“My Digital Candle call was one of the most useful meetings I’ve had in a long time – so much learning and reflection was packed into one hour of volunteer time. I’m rethinking my project plan as a result!”
Digital Candle has just received the following request. It doesn't fit with the stated expertise of any of our experts, but someone out there must know!
If you've got any suggestions on this - or would be happy to chat to the charity grappling with this issue - email firstname.lastname@example.org
We are a small charity, setting up a telephone helpline for people to call when they need basic help with a digital device or task.
Calls to the helpline will go to voicemail, and messages will then be assigned to one of a team of volunteers, who will call the person back.
It's important to note that the volunteers are very part-time, and each one may only be available for a few hours a month; they will not be manning a phoneline from a desk full-time like a call centre employee. We hope to have 50-100 volunteers in total. They will be working from home and we want them to be able to use their own mobile phone, and/or a desktop app, to make their calls.
We are seeking help from Digital Candle because we have not yet found a tech solution that provides what we need, but we believe other small charities out there must already be running similar services and we hope one of your experts might know what kinds of tech systems they are using and be able to give us some recommendations.
A summary of the features we need:
* a service that includes a functional mobile app for iOS and Android: that notifies a volunteer when they have been assigned a message to respond to, and allows them easily to call from within the app
* ideally a desktop app for Windows and MacOS, in addition to the mobile app
* the app should make calls using WiFi, not using the volunteer's personal minutes or data allowance
* the call should use number masking, ie appear to be coming from our central helpline number, not the volunteer's personal number
* to be able to track the call, mark it as responded to, and allow the volunteer to add notes and for example tag it as done or to follow up further etc. Ideally this would be within the calling app, as well as automatically passed through to an internal CRM backend (we currently use Airtable but HubSpot or similar would be fine too)
* a coordinator should be able to assign a new voicemail messages to a volunteer, and for others to see that the call has been assigned and is no longer in the inbound queue
* pricing: many services seem to have a per-user pricing model eg £25 per user per month. But with our setup, of many very part-time users, this is unsuitable and unaffordable. So we need a solution with a flat or per-call fee system rather than per user. Ideally a company offering a charity discount too.
We have trialled Aircall, which fulfils many of the needs above but unfortunately their iOS app isn't yet fully functional.
We are planning to trial other products such as Aloware, Freshworks and JustCall.
We think we may be asking a lot for everything to be handled within a single app frontend, and so we are happy to cobble something together from different services. Obviously more integrated is better! But our priority is an easy and stable experience for the volunteer users, more than needing a simple backend/CRM system "internally".
Thank you in advance for any advice on what others are using to achieve this kind of service. We're hoping to launch our helpline as soon as possible so we'd very much appreciate a response from someone soon.
If you've got any suggestions on this - or would be happy to chat to the charity grappling with this issue - email email@example.com
“Big thanks for the support – it makes a massive difference.”
"Thank you very much for the call this morning. It was very informative and insightful. The holistic approach you recommended is what we needed to hear and it has given us a lot of food for thought."
After much prodding, we've finally created a Digital Candle LinkedIn page. This means experts can add a Candle Volunteering Experience to their Linkedin details, something like.
(To do this, go to your profile on Linkedin, then click on 'Add Profile Section' then scroll down to 'Volunterring Experience'.)
Experts, you can now update your expertise and desired frequency of calls. If you are a Candle expert, you should have received an email with a special link to update your info. If you haven't, check your spam folder. Failing that, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
A charity wanted help with a Grant Management System. None of our 269 experts claimed knowledge of Grant Management Systems, so I asked a couple of possible experts.
I enjoyed this response from Dr Joe Reddington at eQuality time.
Today at 2pm experts from Candle will be supporting 45 charities in one hour in Small Charities Coalition's 'Test the Experts' Zoom call. Good luck!
We've now made 300 introductions. We keep gettting great feedback from charities. Thank you, experts, for making this ppssible.
Thank you so much for organising this for us. I’ve just come off the call with Tallie and I can’t tell you how useful it was. Her suggestions were realistic for us as an organisation to implement and streamline what we’re doing and where online, so we can work out what works for us and focus on that. Tallie gave me some easy to use suggestions that made sense and were achievable.
Joe gave me great tips to make the most of our Google Ad Grants account. I will get started with his suggestions and hopefully see some results soon.
I would definitely recommend Digital Candle to other small charities. They selected Adam, who was very knowledgeable in the field of CRM systems. It helped us move forward with our procurement process. Adam understood the sector and the challenges our organisation was facing. He offered very useful advice.
Andy gave several useful suggestions and it was helpful to see a couple of actual examples he had been working on for another provider. A very simple and straightforward service and I will be mentioning the service and its benefits to my CEO.
August is very quiet at Digital Candle. I hope everyone is enjoying summer holidays.
Here's some nice feedback, from Rachel Shaw at Deaf-initely Women
Thank you so much for helping me with guidance on digital workshops/events in term of GDPR, online booking, feedback etc. Thank you also for all the links – certainly giving me food for thoughts on improving our end. You were very helpful and patient explaining to me and I really appreciate that.
Huge thanks to Corinna Hartwig the Candle Expert who helped Rachel in this case.
Thanks to Ben Serbutt from Fat Beehive who helped Angela.
Also, thanks to John Stewart from Ten4 Design who helped Dumitru Puscasu:
John was very responsive and offered me a coaching session right away. The coaching session went very well and I have quite a few things to think about and work on. I am very glad to you and John for all your support.
Thanks to all the other Candlesticks who volunteered this month! Your generosity makes Candle possible.
We've made a batch of improvements:
I'm delighted to say we have now supported over 200 charities. 204 to be exact! We made our first introductions in February, so we are making about 40 introductions per month.
We've launched a special landing page for charities working in Domestic Abuse. On the expert side, we've got a bunch of digital experts at Neontribe who are particularly keen to help in this area.
We are keen to hear from other umbrella organisations who would like their own landing page, phrased to meet the needs of charities in their area. We'll make this for free. Now we know that charities find Digital Candle useful, the biggest challenge is encouraging charities to post their questions. By creating special landing pages, we hope to be that little bit more enticing.
A number of charities are asking for advice on running conferences or festivals online. Currently, we haven't got a single expert in this area. It must be one of the top emerging skills of 2020! If this is an area of expertise - or even something you are happy to chew the fat about - we'd love to add you as one of our experts. Email email@example.com.
Oh, while we on the subject, I'd love to hear from experts in elearning systems. That is another area where we are short.
Thanks Ross for these questions.
I just wanted to say a BIG thank you for putting me in touch with Gwenno. She was absolutely fantastic and took all the intimidation out of getting our Google Ads Grants account set up. This will really help our organization! Chayn is really grateful to have benefited from this wonderful initiative.
Keith Merriman at Abingdon Digital said:
I really enjoyed it and would love to do more with other charities as and when they come up!
He was helping Patricia David at Hounslow Youth Counselling Service:
I just wanted to say thank you for linking me up with Keith. We spoke today and it has been really useful to have someone understand my technology problem and to help with giving me ideas for solutions. He was really lovely and so helpful.
As ever, thank you experts! Your generosity makes this possible. I keep hearing from charities how much they value the service: one hour of your time makes a huge difference.
Big thanks to William Joseph who conducted some pro-bono research into the experience of charities using Candle. We were delighted with what they found. Their report starts by saying that Digital Candle is:
Highly valued by vast majority.
“Thanks for your help, it was really instrumental.”
Most said that Candle was a way to start their digital transformation - giving confidence by helping people with where to begin. Practical advice by those that have been through the same experience was most important
“It’s completely changed everything actually”
“It gave us confidence to keep it simple rather than trying to do everything. Focus on one or two things well.”
The researchers found three areas for improvement:
1. There was some nervousness about the call being a sales pitch. It's Important that it wasn’t a ‘sell’ call and was run independently.
2. There was some confusion about who Digital Candle is run by, what exactly it is and what the roles of Catalyst and Platypus are. (Note: we've tweaked our FAQ to make this clearer.)
3. The most productive calls were when a charity sent through information beforehand and the mentor had a chance to prepare ideas. One negative comment was when this didn’t happen:
All three of these could be improved by clearer messaging, so that's something we are going to work on.
Overall, I'm tremendously enthused by the positive feedback. It is clear that Candle is highly appreciated. I'm keen to find ways to reach more charities, as each conversation we enable unlocks a small cascade of benefits, first to the charity and then to that charity's users.
Thank you, experts! It's your generosity with your time that makes Candle possible.
In fact, we’ve blown past the 150 mark. We've now made 163 introductions since we started in January.
Thanks to all the volunteer experts who make this possible. And thanks to all the charities who take the plunge, articulating their digital question in the hope that a random stranger might help.
Last week, we had a handful of questions from people wanting to put on larger online events. How to make them work smoothly? How to make them fun? How to make them useful?
I’m sure this will be an increasingly common need. Our challenge is that no one on Candle classifies themselves as an expert in the subject. It’s not something people were really considering a couple of months ago.
Is this something you've got ideas about? Have you read any good articles on the topic? Any links, tips or suggestions, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Candle has 201 experts who have volunteered their time. Of these, eight offer Google AdWords as an area of expertise. AdWords is one area where demand for advice outstrips supply.
When experts sign up for Candle, we are only asking for an hour of time. But I was wondering, would people be happy to offer more time? Last week I plucked up courage to ask. A couple of AdWords experts said they would be happy to help every fortnight! That’s great to know. It’s experts like you who make the whole service possible. Thank you. (And anyone else with expertise in this area, please mail in!)
We love to hear from you! Any tips, suggestions or just to say 'hi'. Email email@example.com.
p.s. Not sure if anyone will have noticed, but apologies for missing last week’s update.
RJ Working supports young people and adults in developing Restorative Practice as a creative approach to conflict resolution. They approached Digital Candle to identify the best platform to deliver their training online. The call helped them to decide to trial Circles for group work with adults and Zoom for Year 11 students, based on their audience, the features, functionality and security of each. Here's what they said:
Digital Candle came at just the right time and was very reassuring. Having a sounding board helped articulate what we were looking for and why, it helped us identify what platform to use and gave us resources to follow up with our new safeguarding policy.
We’ve been getting lots of questions about Zoom, security and safeguarding online. Joe Roberson is a Candle expert with knowledge in this area. He's distilled his thinking, and the questions arising some Candle calls, into a pair of articles:
Here's a nice bit of feedback from a charity that wishes to remain anonymous. Thank you, expert James!
We had a really productive one hour tutorial with James, thanks for putting us in touch. He is very professional and took a real interest in our cause. He will try to help us to identify a platform to transform our training to, and offered to help check the consultants we might hire for this work. Also, he gave me great advice how to make our first Zoom trial training session this Friday go more smoothly.
Really useful and helpful, thank you very much.
We keep getting fabulous feedback from the charities you've been helping. For instance:
It was incredibly helpful and a fabulous use of an hour.
- Gemma Juma, setting up a charitable foundation at Petchey
I just wanted to feed back that this was a really useful and productive hour for me, thank you! Jim, my expert, was able to give me a really useful summary and also answer my detailed questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. What’s more, we were able to touch on two other areas very effectively in our hour – sponsored events fundraising and a quick review of a crowdfunder appeal page. Add all that together and the call was worth its weight in gold! Thank you again.
- Darragh Grey, Bonny Downs
I had planned to do these last week, but lockdown life got in the way.
This is still my biggest unknown and biggest worry. What proportion of matches actually lead to a conversation? There have only been a couple of complaints but perhaps people are unlikely to complain as Candle is a free service.
A couple of ideas how to fix this:
Any brilliant ideas appreciated!
There’s a few thing we don’t know about Digital Candle experts. Are they willing to do multiple calls, or did they sign up on the understanding it is just one? Are they still up for it? Have their skills changed?
I’m going to investigate using: https://miniextensions.com/airtable-edit-form/ which allows each recipient to edit just their own data. As our data is currently in Google Sheets (not Airtable) this will be a bit of pain. I'd love to hear if anyone knows of a Google Sheets way of doing this. Or any other ideas.
Currently we are getting lots of Covid-realted questions about making the switch to remote service delivery. We are running at about 12 enquiries a week.
Initially we had many more experts offering advice than charities needing it. Now charities have caught up, meaning we need more experts.
Compounding this, in the sign up flow, we didn't ask experts if they'd be willing to do more than one call - so I'm a bit stuck as to which experts are willing to offer their advice another time! We'll be emailing our experts to see whether they'd be up for doing additional calls. If you know any digital experts, please encourage them to sign up. And bear in mind, you don't need to be a a PhD-level computer scientist to count as an expert in the Digital Candle world. If you know a bit about Zoom or Facebook or remote service delivery, we've got charities that would love your help.
We keep hearing that being an expert is a wonderful way to make a (small!) positive impact on the world. For instance, Sonja Wiencke at Evaltech just emailed to say:
I've had a first call with Joy, we'll have another one on Friday. This was my first digital candle call and I wanted to let you know it was great. Thanks for setting it up!
For people wondering about about service delivery remotely. Here's a couple of articles we've found useful when providing guidance on the topic:
A great pleasure of making Digital Candle introductions is that both the charities and the experts get so much out of it. Here's some of the feedback we've received in the last fortnight:
'[The Expert] really helped us to identify the sort of platform we may need to reach the children and families who attend our schools during closures so that we may provide them with a healthy breakfast... the work already done has been incredibly valuable.'
Emily Wilkie, Magic Breakfast
[The Expert] was able to give some no-nonsense advice in a down-to-earth and approachable way without inducing in me any fear or sense of being sold a marketing line. I’ve got a much clearer idea now of what I want to do with social media and how to fit it into my strategy.
Steve Sayers, Windmill City Farm
'This was a really smashing way to start my working day today, thank you.'
Sarah Carter, talentwitch.com
I just wanted to let you know that my session... went well this morning. We had a really enjoyable hour discussing the ways they could take things forward. In fact they are doing a lot of good things already too, so I think it was a productive conversation.
Gill Munro, Common Sense Social
If you are considering signing up as an expert but not sure what you are getting yourself in for, here's reports from two people who took the plunge:
What would you say if you only had 60 minutes to give an organisation all the digital advice they needed to run an engaging online strategy? This was the challenge I faced when I got matched up with a charity as part of the Digital Candle initiative.
Today I had my first Digital Candle call with someone from a community centre. She used the hour-long call to talk about how to start a digital strategy project.
If you are knowledgeable about digital, joining Candle is a high impact, low-hassle way to make a difference. All the evidence is that our charities find it super valuable to talk to a digital expert. A one-hour call often sets them on a new trajectory. Sign up as an expert here!