How saving six days a month on admin made room for charity
This not-for-profit empowered staff with automated spend and expense management, creating more time for what matters.
Making Space is a government-funded, not-for-profit charity and provider of adult health and social care services across the UK. Their network includes residential and nursing homes, supported living and community inclusion.
We asked Sandra Curran, Purchase Ledger Coordinator at Making Space, how their centralised finance team meets the challenge of delivering nationwide services.
Read on to see how Sandra went from six days a month of reconciliation admin to half a day and how Making Space kept caring through the COVID-19 crisis.
The challenge: Clearing the clutter of the traditional process
From travel expenses to on-site resources, delivering support invariably means spending money. So, like many charities, Making Space tried using credit cards to manage employee spending.
But, hampered by administrative hurdles and seeking to free up time for themselves and other and staff for more valuable tasks, the finance team quickly spotted in-built limitations.
It was quite monotonous, quite messy. Some of our sites would have three- and four-page statements. So, the number of receipts that used to come through was a nightmare.
The first challenge for finance managers was setting up and changing spending limits on the cards. Contacting the credit card company and getting through security was difficult and time-consuming, preventing them from adjusting those limits whenever they needed to.
Then came the gruelling task of processing spend at month-end:
- Each member of staff collected receipts, scanned them and sent them to the finance team
- Employees populated a spreadsheet-based expense form with relevant categories
- The finance team received piles of paperwork and went through each statement
- After checking the receipts, they’d chase people for missing details and late reports
- Then, a gruelling manual data entry process came before an expense was finally filed
“So it was quite monotonous, quite messy. Some of our sites would have three- and four-page statements. So, the number of receipts that used to come through was a nightmare. Just trying to go through each one would take you days!” Sandra Curran, Purchase Ledger Coordinator, Making Space
Making Space was also using cheques for access to petty cash.
With the rising number of bank branches closing, employees would have to travel long distances to cash each cheque – just to buy essentials for their jobs.
Sandra and the team understood that this was unsustainable and set out to deploy a solution that would give employees more time to deliver valuable services.
They did just that and, when the coronavirus crisis landed, that solution helped the team at Making Space to keep their services running – exactly when it mattered most.
The context: A crisis of consequence
A decline in income and a rise in demand – that’s the quandary charities faced when the crisis took hold. To meet their objectives, many had to draw on their reserves.
Among the multitude of problems they faced, including long-term staff absence and service reduction, was an alarming lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Giving everyone in the organisation the means to purchase PPE as soon as they found it became vital.
The solution: A fast, safe way to manage spend
The Finance Director at Making Space researched payment alternatives to credit cards, comparing the processes and evaluating the benefits of making the change.
Trialling prepaid cards
An experiment with the Soldo platform followed. The team gradually replaced petty cash with a handful of prepaid cards, starting at the Head Office.
It didn’t take long for employees to embrace the brighter way.
At last count, the organisation was using 106 Soldo prepaid cards. Initially, they used one card per service, but this rule has since changed to accommodate bigger establishments. The HR department, for instance, has about half a dozen cards.
Sandra says flexibility was the first big improvement in the switch to Soldo. The days of calling up credit card companies to change limits were over.
She can now top up employee cards to any specified amount – anytime, from anywhere.
“Touch of a button, and then the money’s on people’s accounts.“
Total transparency was another difference-maker, shifting the focus away from financial detective work to forward-thinking strategy. Sandra and the finance team at Making Space can now see – in real time – what’s being spent, by whom, and when.
Employees can check how much budget is at their disposal, and finance managers don’t need to authorise each purchase, because the in-built rules administer the spending policy for them.
Managers can set exactly which categories of purchases employees are authorised to spend money on (e.g. travel, medical services, grocery stores and supermarkets).
It means the finance team can trust that all cardholders and departments have everything they need at their disposal, without the risk – however low – of overspending or fraud.
Their limits are set, the cards are in their hands.
“It’s got great flexibility and it makes my life a lot easier“
And their solution finally eliminated the faff of receipt scanning and spreadsheet reporting, which robbed employees of time that could be spent delivering their indispensable services.
Employees now upload receipts after each purchase – saving the finance team from chasing up missing documentation. With the Soldo app, employees just snap a photo and it’s automatically sent to the administrative web console.
Once that’s done, Sandra can download all the transactions and import them into the accounting software, meaning she and the team can get back to more valuable jobs.
The busy team at Making Space didn’t have spare time to learn a new system. So, the intuitive Soldo apps and a dedicated Customer Success Manager were welcome components, helping to smooth any bumps in the road during onboarding.
On top of that, Soldo is always open to suggestions, allowing the team at Making Space to help build the product they need.
“In the past, banks have not been interested in providing a better service. Whereas I know the Soldo team are interested in feedback and want to make changes to make the system better. Our comments are welcomed, and the tech team want to make changes and want to make the system better.” Sandra Curran.
The results: A change for the better
The finance team now makes use of a broad variety of features to control budgets. Reallocating budgets between employees and departments is easy – something with real benefits in times of transition, like the coronavirus crisis.
Sandra can use the desktop web console or her mobile app to move money between cards, so the charity can respond to the needs of the team in record time.
“We now have flexibility. We can top up people’s cards as and when we feel like.”
The finance team used to take almost a full day every week to handle petty cash, process transactions, produce cheques, get them signed, and send them out to their services. Reconciling credit card statements took another two days each month.
Now, allocating funds takes half the time, giving Sandra and the rest of the team more time to make a difference.
“Petty cash and reconciling credit cards took a total of 6 days a month. Now it takes me half a day. It’s saving us time!”
Before Soldo, Making Space employees had to fill out spreadsheets and scan receipts – enduring a lengthy, boring process just to report spending. This often resulted in inaccuracies that the finance team would have to correct.
With Soldo, employees capture receipts on the mobile app, and transactions are instantly visible in the administrative system. Inaccuracies, financial detective work, and nagging emails are a thing of the past.
Every charity was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, and Making Space was no exception. But, because their team has access to Soldo cards, they were able to respond to the unique circumstances more dynamically.
Finding PPE became a priority for all organisations during this pandemic, but it was especially important for services caring for people at higher risk from coronavirus.
At the start of the crisis, the ability to purchase specific items wherever and whenever needed proved extremely advantageous. At Making Space, the team had different people searching for PPE online, contacting companies that sell it – and making purchases it as soon as they found it.
It all helped employees to get more comfortable with the system and, consequently, better at expense management.
Voluntary sector organisations were forced to find new ways to manage their cash flows and stabilise spending during the crisis.
A flexible and transparent spend and expense management solution such as Soldo can help organisations to simplify accounting tasks, eliminate manual admin, save time and money.
This isn’t just useful during a crisis, it’s an inherent part of preparing for the future.