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Brilliant! Only word to describe the big Lottery take-off

LNAA-logoNumbers. For a man like Graham Dawson, they need to stack up. Lives, in the simplest of terms, depend upon it.

The ones that stared back at Lincolnshire & Nottinghamshire Air Ambulance Charitable Trust’s finance manager from the annual accounts in 2011 didn’t make completely encouraging reading.

LNAACT logoRaising the £2m-plus a year to keep the service aloft had become an increasingly tough task. Like most charities, public donations were proving harder to come by. Legacies, a vital source of funds, were falling.

But there was a glimmer of light. Merchandise sales and lottery income were on the rise – the latter by 28 per cent.

It’s against that background that Graham and his team found themselves considering how they were going to recruit new lottery players to the cause. As they did, it wasn’t hard to do the calculation. For the ambitious door-to-door canvassing they were planning, their existing Goldmine database needed to be up to the challenge. It wasn’t. They needed one that was….

donorflex becomes the option

The donorflex team at Patrick House had already met the LNAACT team before Graham called to explore the donorflex Lottery route as Christmas neared last year. In mid-2010, Chief Executive Peter Aldrick and his managers had concluded that they needed a system that could record data across the dashboard – donors, donations, members, lottery, Gift Aid and more.

We’d shared time at a couple of Air Ambulance Association conferences and – in October, 2010 – given an initial demo of the unified database. But the slow-burn approach was about to change dramatically.

By the start of 2012, the two parties had agreed a date for client development consultant Steve Mason to show them just what life with donorflex might look and feel like. By February 2, they’d seen all they needed. Eight days later, the deal was done.

Within three weeks, Steve was working on the Goldmine data and preparing his consultancy report. Data translation and initial training followed a couple of weeks later. By April, they were airborne.

It’s not hard to see why Graham had to move so quickly.

Goldmine had been in for eight years, but it wasn’t built for the job.

“We made it work, and it did work, but very basically,” Graham explains. “There was no search functionality really. There was no data manipulation.

“We had a separate random number generator. We had to manually input all the numbers. That was a good day’s work, really; working out who was in the draw and who wasn’t, who’d paid and who hadn’t, who’d got credit….”

Need to move very quickly

The shortcomings didn’t end there. On the old system, each member had their own record for every number they played.

“At the time, supporters were signing up on at least two chances,” he recalls. “At least two records, two addresses, two phone numbers for every person…. Very quickly, we realised that it just wasn’t going to work with canvassing. We should have had donorflex in before we started, but we didn’t. So we decided that we needed to move very quickly.”

The lottery operation was first on the radar because it could be addressed easily in comparison to the others like merchandise and general fundraising, where there were many data fields to capture.

We’ve gone from 15,000 members to 24,000 members in six months. Without donorflex, we couldn’t have done that

So, how did implementation go?

“Brilliantly,” Graham says. “It’s the only word I can use. All credit to Steve. He did a fantastic job. We looked at the data. You guys took the data and manipulated it. That was a huge help.”

That’s not to say there weren’t anxieties – there hasn’t been a donorflex Lottery implementation yet where a fear of the new hasn’t required a touch of TLC.

“For one member of staff there was an anxiety and it didn’t surprise me. But the training, the talking through things, really helped her. We’re six months down the line and she’s using it perfectly fine. Loves it to bits.”

Success breeds success

When Graham reflects on the successes of those first six months, he doesn’t need to look far.

“We’ve just done a mailing,” he says. “Through donorflex we took the database, exported it to csv and sent it to the raffle mailing company. That helped us send out 18,550 packs very easily.

“Would we have been able to do that before? No, because we’d have had lots of duplicate mailings. The time taken to manipulate that data was just unreal whereas, this time, it was just 10 minutes – if that – to get the data out, email it across to the mailing company and that was it.”

But that’s not his best statistic. Take his new recruits.

“I’ve just processed standing orders for the last five business days – 850 standing orders. On the old system, we’d have typed those in physically. Bear in mind that we’d have to type it in for two records, not just one. So, all of a sudden, you’re doing 1,700 entries!”

That used to take a week: “Now, it’s the click of a button…. We’ve got it down to 10 minutes. Getting the data off our internet banking software, manipulating it into Excel, take out the ones that aren’t relevant, import into donorflex, sort the noes out.... Ten minutes. That alone is our biggest saving in time, without a doubt.”

Numbers, then. If they’re beginning to stack up like never before in an organisation that’s flown in excess of 13,000 missions in its 18-year history, here’s one that tops the lot and will play a direct part in the lives that will be saved in the months and years to come.

“We’ve gone from 15,000 members to 24,000 members in six months,” says Graham. “Without donorflex, we couldn’t have done that.”