Knowledge and Data Sharing

Split off from original Information management page, which covers data protection, staff handbooks etc.

Information Resources

Note: Freedom of Information (England and Wales, also in Scotland with some differences) is a legal right to request access to all types of “recorded” information held by public bodies. Organisations providing public services might be caught in that the contracting body could make additional requirements to allow them to meet FoI requests, but otherwise unlikely. See Lobbying pages for FoI links.

Education and Training for Information Work in the Voluntary Sector is a research report produced by Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett) early 1999. An executive summary may still be somewhere on their website.

Aslib Journal of Information Management.

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. 7 Ridgmount St, London, WC1E 7AE, phone 020 7255 0500, email: Also see their Information Literacy group?

Knowledge Management

Not to be confused with information management, but can be closely connected. Some see it as part of de-skilling and job reductions: extracting and exploiting the knowledge held by individuals about work in the round. But, to quote from elsewhere on VR: “How good is an office manual if it doesnt include some element of extracting and collating knowledge otherwise locked up in an individual?”

So what is it? There are varying views about what KM involves – see quotes below. Distinctions are made between Explicit knowledge (recorded) and Tacit knowledge (personal know-how); a defined body of information as distinct from a person’s state of being in respect to that body. Data, information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom are all separate terms with different meanings, although writers (and organisations) often muddy these.

There is very little material on the web explicitly aimed at the voluntary sector. We would be delighted to hear of any.

  • Knowledge management in development matters site is connected with – a “community of international development practitioners who are interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing issues and approaches”. Knowledge Management for Development Journal.
  • Oxfam Canada’s Sharing Knowledge Handbook. This is written for those “working in villages, towns and rural areas who wish to transform their communities through information sharing”. Presumably from a third world perspective.
  • More IM than KM: Development Informatics working papers from Institute for Development Policy and Management.

It is probably more in what KM is applied to, rather than how, that the voluntary sector differs. So the following links (many quite old but should still work), could be useful.

  • A Delightful Dozen Principles of Knowledge Management (pdf) excerpt from Verna Allee is a good discussion tool.
  • KM Insight magazine.

FreePint, the newsletter for information professionals, had an article on Knowledge management for development: an international organisation’s perspective, November 2005.

Fostering the Collaborative Creation of Knowledge: A White Paper from IBM Research gives some background on managing information in a holistic way (or as they say, an ecological view). We can’t find the paper on the site any longer!

But can knowledge be managed, as individuals have different ‘knowledge bases’? See The Nonsense of ‘Knowledge Management’.

Some quotes

Peter Honey quoting Prof Susan Greenfield (name dropper!)

‘information is just facts which on their own are not at all interesting. Knowledge occurs when disparate facts are linked and turned into ideas.’ (Training Journal, June 2000)

From VNU’s Knowledge Management White Paper:

“What managing knowledge as a resource means in practice actually spans a continuum from generating efficiency to fostering innovation.”

Simon Kent, of Knowledge Management Software in Computer Weekly (June 01):

“Knowledge …. is information’s evolutionary descendant, transcending primitive emphases on hardware, bandwidth and Java compatability with something much more powerful and sophisticated: individual and collective experience that can be leveraged to benefit virtually any activity.”

From US government’s KM web site:

“Essentially, knowledge management is at the intersection of culture, philosophy, and technology connecting people, communities and ideas for action.”

Knowledge Praxis quotes from Karl-Erik Sveiby’s posting to the Knowledge Management Forum, identifying two “tracks” of knowledge management:

  • Management of Information. To researchers in this track, according to Sveiby, “. knowledge = Objects that can be identified and handled in information systems.” {A mechanistic or object approach}
  • Management of People. For researchers and practitioners in this field, knowledge consists of “. processes, a complex set of dynamic skills, know-how, etc., that is constantly changing.” {A cultural or process approach}
  • {to which they add a Systematic approach, which combines and adds to the other two}

from Larry Prusak, director of IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, as interviewed for ebusinessforum, Oct 00:

Key steps in instituting a knowledge-management programme: “A little strategy goes a long way. There are 4 simple steps: What knowledge do you want to work with? Where is it? What do you want to do to it? and to what end: what would you gain if you did this?” …. “You could do it in a day or two.”

“Heirarchy is a distortion of knowledge …(it) is a 19th century concept.”

Designing a knowledge-management system: “You’re better off enacting one than designing one. Letting the people who work in these organisations enact it, and give them loose advice.”

from Michael Schrage, writing in Fortune magazine:

“an objective review would confirm that most firms grossly overinvest in technologies that let people see what’s going on and dramatically underinvest in delegation and true empowerment…….knowledge confirms the absence of meaningful power.”

In conclusion after discussing how efficient technology networks can lead to poor data due to ‘selfish’ practice by staff, managers or customers: “business reality dictates that organizations that commit to strategic networking must invest as much effort in designing the incentives for honest disclosure as they do in designing the technical infrastructure itself.”

Open data and data sharing

See Sector Development, Statistics

  • New Philanthropy Capital has been working on data sharing across sub-sectors (not just about funding).
  • The Global Value Exchange, previously WikiVOIS, is an open source database for individuals and organisations who are trying to account for and measure the social or environmental value that their activities create,
  •  Data Unity is an open source web tool which lets you explore and visualise data, and then share discoveries with others.
  • Digital Impact (was Markets for Good) “is an effort by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the progressive financial firm Liquidnet to improve the system for generating, sharing, and acting upon data and information in the social sector”.

Risk Assessment: Sample Document

Please note that sample documents are supplied as examples which can act as starting points and prompters. They should not be taken as definitive, complete or even sufficient for your purposes – you should at the very least consider how your circumstances (requirements, organisational structure etc.) differ. But they should be a lot better than a blank sheet!

The following was produced as part of a Trustees Manual, rather than a stand-alone document.

Risk Assessment

The risks associated with the activities of AN ORGANISATION and the assessment of those risks are as follows:

a.     Fundraising:


Investing in a fundraising scheme that produces no return, or too low a return, on the investment.

Participating in a fundraising scheme that contravenes legislation.

Lack of information about fundraising activity.

Assessment The fundraising strategy including financial budgets is reviewed by the Board on an annual basis.  The Chief Executive reports at the meetings of the Board on progress against budgets and targets.  The Board will review fundraising activity on a regular basis.  The level of risk is low

b.     Grant making:

Risks Directing grants to inappropriate projects or not in accordance with the wishes of the donor

Assessment There is a clear audit trail of earmarked donations and their destination.  The level of risk is very low

c.     Students

Risks A student, sponsored by AN ORGANISATION, breaches the terms of her/his entry permit.

Assessment AN ORGANISATION can only give a statement of support and not any advice on immigration related matters.  The Immigration Service has powers to deport anyone who breaches the terms of their entry visa.  The risk is low.

d.     Financial management

Risks       AN ORGANISATION’s employees defraud the charity.

Assessment All post containing or likely to contain donations is opened in the presence of two people.  There is an audit trail to match cash donations received with cash banked.

All expenditure payments are made with two signatures at levels agreed by the Board. (See section 5.2). The risk is low.

e.     Software licences

Risks AN ORGANISATION exceeds the number of users it has licensed for using software.

Assessment The Board has instructed the Chief Executive to carry out an annual audit of software licenses to ensure that no unauthorised copies of software are used by any employees and to report the results of the audit to the Board.  Level of risk is low

f.     Employment

Risks AN ORGANISATION breaches employment and employment-related legislation.

Assessment The Board has instructed the Chief Executive to review on a regular basis contracts of employment and to provide all employees with access to AN ORGANISATION’s policies on key issues such as personal use of computers {,equal opportunities}.  The level of risk is low

g.     Health and Safety

Risks      AN ORGANISATION breaches health and safety regulations

Assessment The Board has instructed the Chief Executive to review health and safety policies on a regular basis and to ensure that all employees are aware of their obligations.  The level of risk is low.

The trustees annually review the risks faced by AN ORGANISATION, assess them and agree policies to mitigate those risks.


VolResource Addendum on other potential issues

h.     IT

Network security, backups and uninterruptible power supply. Virus protection. Data protection regulation breaches (especially around membership, marketing).

i.     Slander and Libel

Risks from badly worded emails; lack of clarity on who should/can speak for the organisation on which issues. Address partly by insurance?

j.     Purchasing

Inadequate control leading to major unauthorised commitments.


NOTE: Some of the above items might appear in other documents, such as the Financial Procedures, in which case a cross-reference is usually better than a repeat (in case of later revision or minor differences leading to confusion).



A good starting point if you are looking to purchase (or rent) new equipment is What to Buy for Business. Find it in your local (business) reference library, as you need to locate the most recent round-up of the area you are interested in.

Business Equipment Contracts: How To Avoid The Pitfalls is from NCVO, (1996, ISBN 0 7199 1509 0, £5-00) in association with the Photocopier and Business Equipment Users Association. See Publishers page re NCVO. A guide to buying and leasing photocopiers and fax equipment with an explanation of finance contracts.

For equipment generally, remember that it’s not just the initial purchase price that matters – running costs and therefore ‘total cost of ownership’ (TCO) can vary a lot.

You may find the ‘computer replacement strategy‘ (in Word format), drafted by Paul Ticher in connection with a UKRiders discussion, of interest.

There is a Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, for those who are professionals in this area.

See Misc Services page for travel, admin services and more.

General Supplies and Deals

Sector Sources

  • Charities Buying Group is a bulk purchasing arrangement set up by disabled support charity Leonard Cheshire. While big names are signed up, they also welcome small to medium charities. Can provide savings on general areas such as stationery, office equipment and utilities, but also more specialist (mainly care) stuff. Phone 020 7802 8280.
  • InKindDirect Redistributing goods from manufacturers and retailers. Goods range from cleaning products and toiletries, to clothing, toys and nursery items. Refurbished laptops, desktops and photocopiers are also supplied. Register to be able to browse an online catalogue – there is a handling charge for using the service, generally 10-20% of the retail value of the goods, and includes delivery costs. Phone 020 7398 5510,r email:
  • NCVO have negotiated various discounts for their members and also some which extend to non-members.
  • Other sector bodies have arranged some supplier discounts for members.

General Sources

  • Viking Direct Office supplies website is worth registering on, if only to make price comparisons with the above. Useful to get the full printed catalogue, then you can look up a current price on just about any office item. Euroffice is a web-based rival, with simple and cheap pricing.
  • Ethical Stationery is a social enterprise that aims to provide a complete range of ecologically responsible office supplies and services. They claim transparent pricing – “No gimmicks, no expensive catalogues, no price hikes”.

Specific items


Including printers, network kit etc. Also see Services – Computer, as many of those listed will supply hardware too. Also look under Environmental Impact page for more IT recycling firms.

  • Charity Digital Exchange, previously tt-exchange/Charity Technology Exchange. Eligible charities can obtain donated software from various tech companies such as Microsoft, and networking equipment from Cisco. A small administration fee is payable, but charities still make savings of over 90% on normal list price.
  • Computers for Charities is also worth checking (it is a registered charity).
  • IT for Charities has a further list of suppliers of recycled machines and discounted supplies.

Delivery services

  • DHL We understand they have a reduced tariff for registered charities for those regularly using international express. This can save over 60 per cent on both inbound and outbound international document and parcel express, as well as a significant discount on international mail. We couldn’t find info on the website, so we suggest contacting your local DHL office.

Display stands, Exhibitions

  • PEP Ltd Hire of stands, as well as affordable but practical display systems and stands. Will demonstrate. Phone 0800 652 6565, email:
  • Alpha Communications Design, installation etc. Third sector specialists (they’re a coop). Phone 0191 375 0101, email:
  • Marler Haley is a large format print company which provides portable exhibition displays such as banner stands, PVC outdoor banners, tablecloths and much more besides to a large number of charities, big and small.


  • 3Space “is a charity which works in partnership with landlords and leaseholders to offer organisations that benefit the community temporary free of charge access to otherwise empty properties”.
  • Ethical Property Company continues to develop of office centres around the country specifically for voluntary organisations or social enterprises.
  • CAN Mezzanine in London and Bristol is run by a social enterprise to provide affordable, high-quality office space for charities, voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises.
  • VSC (Voluntary Sector Centres) has some Charity Centres letting out office space below market rates.

There are a number of other social enterprise initiatives around the country – keep your ears to the ground, as buildings tend to fill quickly.

Recycled Supplies

  • Green Stationery Company Studio One, 114 Walcot St, Bath, BA1 5BG, phone 01225 480556, email:
  • PaperBack ‘the name in recycled paper’. Phone 020 8980 5580.

Recycling your equipment

If you are upgrading IT systems, making old computers redundant, renewing furniture etc. check out Resource Extra – Environmental Impact.


See Accounts Software or Membership Software pages for suppliers in those specialist areas, and also the Technology Services listing page.

There are various charity discounts available for Microsoft and other products. The different options can be quite confusing and even those resellers with a particular sector focus can be unclear at times on criteria for the discounts.

  • The following four suppliers are part of a discount scheme for NCVO member organisations where some of the restrictions around licence volumes etc may be waived. They are also a good place for non-members to start, too, for Microsoft or other software.
    Akhter Computers# Phone 01279 821202, email:
    Entec Phone 01462 499599, email:
    Phoenix Software Ltd Blenheim House, York Road, Pocklington, York, YO42 1NS, phone 0845 265 1265, email:
    Pugh Computers Denver House, Llanon, Aberystwyth, SY23 5LP, phone 01974 200201, email:
  • WCVA members (Welsh equivalent of NCVO) and SCVO members (Scotland) should contact Pugh Computers re above discounts.
  • Microsoft had a UK software donation programme, now replaced by TT Exchange (previously Charity Technology Exchange) – see under Computers above.

Telecoms/Communication Centres

  • The Phone Co-op ‘was founded because it identified a need for organisations in the Third Sector or Social Economy to have access to affordable telecommunications’. They did have a Third Sector Tariff available to charities, non-profits, co-ops, public sector, but its disappeared from the website (Jan ’06). Phone 0870 458 2000, email:
  • The Ofcom PASS (Price Assurance Standard) is meant to help provide clear price comparisons (residential lines).
  • CLASS Systems have special deals negotiated on behalf of NCVO, including a tariff open to non-members. Phone 0800 018 6992.

Phone Conferencing info is on the Admin page. Communication/call centres – Media Services.


Utility Aid provides Utility deals through Charities Buying Group (see top section), and direct.

Charities are exempt from the climate change levy if business use is less than 40% of the total. Check to see if this applies to your organisation, and get billed correctly. There is also an issue around the rate of VAT on energy supplies where non-business use (e.g. services funded by grant, donations rather than by contract) should be eligible for the VAT rate charged on domestic bills (5%). See info on MakeItCheaper website.

Membership, Mailing and Response Services


Note: Pretty sure this is out of date info, as are many of the listings below …  bulk mailings (4,000 or more) can get discounts under Royal Mail’s Mailsort service if they are pre-sorted – mailing houses may keep quiet about this and keep the discount for themselves! Sometimes it can be worthwhile to set up your own Mailsort account – try 0345 950950 for your nearest Sales Centre.

Membership/Mailing list management

  • Membership Plus are ‘membership marketing communications specialists’. Membership cards, renewals, fulfilment, mailing, consultancy, creative services. Phone 01227 741066, email:
  • Lavenham Press Design and Print, mailing as well as membership management. TLG, Arbons House, Water St, Lavenham, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 9RN, phone 01787 249199.
  • Kingston Smith Have an ‘Association Management’ outsourcing division which does database and membership management. While it appears to be focused on trade associations, the firm also has more general ‘not-for-profit’ expertise, so worth a try. Phone 020 7304 4646, or the trade association contact Michael Trenchard on 01727 832261, email:
  • Electoral Reform Society (under Other services) also do subscription renewals, database management, membership surveys, appeals management, mailing services etc.
  • Dataforce The whole bundle of membership admin and more, in just about any combination. They have handled appeal responses for the likes of Oxfam and WWF including call handling, banking, renewals processing, National Trust magazine mail-outs etc. but are interested in smaller scale too. Phone 01604 673800.

Mainly Mailings and Marketing

There are a large number of ‘Mailing Houses’ who will take a mailing list and process it in various ways. Some with voluntary sector experience include:

  • ITO, a mental health charity. Mailing, response fulfilment, packing and distribution. Lydstep Terrace, Bedminster, Bristol, BS3 1DR, phone 0117 966 8491.
  • Adare has long experience working with charities, such as RSPB. Mailing services, printing etc.

Slightly different but worth noting, is L-Mail, where you can send send letters to any postal address via the Internet.

For email newsletter management and the like, see Internet and Web Services.

Response handling

Coping with response to appeals or the promotion of a special event or membership drive can really strain the resources of many groups. Often part of one of the above services, and is noted where known, but some of the banks will also provide the service (whether postal or phone, possibly even internet), checking cheques or other payment and passing on or processing information received with it. The Co-op Bank is one such.

  • Two-Ten Communications, phone 01937 840210.
  • Tokenhelp.

Other membership services

Elections, ballots. Electoral Reform Services Ballot services for unions and other membership organisations. Free seminars too. 33 Clarendon Road, London, N8 0NW, phone 020 8365 8909, email:

Ballot boxes. Try Shaw’s election supplies.

Running an Event

Important note: this page is definitely NOT a complete statement of the legal issues – we only give pointers. Check out our Legal Matters page for further help in this area.

Events Diaries

Year Ahead (was Awareness Campaign Register) has a calendar of all campaigns logged with them, to help avoid clashes or fit in with existing events. However, access requires a subscription.

Fundraising UK has some information on upcoming events.

Where Can We Go, while a general ‘family events’ listing site, encourages community and other charity events to be added.

General tips

‘The event isn’t over until you’ve packed up and got back to base’. Too many events fall into chaos at the end due to premature celebrations by the organisers.

Checklist from Open University ‘Winning Resources and Support’ – SCHEMES:
– Space
– Cash
– Helpers
– Equipment
– Materials
– Expertise
– Systems

Start from the event date and work backwards in planning the lead up. Can you realistically carry out several tasks in parallel, or do you need more volunteers or time (or money to pay overtime, outside agencies etc)?

Don’t forget contingency planning – ‘what if …..’ You can’t anticipate everything, but a way to deal with a broad range of problems should be thought through early on. What is crucial to success, and how do you ensure this?

If your organisation is ever going to run any other event, a ‘debrief’ is very helpful, within a few days of the event finishing. What went wrong, but also what went right – it is easy to assume that the latter happened naturally and end up not giving these items enough attention next time.

Although it is helpful to divide up the work, it also needs to be co-ordinated by one person or a very active (and small) committee.


Taking Money

Don’t forget that there are strict rules about collecting money in public places, with charities having to be particular careful. While police/local authorities may turn a blind eye to small-scale bending, it is usually better to do the homework. See Charity Commission website for leaflet CC20 – Charities and Fund-Raising.

If you are running a more sophisticated event and have the potential to process credit card payments, note that it is now possible to get hold of hand-held electronic terminals which connect via the mobile phone network. Various options out there, but changing, so best to do a web search.

A leaflet from HM Revenue and Customs, Fundraising events : exemption for Charities and Other Qualifying Bodies  – note leaflet CWL4 not available from new web section at November 2014 – sets out the conditions for direct tax and VAT exemptions that apply to fundraising events.


There are quite a few regulations around ‘public’ events. Unless your event is by invite only (and even then you ought to make sure on the exact status), it is likely to fall within this. Possible issues:

  • Sale of alcohol. Will require application to magistrates court – check out via local council. The common tactic of selling raffle tickets and winning a ‘free’ drink is legally highly dubious!
  • Public entertainment licence. Check with local authority. May also require Music licence – see Legal Matters.
  • Lotteries. You need to register with the local authority.
  • Street collections. Ditto.
  • Food hygiene registration if you are preparing food ‘on site’. Try Environmental Health section of local council.
  • Fire regulations are generally the responsibility primarily of the venue management. Hirers may be required to observe particular rules, or notify them if certain hazards are present (e.g. fuel for a barbecue?).
  • Street activities will probably need clearance from the police, and maybe the highways authority (local council) too.
  • Also see Risks below.


Village halls and the like wishing to show films need a licence from the local authority. There are a number of exemptions to this, including:

  • if there is no charge or private gain
  • if the premises are used for no more than six films a year
  • if you are a non profit making organisation with a Home Office exemption certificate
  • if you form a non-profit making film or video society whose performances are only open to members

Copyright and royalty permissions are necessary even if a licence is not required.


The Theatres Act 1968 states that where a local authority is satisfied that a play is to be performed for a charitable or other like purpose in respect to one or more particular occasions no fee is payable for a licence. This means in practice that if a play is to be performed for charitable purposes and if dates of performances are given in advance, no fee will be required. However, in the case of an annual licence, there would be a fee payable because it relates to unspecified performances throughout the year.

(The above two items extracted from June 01 Newsline from Community First H&W. They may well be out of date, due to the Licensing Act 2005.)


Centre for Accessible Environments has produced a guide, Make your conference accessible, but now doesn’t seem to be on the web site (March 07).

Also see Admin page on Access and other premises issues.


The usual marketing checklist – who’s the audience (people), how do you get to them (place), what is the attraction (product) and what do they have to do to participate (price)? Don’t forget to give contact details, meeting or kick offs times and how to get there. Obvious but often something is missed off – get a second person to check over what has been produced before it goes to printers/local newspaper etc.

See Marketing page.


See the Insurance information page, or go direct to Insurance Services page for brokers.

A ‘duty of care’ is placed on anybody organising an event. This means looking at activities for possible health and safety problems for participants, organisers and bystanders. While challenge and other (fundraising) physical activities have obvious risks, everything from meetings in badly maintained buildings to crushes around celebrity appearances have their own unique issues. Step back and consider the (reasonable) possibilities, and plan to prevent or manage them.

The Home Office (with wider input) produced (summer 06) ‘The Good Practice Safety Guide for small and sporting events taking place on the highway, roads and public places’ so that such events are as safe as possible for the public and participants. Its 72 pages has specific sections on charity stunts, carnivals, charity walks, cycle races and other useful material. No longer available from website, May 2010?

Do you need first aid cover? Typically provided at charity events by volunteers from St Johns Ambulance, British Red Cross etc, but there is usually some charge for the service. There may be a commercial service available e.g. Primary Ambulance Services in Essex.

Live music booking agency Function Central have put together “A Definitive Guide to Health and Safety Requirements for Event Planning“. Some of this will only apply to larger or more complex events, but plenty of food for thought.

Code of Practice

The Institute of Fundraising has various Codes of Fundraising Practice which cover running events – outdoor, charity challenge etc. They have also produced a leaflet with the Association of National Park Authorities on Charity Challenge Events but no longer on the web site?

More Resources

Society of Event Organisers run various seminars etc. on how to organise exhibitions, conferences etc. Phone 01767 316255

See Event Services page for ticketing, event booking etc.

Membership Software Intro

Also see: Membership software systems.


Be aware that often the suppliers are also the authors of the software, and are reliant on a remarkably small number of employees or consultants to come up with the goods. They may have good intent, but you need to be sure they can deliver on your requirements. Will they be around for a few years yet? Ask to see the software doing what is essential to you, with some serious data loaded; get a reference and follow it up; don’t rely on promises but get it in writing with timescales and compensation for any failures which are down to them. Will they update key facilities quickly when regulations change (e.g. charity tax reclaims)?

Do they have a User Group – how independent is it, and can you speak to somebody from it? Is the company really only familiar/interested in a particular type of membership organisation eg trade associations? Some may only have a peripheral interest in the membership side – they may have only one (or even no) client using it for the software for this purpose. Don’t be impressed by how many systems have been installed, but try to discover how many are actually in use, and fully implemented. Above all, be clear from the start what you are looking for – what is crucial and what is wishlist, and don’t overlook the former due to fantastic but marginally useful extra facilities.

There is a multiplicity of offerings out there, and it is not always easy to tell why some cost a lot more than others to implement. Overall cost of implementation and ongoing support is very important to assess in advance – there can be a load of ‘extras’ which end up being essential to get the results you want. There is also always something that ends up being impossible to do, or requires major changes to the way you work. Consider whether you would be better using your limited time elsewhere, and buying in membership management. Things are getting better slowly, as software houses get to grips with how organisations operate in practice.

Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) developed for commercial business is improving and getting cheaper. If your requirements are straightforward, these may be worth a look.

Related software

Address/data capture and entry

This needs a fresh trawl of what is available – but should be easy for you to find too!