Coronary Heart Disease is one of the single biggest killers in the UK. Heart Research UK seeks to prevent, treat, or cure as many cases as possible. To that end, they raise funds which go towards research grants, education, and community projects to improve heart health and save lives.
They’d been using Donor Strategy for almost 20 years. This legacy system had not been well-used in the organisation for quite some time. Many functions required a specialist skillset which was no longer available to Heart Research UK. If your CRM is not user-friendly and requires a lot of manual work that people cannot do themselves, they will struggle to see the value.
It also used an on-premise server as opposed to cloud based. While the pros and cons of that could potentially be debated, it became untenable for Heart Research UK as remote working became more common. They knew they needed to change to a system that could better support their mission in the modern world.
They brought in a new data manager, Laure Rigal, who had been heading up CRM for BBC Worldwide for over half a decade and had plenty of experience prior to that to lead the migration.
First of all, Donor Strategy just looked very old fashioned which puts most people off. So that became my key criteria really. It's got to be intuitive and customisable. It's got to feel easy to use so that people want to use it. It was really important to me that the new system enabled people to be self-sufficient.
Heart Research UK also identified two other criteria. Firstly, there was a lot of potential in developing and automating the donor journey. They were already using Dotdigital for their emails so an integration with that would be a clear benefit.
Finally, it was essential that the organisation gained a better understanding of its own data. Reporting and data analysis was possible in Donor Strategy, but it was time consuming and required specialist skills.
Laure used her experience with big business procurement and tender processes to design a scaled-down process for Heart Research UK. After they had identified their requirements, they conducted a market analysis and benchmarking process, which brought Beacon into the top four.
I'm new to the charity industry, so I was really careful not to influence too much. People asked who my favourite was. I liked Beacon straight off, but I wanted them to go through the process scientifically and see who comes out on top. I’m really pleased it turned out to be Beacon as they were definitely the right choice.
Following some demos, Heart Research UK further reduced the candidates to two suppliers. They issued a brief asking to see exactly how they could use the software to manage applications for their sponsored places in the London Marathon.
Beacon attended the meeting and showed them how that might be done in real time on a live database. The second provider presented a set of slides that showed how it might look in their database. Apart from not meeting the brief, the second supplier also confirmed the suspicion that their software was not as user-friendly and flexible as they were presenting it to be.
During the sales process - and after we signed on - Beacon have been one of the most responsive teams I've ever worked with. In my previous employment, I've paid extra for enhanced support services, and it wasn’t as good as what we get from Beacon. They're really doing a great job.
Heart Research UK now run their stringent selection process for the London Marathon entirely in Beacon. In fact, thanks to the native integration with Dotdigitial available in Beacon, they’re well on their way to managing their entire donor journey centrally.
Heart Research UK have replaced manual actions prone to errors with automated processes. Previously information would have been downloaded, rejigged, and then typed into the database, which provided little value. Now, Beacon forms take the data directly where it needs to be as soon as the supporter submits it. The carefully customised database and the tools within enable the charity to manage their processes in a way that suits them.
They still have big plans for their CRM, but they’re already enjoying the benefits of improved efficiency, transparency, and data clarity.
I think it's been quite a revelation for some people. Not only has this busywork been taken off their hands but they can see numbers they’ve never seen before updating in real time. It's just such a transformation from where we were. Honestly, everyone absolutely loves it. I get daily comments about how brilliant it is.