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The Henry Smith Charity logo

Overview

The Henry Smith Charity is a grant giving organisation that works to use resources to help people and communities bring about positive change. They achieve this by funding organisations that work with people to reduce social and economic disadvantage.

The Henry Smith Charity wants to maximise the impact of their grant making through:

• Understanding of the needs and activities of the sectors where they provide grants

• Implementing and developing the best practices and approaches

• Instigating the external policy decisions pertaining to the sectors these organisations work in

• Gathering learnings to improve operational effectiveness

In order to help them achieve these goals, they have developed a learning log. This platform has been developed on the Notion collaboration workspace and provides the following capabilities:

• A “Wiki database” for creating, browsing, searching, and extracting information and learnings

• Functionality to input generic and specific learnings through referencing internal experience and expertise or external sources

• A database to hold ideas and concept summaries

Recipe status

This recipe has been in use since February 2021.

We are not sharing this recipe as the perfect solution to a problem, but we believe The Henry Smith Charity’s learnings could be very useful to other organisations.

Users and needs served

  • As a member of staff assessing a grant application to fund care for people with a learning disability, I need to know how much this support generally costs so that I can evaluate their funding request
  • As a volunteer preparing to visit an organisation that provides a mentoring service for children and young people, I need to know what constitutes best practice in mentoring so I can carry out a considered assessment of their activities
  • As a member of staff, I need to share details of learnings from formal reviews, workshops, internal grant assessments, internal learning projects and evaluations, and external sources to improve our grant making and operational effectiveness
  • As a member of staff assessing a grant application for a women’s refuge, I want to know what a good staff-to-service user ratio is by performing a rapid search using keyword tags
  • As a member of staff, I want to access internal and external sources of information so that I can make considered policy and strategic decisions on grant needs in selected sectors

Software and tools used

Notion

Notion is a digital tool that is marketed as an all-in-one workspace for teams. It has various components (databases, word processor, calendars, and project management tools) that can be used individually or in collaboration to create knowledge management and data management.

Cost

Notion’s subscription model operates on a per person fee of $96 per year (£69 approx) for a licensed member or administrator. Members can create and edit pages, but cannot change workplace settings and invite new members.

There are no licensing charges for guests. Guests are individuals whom you invite into your workspace on a page-by-page basis with some restricted permissions. You can also share pages with an unlimited number of guests for no extra cost. The majority of staff at The Henry Smith Charity are guest users with limited permissions and incur no additional licensing costs.

Considerations

The main benefit of this system is the ability to effectively share information and knowledge within an organisation.

With this database, users are able to capture and store all their learning from Grant Managers’ expertise, internal reviews, meetings and external reports in one place.

The limitations of the platform relate to getting staff to use the new software within their day to day functions, as well as the upkeep required to ensure the database remains up to date. However, as more information populates the database and the usefulness of the system is proven, engagement will only increase.

The Henry Smith Charity selected Notion as it is an easy-to-use system that ultimately makes entering, storing, searching and presenting information easier than the previous tools the organisation used.

The Henry Smith Charity uses it as an editable internal website for knowledge and learning, with the aim of every grant assessor having access and utilising the system when reviewing applications. These assessors will add and store learning from meetings, reports and applications on an ongoing basis to keep the organisation’s knowledge base up to date.

Recipe steps

1. Look at your objectives

Think about what you want to achieve by creating a digital learning log. This might be going paperless to avoid having a bank of documentation and research that isn’t easily accessible for Grant Managers.

You should also consider who you want to be able to access the research within your team to better visualise what this learning log should look like.

2. Create a learning and evaluation team

Establish a dedicated team that focuses on research and supporting grants. Work with this group to understand the requirements, the information that needs to be gathered, and how you are going to classify and measure it. You’ll also want leaders within the group of grant workers to take responsibility for the project.

Put together high-level requirements of what you need and how this should inform the software you use. For example, simple software that’s off the shelf, and which doesn’t require a developer or someone with technical expertise.

3. Find the right product

Look at what other charities are using to do something similar. Speak to your network to find out more. Appoint someone within your team to assess the software you’re considering and find out how it can be set up to work for your organisation.

Put together a plan of how the software will be used to meet your requirements, which can be visualised and finally configured from the high-level requirements list you would have made.

4. Pilot the product

Pilot the learning log within one department of your organisation. Work with a specific Grant Manager or coordinator in this area to pull together information and various categories into the database to check that it works.

5. Introduce the product to your team

Conduct a presentation via video call to give an overview of the different areas within the log and the information you want to upload, as well as how you will work with your team.

Have monthly catch ups with Grant Managers and team members as you progress and continue to add more information. Hold a meeting to present the log to each of the teams that will use it. Use this as an opportunity to field questions.

Notion enables you to send out guest links to the page for free, so you can get team members to have a look at the page and leave comments to make sure people feel comfortable using the system.

6. Extract information

Once you’ve migrated everything to the new system, you can use the information to inform your policies and strategies.

Guidance

Think about how much information you want to put into the learning log. Present your information in a way that people will engage with and use regularly. You should think clearly about what information would be relevant and keep it concise.

Have a clear plan of how you upload the information, especially if several different sectors use the log.

Keep the database updated to prevent disuse.

Risks

It may not initially be easy to understand the product. The terminology Notion uses isn’t standard.

It can be difficult to access face-to-face support from Notion, and although there are videos and documents to inform how to use the software, it takes patience to work with these.

There’s a risk in migration – it’s easy to set up the database but you don’t want to have partial information as the database wouldn’t be properly used.

Points of contact

For further information about this recipe, you can contact:

Deepum Bhatia

Molly Dawson

Thanks

Many thanks to The Henry Smith Charity for contributing this recipe.

Licence

This recipe is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.

That means you are free to copy, redistribute, and build on the text of this recipe, but only for non-commercial purposes (if you want to use it for commercial purposes, get in touch with us at [email protected]). You must give credit to both Catalyst and The Henry Smith Charity and link back to this page. If you build on this recipe then you must share your version under this same licence.

Recipe published on April 28th, 2021. Last updated April 28th, 2021