Sheffield Hospitals Charity Story

Sheffield Hospitals Charity Story

Sheffield Hospitals Charity manages 350 funds and 18 charities with Harlequin Charitable Accounting.

When Sheffield’s teaching and non-teaching hospital charities merged to form the Sheffield Hospitals Charitable Trust and related charities, their Head of Finance decided it was a prime time to revise their charitable accounting software needs. His team are still delighted with the service they receive from Harlequin. The organisation is now called Sheffield Hospitals Charity (SHC).

Why did the Harlequin Charitable Accounts system stand out?

With our last system, it was hard to manage and extract information in the way we wanted. With Harlequin, accessing information is a lot easier and the software gives us the flexibility to set up our accounts as we want them. The system allows us to go to the deep level of transparency that we want to achieve. We can readily link ledger codes to the relevant line and column in our accounts and set up new lines as required.

How was the installation and what is your experience of ongoing support?

We had a painless migration from our previous system as Harlequin had done the same conversion numerous times before. We then had two days onsite training at the end of which we had achieved full usage of the software; from creating new records to producing our accounts. Initially, we needed to call Harlequin quite frequently, but were never made to feel stupid. The team are patient and respond quickly, and they encourage us to feedback ideas to develop the software.

"With Harlequin, accessing information is a lot easier and the software gives us the flexibility to set up our accounts as we want them."

What benefits has investing in a new system brought to your organisation?

We have complete confidence in our annual Charity Accounts and they are presented exactly as we want them. We are also able to respond much more quickly to requests for information, such as from fund managers or the fundraisers, and have saved a lot of time on labour intensive tasks and improved communication across departments.

Do you have any best practices examples to share about how the system has helped improve the efficiency of your department?

We have scanned the signatures of fund managers and added them to their contact record on the system, so when requests for payments come into the department we can instantly check the required signatures on screen as well as ensuring that sufficient money is in the fund. This saves a terrific amount of time. Instead of sending out monthly statements in the post to fund managers, we are now able to email monthly and ad hoc updates. The monthly mailings now take hours rather than days thanks to automation within the system. For complete accountability and transparency, with Harlequin, we are able to produce accounts for every fund if required, as well as presenting results at the umbrella fund level.

"Harlequin’s charitable accounting system is exceptionally user-friendly and we know it has evolved over the years to meet changing SORP requirements."

Why have you continued to work with Harlequin for so many years?

The Harlequin Charitable Accounting system is exceptionally user-friendly and we know it has evolved over the years to meet changing SORP requirements and the needs of increasingly busy departments. The Harlequin team provide great support and are very receptive to development ideas and user requirements. We were pleased to be key contributors to the 2005 SORP changes in the system and, as active members of the Harlequin User Group, are always keen to review new releases to ensure we are using the system to its full capability. The user groups are a rewarding way to share ideas and meet other members of the community.

What advice would you give to other hospital trusts looking for a new charity accounting solution?

Most critically, ensure that the system meets the SORP charity accounting standards and that it incorporates any recent SORP changes. Also, don’t let the software limit the design of your accounts. Before you start, consider the structure of your chart of accounts; question whether the system can support you in the way you want to work and present the level of detail you want to show. Do you wish to use the old NHS categories for expenditure or be more flexible in your reporting? Do you wish to analyse the balance of every fund over each asset category? Can you produce an accurate set of accounts easily? Think long-term: ensure the company offers good aftercare support and services as you will be working with them for many years. Do they have a user group that you can get involved with? Do they listen to their customers when it comes to developing the software? Do they keep abreast of changes in charity accounting?