A round-up of Hart Square Training Programme

In 2021, our experts here at Hart Square delivered two series of the Hart Square Training Programme: How to deliver successful projects. We created the training programme exclusively for non-profit organisations, to contribute to building digital and change capability.

Discover the impact of the Hart Square Training Programme in the infographic below.

Are you looking to deliver a successful digital project in your organisation? Attend our free upcoming webinars to hear from experts from across the sector as well as get guidance from the Hart Square Team. Discover all upcoming events

10 characteristics of a successful non-profit leader

The past 18 months have challenged everyone, especially non-profit leaders. Many have not only bought their organisation through the pandemic but also lead them through successful digital projects. But what qualities enable these successful leaders to achieve these feats?

Here are ten characteristics of highly effective non-profit leaders.

  1.  Adaptability

    • We talk a lot about the accelerated pace of change being driven by the digital age and exacerbated by the pandemic. As a leader, you need to maintain strategic objectives but be adaptable to circumstances when it comes to tactics
  2. Capable of navigating uncertainty

    • The pandemic reminds us that we can be at the mercy of unprecedented events; leaders negotiating a pathway through it for their non-profit have to be able to plan in a world of uncertainty, recognising that elements are beyond their control and ensuring they have contingencies and mitigations to offset unforeseen disruptions.
  3. Adept at building relationships

    • No one can claim ownership of a successful non-profit strategy, it takes an array of skills and experience. The physical distribution of workforces caused by the pandemic has enabled us to prove that we can build relationships and collaborate remotely, but more to the point that we need to collaborate. No successful leader is an island.
  4. Decisiveness

    • Timely decision-making is crucial to being successful, and there’s a delicate balance to find since the decisions you make will have consequences. The line to find is such that you don’t take too long to make decisions or you’ll miss opportunities, but you have to be confident in them.
  5. Flexibility

    • Aligned with the point about being decisive, you also have to find the balance with being flexible. Don’t shy away from changing your mind, that’s a sign of being adaptive and flexible, but you can’t change your decisions too often or you’ll appear indecisive and create uncertainty.
  6. Boldness

    • It’s not a time for the feint-hearted to deliver leadership, whether you’re driving change or resisting it you need to be committed and show the courage of your convictions. Sitting on the fence and waiting for the storm to pass just won’t cut it now.
  7. Engaging/charismatic

    • Being the voice of a non-profit means being able to share your passion in a concise and engaging way, with multiple audiences and demographics.
  8. Connected

    • Your non-profit’s ethos and success is driven by its cause; your employees, funders, donors, members are part of your world because they want to be associated with it so keep it at the heart of everything you do and connect your initiatives to the impact they have on your cause
  9. Understanding the need for Trust

    • Trust is another area that cuts both ways for a successful non-profit leader. It’s vital that you are trustworthy, that you cultivate people’s trust, that you live up to that trust in your actions, and that you reward people’s trust in you by being transparent and consistent.
    • Equally, you need to trust those around you; they’re there with you because they share the cause (see above) and because they choose to be there. That of itself tells you that they believe that you have shared objectives and that they can contribute, they have a role to play. If you lay claim to leading them then your responsibility is to understand where that trust is coming from and to harness that goodwill.
  10. Being open to influence, and critique

    • Don’t be too precious about your ideas holding sway, you want to encourage input from the experience all around you, and you need to be open to adopt or adapt suggestions where appropriate, then recognise and praise the source.
    • Similarly when you’re challenged or critiqued the mark of a true leader is to accept and embrace the challenge, to use it as an opportunity to make your case (respectful of the challenge) or to acknowledge the value of the different perspective and to negotiate a new approach or decision or direction in its light.

Defining the difference between a Project & Business as Usual

At Hart Square, we have the great pleasure of working with our clients across the non-profit sector to deliver transformative technology projects that will support and enhance the experiences for members, fundraisers, and beneficiaries. However, it’s important that before our clients embark on a piece of work, they understand the difference between a project and business as usual (BAU). I will set out here the key differences and how to approach both to ensure successful delivery.

When is a piece of work a project?

Defining when a piece of work is a project is a critical element for any organisation to consider. The two key questions to ask are:

  1. Is the piece of work temporary with a clear endpoint?
  2. Is it delivering a unique product with a defined purpose?

A defining characteristic of a project is that it’s a temporary structure with a defined start and end date, so a project will be specifically initiated, then once the activities have been delivered, the project has been completed and will be closed. If there is no defined go-live or end date, then it’s likely this is business as usual activity or process. An example of this would be membership renewals that take place throughout each year where a series of regular processes would occur.

Aligned with this, the second key question is whether the work is delivering a unique product with a defined purpose. A project aims to produce deliverables that address a problem or need that has been identified before it starts. A good example of this is a new CRM or website which would be looking to increase the fundraising income and profile of the charity.

There are several other characteristics that are important to define a project but the above are two things that really stand a project apart from BAU.

Defining Business As Usual

BAU can typically be defined as a standard day to day business operation that ensures continuity within the organisation. This would include a range of activities such as monthly reporting, IT helpdesk or supporter services. These functions operate through a day-day activity, throughout the year, often repeating the tasks and are not time-bound or have a specific capital budget associated with the work.

The cross-over of resources

Finally, there is one area of cross-over to consider and that is the approach to resources. There needs to be an acknowledgement of the resources and people involved across both projects and BAU to ensure there isn’t resourcing gaps and challenges across the organisation and that people have sufficient time to deliver the quality of work that is required.

It’s critically important to understand the difference between a project and BAU, when defining which approach to take to the activity. It’s important to take the time to plan the activity effectively, understand the timings and how you as an organisation define the work required. Projects require a distinctly different approach and mindset; they are solving a problem and it’s important that they are temporary. In time, project outcomes may become part of BAU activity in organisations and become embedded across an organisation.

Guide to getting started with a podcast

Podcasts are a great way to consume information, discover new insights and to ultimately feel connected to the topics and people you are listening to – that’s why 15.6 million people in the UK listened to podcasts in 2020! 

This year at Hart Square, we wanted to build stronger connections with our audience and share our knowledge and insights in a whole new way … and so, considering all the above, the Hart Square Podcast was born!  

The prospect of building and developing something we did not have previous experience of was both exciting and daunting but here we are, on the other side of producing our first podcast series. 

We figure we’re not alone in having wanted to initiate a podcast, but we had little clear guidance on how to get started when we did. We thought we’d therefore share our experience so if you are thinking about starting your own podcast, here is a quick guide to help you get started.   

Why start a podcast?

Before you start any new project or task, it’s always important to understand your ‘why’. Why do you want to develop a podcast?  

Are you looking to build connections with your audience? Do you have passion or expertise on a topic that you want to share? Answering your ‘why’ sets the foundation and intention of your podcast helping you shape and build your episodes, the content of which will ultimately build those connections to your audience.  

Plan, plan, plan!

Once you know why you are creating a podcast, it’s now time to plan your podcast. Here are just some of the questions you need to answer in your planning stage:  

  • What topics do you want to discuss on your podcast?  
  • Who will be on our podcast? Who will be the presenters and what guests would you like to feature?  
  • How many episodes do you want to create initially?  
  • What frequency do you want to publish your podcast?  

Recording is easier than you think!

So, you have your topics, presenter and guests set and now it’s time to record the episode!  

If you are recording the podcast ‘in-person’ it’s important that you make sure you have the right equipment ready, including microphones and a recording device.  

If like us, you decide to record your podcast remotely, many of the meeting software options you use every day, including Teams and Zoom are great for recording your podcast. 

In both cases, ensure that all equipment is working correctly, and there is minimal background noise to ensure a clear recording!  

It is also worth thinking about how to have a backup recording, just so you don’t risk losing a great podcast…. 


The editing stage can be slightly overwhelming if you have no previous experience of editing audio, but there are lots of easy-to-use software solutions out there as well as tutorials on how to edit together your podcast.  

We use Audacity which is free and user friendly but there is a whole host of editing software out there! 

Don’t forget you can also use royalty-free music within your podcast. This is great to help build the transition between your intro and the podcast itself, as well as moving into the close. Pick wisely as this will help build the identity around your podcast. 

Publishing and Promoting

Now you have edited your podcast together, it’s time to publish and promote.  

It’s important to think through where you would like to publish your podcast. People access podcasts on many different platforms, including the well-known Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify so ensure it can be accessed in these places. It is always a great idea to have your podcasts available on your website too which will help continue to drive traffic to your website. 

We signed up to Blubrry for hosting our podcast, and from there we are able to submit it in bulk to the main platforms we wanted the podcast to be available on, as well as publishing it on our Wordpress website. 

So, there you have it, a quick little guide to building to creating and producing your own podcast, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and it’s been helpful, do let me know if you’d like any more hints and tips on this topic. Good luck! 


The Hart Square Podcast is out now!

Listen here

How User Stories can help you produce the Perfect Specification

Most of the technology partners implementing new solutions in the non-profit sector will now produce specifications that capture client requirements as User Stories. This is a departure from the traditional approach and, as may be expected, I have seen some misunderstanding about what this entails and some nervousness about how the functionality is described.

In my opinion, there are some real advantages to such an approach and the perceived lack of detail is not a barrier.

I would like to explain exactly what a User Story is, why this method is advantageous to your project, and why it can produce the perfect specification!

What is a User Story anyway?

A User Story is a non-technical, natural language description of a software feature, written from the perspective of an end-user or other stakeholder.

A simple way to think about it is, Who, What, Why. Who needs to do something? What do they need to do? Why do they need to do it?

A User Story is structured as a sentence that will read, “As a [WHO], I want to [WHAT], so that I can [WHY]”.

Take a couple of examples:

As a Finance Manager [who], I need Invoices to be generated as a result of event bookings [what], so that the booking organisation is aware of what needs paying [why].

As an applicant [who], I need to be able to provide evidence against each assessment criteria [what], so that I can meet the requirements for full membership [why].

But what is the advantage of expressing your requirements in this way?

Thinking outside the organisation [box!]

Let us first take another look at the first part of the User Story; the ‘Who’. It is this expression of different stakeholders, roles or personas that makes a User Story so powerful. This enables you to look beyond what you need to do your job and look instead at what your stakeholders want to do to interact with your organisation successfully.

I imagine your project includes an objective about better engagement with your stakeholders. User Stories allow you to put yourself in their shoes; who are they? What is their motivation and what do they want to do? And what is the outcome they expect?

Your specification should certainly include User Stories that state, for example,

As a donor, I need to be able to set up a monthly donation…”, or

As an applicant, I need to be able to upload my CV for review…”, or

As a reviewer, I need to access applicant details and documents to review them or membership…”.

I do not believe that a list of functional requirements captures this in the same way; providing instead information about what you want your stakeholders to do, not the same thing at all.

Tech project vs. non-technical staff

Secondly, a User Story is completely non-technical; there is no reference to a CRM, and no reference to fields, tables, entities, buttons or even specific functionality.

There is no confusing language.

This means each User Story can be easily understood by the business teams across the organisation. No technical knowledge or understanding is required; each individual team member can relate a User Story directly to the work they do, or the actions a member, or donor needs to complete. Remember, your non-technical staff are the people that need to agree your specification.

Describing your needs, not your solution

Finally, it enables the analyst writing your specification to draft your requirements without having to consider how the system will work. There is no mention of what information may need to be captured or any business logic that may need to be applied to the function.

This is especially important as it gives you the confidence that your needs have been captured accurately, and you are not making compromises based on what a system can do out-of-the-box, or because of any preconceptions the development team may have.

When the development work begins, most likely at the start of each sprint, the detail behind each User Story will be described. Your partner will draft implementation notes that express the fields, data, logic and functionality in more depth. But this is a level of detail that is far too deep for your specification.

In my opinion, the use of User Stories to express your requirements is not something to be nervous about. A specification written in this way will provide reassurance that your business, and your stakeholder, needs have been captured effectively, and are easily understood by all parties.

This sets the foundations for a successful build.

Securing budget approval for change management

A reading list for business case developers  

It is a much-heard siren song: projects fail that lack change management.

The 70% failure rate originated within the Hammer and Champy book “Re-engineering the organisation”. In 1993. The failure rate has not improved greatly in almost 30 years. Hart Square’s recent research found that 86% of projects failed because of problems faced with an organisation’s strategy, processes and the management and support of people. We still see many tech odysseys set forth without a change management plan and team onboard.

Yet there is hope.

Organisations in the sector are pushing for a commitment to well-planned change management activity within major technology change and digital transformation. This is most evident in our work with those leaders developing business cases for project funding.

If you are one of these brave individuals, you may well recognise this article’s central dilemma:

How do we prove a budget for change management will be worth the money?

Hart Square has a growing pool of qualified change managers, of which I am one.

I aim never to confuse people with theory. In this area of practice, there is much value in staring at the sun that is change management’s many theoretical concepts. There much truth lies.

The Change Manager’s Handbook is my well-thumbed desk companion.

In itself, it is an invaluable reference point. It branches off to vital reading in your quest to prove why your organisation must consider change (not just project) management investment.

Here are but a few very notable bases of evidence:

Think resistance to change

Your organisation, like all others, exists in a complex weather system of drivers for, and resistors, against change. Kurt Lewin’s Force Field Analysis will help you to explore these dynamics to gain a true understanding of change resistance inside your organisation. This will help you prove there will be a following wind behind your change, maximising drivers, and minimising resistance.

Think structural and cultural barriers to change

Your organisation, like all others, is unique in the way it exists. It has a unique culture. It is also somewhat complicated by the way it has adopted classical structures, be it hierarchies or networks. Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organisations simply lays out the various organisation structures and how these operate. This will help you understand who you are and how change works best for you.

Think fear of change

Your organisation, like all others, fears change, especially if done unto it without support or understanding. The foundational work of Elizabeth Kübler-Ross on Human Responses to Change – “the change curve” allows you to understand the stages people go through during change, and how you may identify and support people towards a place of acceptance and problem-solving.

Think chaos caused by change

Your organisation, like all others, does not like ambiguity and is eager to know that your change is well-planned into phases of transition. William Bridge’s transition model (Endings, Neutral Zone, New Beginnings) and Lewin’s Three Step Approach to Change (Unfreeze, Change, Refreeze) will offer two proven ways to plan and communicate the stages of change ahead across your organisation.

Think stakeholders – many different views about change

Your organisation, like all others, draws people to it who have major, differing stakes in its success. No one wants to be ignored. Everyone wants to know about the change and what’s in it for them. Patrick Mayfield’s Stakeholder Radar is one simple exercise you can run to identify, segment, and analyse your many stakeholders and plan what engagement they will need while changes are made.

Think Business-As-Usual (BAU) versus Change

Your organisation, like all others, is extremely busy, with work that cannot be dropped to help you make changes. Managers in particular will fight to protect resources if they believe you have not fully justified why releasing people to support change helps them. John Kotter simply describes a Dual Operating System which will help you build twin tracks of BAU and Change activity.

Think anxiety about learning and change

Your organisation, like all others, is anxious about learning new skills. People learn in different ways. One size does not fit all. Peter Honey and Alan Mumford’s Learning Styles will help you understand people’s learning preferences to plan training well. Isobel Myers and Katherine Briggs’ MBTI™ model is world renowned for its focus on personality types, and thus, different responses to change.

Think unhelpful feedback about change

Your organisation, like all others, is prone to trapping responses to change and not releasing the valves to numerous useful “feedback loops”. Peter Senge’s Systems Thinking describes a desired “self-reinforcing process” by which you may encourage positive forces which allow change to happen successfully in your organisation, restricting unhelpful forces and collecting vital feedback.


A qualified change manager will bring all of the above theories and more to bear during a change.

We understand the change management journey starts early at your organisation. We understand it is sometimes on your personal To-Do list to secure this investment. Theory is important as it adds evidence and integrity to your bid for funding.

These theories truly drive change and face down failure.

Get in touch if you would like to find out more about how we can support you on your change management journey. 

Series 1 finale – Hart Square Podcast

We have spent almost 12 years dedicated to the non-profit sector and this year we wanted to find new ways to share the range of valuable insights we have gathered over this time.

As well as sharing our thoughts and perspectives about the current and future digital challenges existing in the non-profit sector, we wanted you to get to know us a bit better. We thought what better way than creating a podcast! And so, the Hart Square Podcast was born.

We have just finished our first series of 6 episodes where Rob Dobell, Managing Director of Hart Square, and I, discussed a range of topics with our team, across the themes of Digital, Leadership, Culture, and Capability. We covered the importance of research when selecting new CRM technology, what does digital transformation really mean for a non-profit and how to build a successful project team, just to name a few.

We really enjoyed putting together our first podcast series and it seems you have too with the positive feedback we have been receiving! So, you will be pleased to hear that we are now planning ahead to series two which will be published every 2 weeks from September 2021.

Whilst we look forward to series two, now is your chance to let us know what topics or guests you would like to hear from. Let us know by sending us a message on Twitter, Linkedin or by sending us an email to marketing@hartsquare.co.uk 

Whilst you eagerly anticipate series two, don’t forget series one is available on your usual podcast provider or by clicking the links below.

Listen now to The Hart Square Podcast 

We look forward to seeing you on the next episode!

If you want to learn more about digital transformation and project management, check out the online project management training that could complement your knowledge on this topic.

Part 2: Are you a part of a learning organisation?

In part one of this article, I talked about how becoming a learning organisation can unlock the potential contained in a system and explored how effective learning can take place at the individual level. In part two, I will discuss how you can ensure effective learning can take place at both the team and organisational level.

Team development 

At the team level, the learning needs to focus on collective observation and reflection, based around a framework of shared goals and mission. This also goes hand in hand with a supportive environment where rather than blame and recrimination for sub-standard performance, the team is supportive and involved in helping all members to develop capability and increase contribution. This requires an openness to discussing individual behaviours in response to feedback and to apply and continually monitor these behaviours, and the use of collaboration tools and the sharing of individual knowledge is essential to facilitating this. 

So, in effect there are four major areas for consideration: 

  1. the purpose of the team and the team success criteria 
  2. the make-up and dynamics of the team 
  3. the design of the technical infrastructure to support the team 
  4. the process of team development 

Specific behaviours that lead to team development include: 

  • members having a range of overlapping skills and competencies 
  • the leader acting as a coach and mentor, rather than a traditional supervisor 
  • problems seen as collective issues to be resolved, not just managers problem 
  • teams developing their own solutions 
  • teams setting and monitoring their own targets – and monitoring these 
  • members having direct customer contact wherever practical (customers may be external or internal) 
  • the need for constant personal upgrading is recognised and encouraged by all team members 
  • rewards are diverse and situational 

Organisational learning 

At the organisational level, there may be considerable barriers to the development of collective learning, including a lack of recognition of the need within the staff body, functional and geographic barriers (especially since Covid-19), a risk-averse culture, and a lack of buy-in and encouragement from leaders at all levels of the organisation. 

In order for organisational learning to continually take place, there has to be an organisational commitment to allowing it, through planning, policies, encouragement, recognition and investment, both in technology and human resource. 

The organisation has to critically examine and be honest about identifying and measuring its’ core competencies and addressing the deficits that exist. 

There may be a performance gap relating to a lack of efficiency in cost, quality, response time to queries and requests for service which can be directly addressed but there may also be an opportunity gap. 

An opportunity gap is an area where resources could be profitably deployed to create new opportunities, whether new markets, products and services or generating more customers/members. Addressing an opportunity gap is a more problematic activity but can be addressed in part through: 

  • Gaining staff commitment to innovative approaches 
  • Leveraging resources to focus on functionalities rather than products and services 
  • Energising the whole organisation to concentrate efforts by developing a collective mindset, shared goals and developing strategies for acquiring and deploying the individual knowledge and competencies to the common good 
  • The development of governance processes that foster ever-better quality of relationships across traditional business units and functions and sees the collective learning spanning organisational boundaries 

For organisational learning to develop there needs to be more than just information passing. There needs to be sharing of individual and team learning and the willingness to invest in the technical infrastructure to support this. 

Are you looking to implement new technology and want to ensure you can unlock the potential contained in the system? Get in touch to find out how we can support you.

6 top tips for deriving benefits after your technology go-live

After the hard work and investment, you need to ensure you’re getting value from your system and your project is delivering the benefits it’s supposed to. So here are our 6 top tips for deriving benefits after your technology go-live. 

Download the 6 top tips for deriving benefits after your technology go-live


For further information and expert guidance on realising the benefits of your new technology, attend our free training on How to ensure your project delivers real benefit.

Busting the myths of salesforce.org

With Lianne McGrory UK & Ireland Country Manager at salesforce.org and Rob Dobell Managing Director at Hart Square.

At Hart Square, we provide a range of guidance and support services exclusively to non-profits who are considering changes to their technology. Our advice is completely technology-agnostic and to help our clients make the right choices for them, we make it a priority to keep in close touch with the many organisations which can offer solutions to the non-profit sector, including salesforce.org.  

Whilst salesforce.org is one of the best-known CRM systems, and we consider it to be a strong proposition for non-profits, we have found that sector has not embraced it to the extent we might expect.  

With that in mind, last month Rob Dobell, Managing Director at Hart Square was joined on an expert panel by Lianne McGrory, UK & Ireland Country Manager at salesforce.org. They tackled some of the most common questions that they hear from non-profits and busted some of the myths around salesforce.org. 

Salesforce have had a specific non-profit offering for the last 11 years  

Salesforce.org, previously the Salesforce Foundation, have had a specific non-profit offering for the last 11 years, Lianne explained. “This is a pre-built package on top of Salesforce technology, built specifically for non-profits, speaking their language, and built to follow their processes.” 

Philanthropy has been at the heart of Salesforce since its inception, when it was set up with the 1-1-1 model in which 1% of the Salesforce technology, income and volunteer time would go back into the non-profit sector. As part of this model of giving back, Salesforce.org provide 10 free licences to any charity in the world. Lianne explained that of the 3,500 organisations in the UK and Ireland which use Salesforce technology, 65% are using their free licences.  

As the client, you do not need to have huge amounts of technical knowledge  

Rob and Lianne explained that a common misconception of implementing a Salesforce solution is that, in addition to the implementation partner, you need lots of client-side technical knowledge. Rob explained that this is not the case, but you do need to be able to describe what you need from the technology. Additionally, you may want to provide some form of training for your team to ensure you can get the best out of the solution.  

Understanding the costs and complexity 

There is still some perception that it is difficult to calculate the full cost of a Salesforce.org project. Rob and Lianne explain that at the early stages of any change project, you should work out your goals for the project and gather a clear set of requirements. At the end of the discovery phase, you will be able to solidify the scope of the project with associated costs and timelines. Rob details that it is important to be disciplined throughout the project, holding new ideas for later developments, to ensure you can protect both your time and budget.  

Lianne also added, that if you have chosen Salesforce technology and you are concerned about costs and complexity, it is important to voice your concerns with the Salesforce team as there may be ways to cap, limit or predict changes in costs over time.  

Hart Square’s Definitive Guide to Salesforce for non-profits 

At Hart Square, we believe Salesforce.org is a strong offering to the non-profit sector and we have set out to explain it our Definitive Guide to Salesforce for non-profits which you can download for free here 

The full panel interview, including the live Q&A, with Lianne McGrory UK & Ireland Country Manager at salesforce.org and Rob Dobell Managing Director at Hart Square is available to watch back here