Case study from The Harvey Hext Trust  

25 June 2024 – To mark Small Charity Week (June 24-28), The OR Society, the leading membership organisations for operational researchers, is highlighting its Pro Bono OR scheme, an initiative that connects volunteer operational researchers with small charities to help them enhance their efficiency, impact and decision-making processes.

Small Charity Week is a campaign designed to empower the UK’s small charities, helping them tackle challenges and make a greater impact on society. With 150 pro bono projects completed by 2100 volunteers since 2011, The OR Society has significantly helped charities by applying analytical methods to help them address key challenges.

For small charities facing funding challenges, access to free professional expertise can be invaluable. Most third-sector organisations are small; 92% of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) members have an income under £1 million[i]. Given the tough economic climate predicted to continue through 2024, these organisations are struggling with rising costs and increasing demand for services.

One small charity that has benefitted from the Pro Bono OR scheme is The Harvey Hext Trust[ii], a national charity created to honour the memory of the founder’s late son, Harvey, that gifts personalised Memory Boxes to children who have lost a sibling or parent, to help them in their grieving process.

Since it started in 2016, The Harvey Trust has helped hundreds of families; however, it hadn’t yet documented in a structured way how many Memory Boxes they had gifted, or when and where they had been sent. They turned to The OR Society to create a database for this information, so they could grow and expand their service to areas they have not yet reached.

The solution devised by the volunteer analyst was to create a database in an Excel spreadsheet, plus a report, including summary tables and charts that refresh dynamically as the database is updated.

Data collection came from invoices issued by the trust’s supplier who sent out the boxes to families. Within each invoice, the main data collected was the type and number of items, delivery postal code and invoice date. Once gathered as individual pdf files, they were scraped to extract the main data using Power Query in Excel.

The database and report were subsequently designed in Excel to produce a user-friendly interface the trust could continue working with. Under the supervision of the volunteer analyst, the trust started adding new invoices to the database, also including a new item that was recently added to the portfolio of items gifted by the trust (“Holdall” bags).

The benefits for The Harvey Hext Trust have been outstanding. It has enabled them to kick-start a more structured data collection process which is essential as their activities expand.  With their achievements and impact transparent and quantified, this information is now able to be incorporated in grant applications, website content and general communication activities.

This can help boost funding and donations. It has also enabled them to identify gaps on current geographic coverage which can be proactively tackled through their work, so they can support even more bereaved families and children.

Eve Hardy, Pro Bono OR Strategic Manager at The OR Society said: “Our Pro Bono OR scheme is of huge value to small charities and can help them achieve their objectives, deliver greater efficiencies and higher quality services, amongst other benefits.  Our volunteers can provide support in a range of areas including strategic planning and review, data analysis and insight, and options appraisal through to process improvement, decision-making, and impact measurement.

“During Small Charity Week we want to highlight this scheme as a unique way for third sector organisations to access flexible and free expertise which can support how they work in many different areas. As organisations face increasing pressure to reduce costs whilst improving efficiency and effectiveness OR can play a key part in helping them survive and thrive.”

Interested charities can get in touch by emailing ProBonoOR@theorsociety.com or learn more on our website https://www.theorsociety.com/get-involved/pro-bono-or/pro-bono-or-for-the-third-sector/

 

[i] [i] https://www.ncvo.org.uk/about-us/our-services/support-small-charities-voluntary-organisations/

[ii] https://harveyhexttrust.com/