Feline charity ditches paper system

Electronic funds transfer software is being used to support fundraising and streamline donations process, writes Karl Cushing.

Electronic funds transfer software is being used to support fundraising and streamline donations process, writes Karl Cushing.

Cats Protection, one of the largest cat welfare charities in the UK, is using electronic funds transfer software to support its fundraising activities and streamline the way it collects donations. The charity also hopes the paperless direct debit system will support its use of direct marketing to target supporters, which has resulted in a significant increase in the level of donations.

The Horsham-based charity has 29 purpose-built shelters and around 260 voluntary branches throughout the UK which rescue and re-house more than 60,000 cats a year. It also provides financial support for people on low incomes who want to have their cats neutered. It has 50,000 members and a further 70,000 people it classifies as "supporters", of which around 30% already donate by direct debit. Income from direct debits is now at £1m a year, from 20,000 donors - up from just 2,000 three years ago.

Debbie Pearce, head of operations at the charity, says that while the charity is grateful for one-off donations, having a steady income from direct debits means it can be more forward thinking and proactive. "With direct debit there is an element of security so we can plan more," she says.

Pearce hopes the software will help minimise the number of direct debit rejections by ensuring that the personal data it holds is more accurate. This should result in significant time and cost savings through a reduction in administrative processes. "We were beginning to drown under the paperwork," says Pearce, who adds that "the whole thing would grind to a halt without IT".

Cats Protection anticipates saving the equivalent of one person's complete workload, allowing it to re-deploy resources elsewhere and achieve rapid return on investment on the £6,000 it paid for the software. "The software should have paid for itself within six- to 12 months," says Pearce.

The Albacs Verify electronic funds transfer product from Albany has been purchased to augment an earlier product from the same firm. The charity had been using this system for three years to collect donations via direct debit. The Verify product validates bank account details to ensure that the donor's correct account number and sort code details are entered correctly when setting up new direct debit mandates to reduce the number of rejections. It also enables the charity to accept direct debit instructions via the telephone, which Pearce sees as a key requirement for the charity's future fundraising strategy.

One of the key considerations in the project was capturing direct debit instructions held in the charity's systems. To do this, Albany reseller Care Business Solutions provided a customised add-on for the direct mail system that swept through the database of donors to capture the data, which is sent to the bank electronically. All subsequent mandates are processed as "paperless".

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