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The Sobell Foundation

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The Sobell Foundation have been awarding grants for over 40 years, funding projects for charities which focus predominately on care, education and training, both in the UK and Israel. They process around 900 applications on average a year and expect a significant increase in applications following the current global pandemic. 

The Challenge

Prior to Benefactor we had a bespoke “Access” database, created for us over 16 years ago, which served us well,” explains Penny Newton, Grants Administrator. “However, as technology inevitably evolved, this system became increasingly difficult to update and it was slightly limited within its ability. For example, we would have to input each application manually, which ends up being quite a lengthy, laboured process. 

The Solution

The Sobell Foundation approached several different companies who offered automated grant managing software, but after initial shortlisting and product demonstrations, it was Benefactor that came out on top.”One of the major things that stood out for me with Benefactor was the ability to have the online applications,” explains Penny. We’ve been live for around 8 to 9 months now and Benefactor has saved us a tremendous amount of administration time.” Any changes after a long period of time with one system are often challenging to adjust to, and the Sobell Foundation have been finding ways to adapt to new ways of working within Benefactor. “Our old system wasn’t as flexible as Benefactor.” Penny points out. “Which meant the reports were always displayed in a particular way. It’s been difficult for me to adjust to the change; however it has allowed me to be more adaptable in this area and remind myself that it doesn’t need to be displayed in the old way and we can still get the information – just in a slightly different layout. It’s been a case of kicking out the traces of the old system and reminding myself that this is something new, let’s just see how it goes and work with it accordingly. Gallery understand that using new software can be daunting and time consuming, even if you are a computer whizz. That’s why we offer a 3-day induction training for Benefactor, led by our resident expert trainer Valerie Merrill, along with a live helpdesk for any ongoing support-related queries. “The initial training from Valerie and ongoing support from the Benefactor team, Nicky and Muhib, has been excellent,” Penny remarks. “With any new software training, it’s very much a case of going away and practicing with it. I personally feel I have to do it myself and get to grips with it, which then of course means finding areas that I need a bit more assistance with. We’ve had several meetings and calls with the team at Gallery and Nicky has been brilliant at locating where I’ve been going wrong and ironing out any glitches. She’s been using “Quick Assist” to remotely log in, which has certainly sped up diagnosing and resolving any issues.” Gallery Partnership are always looking for new solutions to aid their clients and enhance our products. When the Sobell Foundation hit an obstacle uploading information into their online banking account, the Benefactor team were on hand to find a resolution. “One of the most important things for me was to upload payment records straight from Benefactor to our online banking service,” explains Penny. “It took some time to obtain from the bank exactly what they needed to do this. Initially, it transpired that the bank had a rather complicated BACS process which Benefactor was unable to reproduce. At first this was a bit of a shock, as this was one of the primary reasons for changing systems. However, Muhib investigated this issue further and found a solution combining a software called “Filemaker” and creating built-in reports within Benefactor, which could then be used to convert payment extracts from Benefactor to the correct banking format. After a few initial teething problems, this has actually worked very well, and I can easily get my reports for the trustees, so they clearly see what they are authorising.” After discovering this new workaround, the Benefactor team have incorporated these changes into the software for several more charities, due to most banking processes becoming more automated. Penny concludes,“Overall, I am very happy with Benefactor and despite certain areas I am still getting to grips with, like anything new, it is just a matter of using it more and getting used to it.”

Client Testimonial

 “One of the major things that stood out for me with Benefactor was the ability to have the online applications…We’ve been live for around 8 to 9 months now and Benefactor has saved us a tremendous amount of administration time.” 

Penny Newton, Trust Administrator