UK start-up company Intrabiz has developed a web-based accounting system for the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) that dramatically simplifies the work of branch treasurers, speeds up the preparation of accounts and improves centralized monitoring and control for the charity.
The Intrabiz service is currently being rolled out across the NCT’s 330 UK branches and has proved popular with the volunteers who are now using it. Following initial trials, the service started late 2004 and roll-out is due for completion before the end of the current financial year.
Compared with ‘off-the-shelf’ accounting packages from more established IT vendors and service providers, Intrabiz’s solution is specifically tailored to the NCT’s needs, while offering significantly lower cost of ownership (with no capital outlay), together with long-term flexibility. As it is web-based, the solution provides the NCT with a centralized, unified accounts system that can be readily accessed at any time, from any location – with support available outside normal business hours.
Intrabiz is managing the service on behalf of the NCT for an initial five-year period. Although this service has been developed specifically for the NCT, the Intrabiz solution meets Charity Commission rules and offers clear benefits for any charity based at multiple sites – particularly those using a large network of volunteers.
The NCT could see the significant benefits that could be achieved once the solution had been implemented across its branch networks. The investment the NCT is making in its branch accounting systems is part of its overall IT strategy to provide the infrastructure to strengthen and support its work campaigning, informing and supporting parents-to-be and new parents.
Reduce expertise required to fulfil role of NCT branch treasurer
Reduce workload of branch treasurers
Improve speed and accuracy of accounts preparation
Enhance centralized monitoring, control and auditing of branch accounts
Ensure conformity and consistency of accounts across all NCT branches
Minimize total cost of ownership and ensure long-term flexibility and evolution of system.
The web-based service, developed and centrally managed by Intrabiz, enables volunteer treasurers to enter and reconcile their accounts on an easy-to-use secure web site. Users need no prior knowledge of standard accounting packages, and do not have to install or maintain any special software, nor store any data files, on their own computers.
The system provides all the features the NCT branches and headquarters need, and no more. There is no hidden overhead of features and capabilities that will never be used – although the service can be adapted at any time.
Branch treasurers now have an intuitive screen interface to enter information about classes, counselling, fund-raising events, purchases and expenses. Once this data is entered, all the consequent accounting actions are handled automatically. These include calculation of dues to the centre, VAT calculations, accruals and prepayments, creditors and debtors, and preparation of fully formatted published accounts.
Because the system is consistent across all branches, NCT head office has on-demand access to national accounts, including key performance indicators, as well as the ability to audit accounts remotely – something that was not possible before the introduction of the web-based system. Previously, the finance director had to wait until paper copies had been filed by each branch. The finance director can now focus more clearly on issues that need to be resolved, and there is less paperwork.
||Entering accounts data for one quarter now typically takes volunteers a few hours, rather than several days as before
||Win–win situation for the NCT: accounts are easier to enter and prepare for branches; accounting rules are easier to implement for NCT UK office
||The system helps the NCT comply with the auditors and should enable it to close year-end accounts earlier
||Accounting is no longer consuming so much volunteer time, freeing them up for true charity work and fund-raising
||Turnover of NCT treasurers is reducing
||NCT UK office has on-demand access to accounts from its branches across the UK – something that was not possible before
According to Belinda Phipps, Chief Executive Officer of the NCT, “Introducing this system gives us the best of both worlds. We are using technology to produce up-to-the-minute, accurate financial information, which benefits the organization as a whole. And we are empowering our volunteers – the backbone of the NCT’s success – to enable their efforts to be focused on our core mission.
“We are not only easing the burden on volunteers, we are also able to support branches from the centre much more easily when they run into difficulties,” Phipps adds. “The system helps us comply with the auditors and should enable us to close our year-end earlier.”
For the NCT HQ and trustees, the solution enables reports on branch finances to be produced quickly and easily throughout the year, as there is no need for manual entry of branch accounts data.
The NCT regional teams now have a more detailed and up-to-date view of the financial position of the branches in their regions. This enables them to provide more informed and targeted support, and should also reduce the number of branches that require support when treasurers need to be replaced.
For NCT treasurers, the solution smoothes their workload, as there is no additional work to do at the end of each quarter or financial year: the system produces accounts automatically. Treasurers can now easily produce financial reports for their branch committee, and no longer need special knowledge to produce accurate, compliant accounts. This should make it much easier to find new volunteer treasurers in future.
NCT volunteers have been very enthusiastic about the new system. Comments from the user group include:
“The system is really good and comes with very easy-to-follow instructions. Speaking as someone who works for another, much larger, national charity, I can tell you that we are lucky that the NCT has made such an investment in IT. I recommend that everyone starts using it as soon as possible!”
“I have only been a treasurer since January 2005, and I was struggling with the old system. I recently attended the intranet training course at head office and feel much more confident. The system is much easier to use and has fantastic support. I can’t stress enough to all you treasurers out there to give it a go!”
“I spend far less time on it than with the old system. My life with a four-year-old is so different from when he was a baby: my time is so precious, and this change to the web-based system has been invaluable.”
“After some initial doubts about the amount of information that needs to be entered, I quickly became accustomed to it and find it easy to use. I particularly like the ability to allocate income and expenses to specific courses, newsletters or fund-raising events rather than have them grouped under one heading.”
“I actually enjoy being a treasurer now and don’t want to give up. If someone else wants the job, they’ll have a fight on their hands!”
About the National Childbirth Trust
Run by parents, the National Childbirth Trust (NCT) is the largest and best-known childbirth and parenting charity in Europe. It is the voice of parents on antenatal, birth and postnatal issues, and provides a range of quality educational and support services for parents at local level. Established 49 years ago, the NCT has successfully campaigned for improved care during pregnancy and childbirth and promotes the principle of informed choice for women and their partners.