The Poppy Factory Case Study

The Poppy Factory Case Study

Harlequin Software underpins multiple teams and complex data needs at The Poppy Factory.


When Melanie Waters joined The Poppy Factory she had ambitious plans to create a new employability service for disabled veterans, establish a fundraising department and build a business development function. Now, as the historic charity continues to evolve, Harlequin CRM serves at its central hub, helping to manage and maximise complex relationships with reliability, integrity and ease-of-use.

Why did you need a new charity management system?

We didn’t have a proper charity software system and had been making use of Word, Excel and Access. The charity was rapidly growing as we had established a new fundraising department from scratch, a business development function as well as our ‘Getting you back to work’ service. Disabled veterans and donor numbers started off small but we fast realised that as numbers grew we would need to protect the integrity of our records, cross-reference a lot of information and ensure the data would work for us – rather than us being a slave to information. We needed to be smart about managing and protecting our data, as well as developing relationships sensitively across teams.

Why did you choose Harlequin?

Harlequin’s approach to customer service shone out – we knew we could work with them in the long term. The software was clearly versatile and easy-to-use, and could do the most against our requirements document without too much compromise. They were also honest about what the system couldn’t do as yet and took on board development ideas. Affordability was also relevant and Harlequin stood out for quality and value. We also felt assured of Harlequin’s experience of working cross-sector, especially in NHS charities and hospices, which also have sensitive data and deal with multiple relationships.

"We continue to be impressed with how Harlequin work as a team; they have a real customer ethos."

How does your organisation use Harlequin?

Our Employability Consultants are key users of the system, recording client information, communications and employment options, which means a range of interfaces with clients, mentors and employers need to be carefully and sensitively managed. Workflows in template screens have been designed so clients receive a consistent experience. In Fundraising, private individuals, corporates, major donors, trusts, legacies and events are managed with the software, as well as everyday fundraising such as donation management, Gift Aid and thanking. All donor records have been built from scratch on the system, including setting up relationships; indicators are being used to define interests for segmentation and targeting campaigns.

What is your experience of customer care from Harlequin?

We continue to be impressed with how Harlequin work as a team – they have a real customer ethos and service mentality, rather than it just being about a product. During the go-live process, we never felt remote from Harlequin and they were responsive to our evolving needs – we felt in safe and experienced hands. Ongoing training and support is high quality and personable.

"Harlequin’s approach to customer service shines out and the software is versatile and easy-to-use."

What are the main benefits?

We have a unified system that works across our organisation. All data and communications are in one place delivering a complete picture of clients, donors and potential supporters. We can develop relationships with clients and donors sensitively and effectively, whilst managing our cross-over of data. Now we can readily report on data accurately for management and financial analysis, avoiding a lengthy manual process. We provide a consistent and quality service to disabled veterans and have clear processes for donation management. We have more confidence in compiling funding bids and case studies, with quicker access to supporting information on the system. We can forecast in fundraising to show potential income as well as actual income.

What advice do you have for others implementing a new system?

Create a comprehensive requirements document otherwise you risk ‘creep’ from your original specification. Also, involve anyone who is likely to use the software in some way when you are scoping your needs. Very early on, collect all the data you have about contacts and take the time to thoroughly cleanse it.

What three words best describe Harlequin?

Versatile, customer-centric, fulfilling.