the lives of their families forever.

To celebrate National Volunteers Week we asked one of our Volunteer Mentors, David, what Volunteering means to him…

What Do You Do and How Do You Help?

As a mentor for the Fredericks Foundation my role is to try and provide traditional mentoring support although, in many instances the businesses that we deal with are, by their very nature, very small with simple business lines. The fact that our mentees are with Fredericks Foundation will often mean they have a poor credit history and as with many small businesses no track record to help secure start-up funding. They will often lack real business experience and so we provide guidance and advice to help nurture the business during their often difficult set-up period which can be a very worrying, tiring and often an emotional time. The guidance is given in a mentoring style, sometimes moving into coaching but always in a very supportive manner.

In many instances the support is quite simple – directing people to a possibly better, cheaper supplier of materials, commenting on advertising material – and essentially, and probably most importantly, being there as a sounding board to encourage the mentee to develop their own ideas to take their business forward without simply relying on others. Sometimes you are there to help them over a period when things may not be going too well; often there are ‘rocky’ periods at the outset of any business. On other occasions you may have to push them to put more effort in, basically to let them know that they are just not doing enough to develop their company.  We also need to be available at the end of the phone to deal with emergencies, real or imagined it doesn’t matter, situations. Here we are a calming influence helping them re-assess the issue and deal with it appropriately. All the time we are looking to protect the Frederick’s investment so that loans are repaid and available for recycling. If we contribute well to the running of the mentee’s business, then clearly loan repayment shouldn’t be a problem!

Why Do You Volunteer?

The easy, predictable answer is to ‘put something back’ which is true. However, some of us who act as mentors for Fredericks are no longer involved in running businesses on the day-to- day basis as we once were. Continued involvement in business – which we all love - and the hope that you are helping someone during the difficult period of setting up and trying to run their own (small) business gives huge satisfaction back to the mentor.

How Do You Benefit From Volunteering?

There is real pleasure for the mentor in seeing a start-up business begin to develop and in sharing the often small successes which means so much to the mentee. Having a breathless message left on your mobile that “Business has gone ballistic – I’ll call you later” gives you a huge ‘kick’ particularly if this is a result of what you may think is a very small, basic suggestion that you have made. Indeed, at the time of writing this I’m really looking forward to hearing of what the following phrase in an e-mail from one of my mentees could really mean – “not to say too much at the moment but I could have some very good news by then (our next meeting date).”

Why Might Others Benefit from Volunteering?

Really this is a combination of the factors mentioned above as they apply to me. Many will understand the thrill of getting positive feedback for a mentee who may have been struggling. In addition to the mentees you are helping the Frederick’s Foundation charity continue to develop as a responsible provider of finance. It does seem that there is the real possibility that running almost any business could become tougher over the next few years, particularly at the smaller end of the market and obtaining finance on reasonable terms could be much more difficult.

iStock-624713098_super small.jpg


If you would like to learn more about becoming a Volunteer for Fredericks Foundation then please contact peter@fredericksfoundation.org or call 01276 472722.

We would be delighted to talk to you.

Thank you.


 

The Impact of Women Running Businesses – And Why We Need More!

By Ali Golds

Named as one of The Independent’s 20 Extraordinary Women of 2017, Ali Golds is a growth coach, speaker, and author who helps women to achieve their best - both personally and through their business. She has worked with start-ups through to multi-million-pound companies, as well as advised awarding bodies and other leading education based organisations on enterprise and entrepreneurship; culminating in being appointed lead adviser on a UK government review of entrepreneurship education, 'Enterprise For All', in 2014.  Ali specialises in coaching female founders, particularly single mums and women who’ve experienced domestic abuse, and is passionate about empowering them to achieve economic independence.

www.aligolds.com

Ali Golds cropped.jpg

I’ve been running my own businesses for almost twenty years now, and I wouldn’t change being my own boss for the world. I get the chance to do something I love, make a difference, do things I would probably have never done and meet people I would never have met, and can direct my career in any way I want it to go. All in all, it’s the perfect way of life for me.

I’ve also been fortunate to coach, and work alongside, lots of women who either want to or have started their own businesses too. Most of them have taken the leap because they’ve reached a stage in their life where it makes sense – either they’ve become mums, or they have done all they want in their employed career and now want to try something different.

However, despite more women taking up the mantle of self-employment, the figures for female owned businesses are still disappointingly low – just 17% - and yet women make successful entrepreneurs. So what’s the disconnect, and why do we need more women running businesses anyway?

Firstly, I don’t think women like the term entrepreneur; if they label themselves at all it tends to be ‘businesswoman’ or ‘mumpreneur’ – and there’s the problem. I don’t see dads calling themselves dadpreneurs, in fact the ones I asked wouldn’t dream of using that term, yet women do – and it’s a mindset. They don’t see themselves as ‘proper’ business owners, more a mum playing at it, and that’s wrong! The impact of women running businesses, especially mums, is felt far and wide – in families, wider social circles, and in business in general. 

There are very few high profile female entrepreneurs, which is a shame, as women who see other women running businesses are able to use them as role models. This is key in encouraging women to start businesses.

There’s a school of thought that believes if you educate a girl, if/when she becomes a mum, she can educate a new generation. It’s the same in business. If we encourage more women to start businesses, and then speak about their journey, they will act as a catalyst for more women to become their own boss.  

I’d like women who run businesses, particularly those who sell their product or service to other women, to start talking about why they started up, what their successes are, what the lessons are, and become more visible – not just for their business, but for themselves too.

Secondly, women make better entrepreneurs. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; they plan more, they are more cautious so less inclined to take risks (good and bad, I’ll grant you) and more likely to run the financial side of their business in a prudent way. Banks, investors, and loan companies, in particular, want to lend to more women. Communities need small businesses even more than they need big ones, and let’s not forget that only a tiny percentage of businesses in the UK are large corporates; women tend to run these small businesses. The more we have, the more employment opportunities there are, and the more we can raise families out of poverty and towards economic independence.

And thirdly, women bring a different dimension to business. The way we do business is very male; the language used, the way we interact, even down to the thinking processes that underpin business planning. If we want business to change and grow, and I’m all for that, we need to have the input of women. So how do we do that? We start with encouraging them to run a business. Then help them to scale up, to grow, and then to think outside their own business towards other people’s businesses. Taking on a non-exec role perhaps, that first step into the boardroom of a bigger business and, eventually, into the engine room of the corporate world. 

The more we encourage women to get into business for themselves, the more we see the impact across their families and into the wider world.

To support the Fredericks Foundation Women's Loan Fund, please visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/womensloanfund

 

iStock-855515858_high small.jpg