Acorns selects new technology partner with support from Hart Square

Charity |  1300 volunteers  |  CRM


  • Old CRM was unable to adapt to modern ways of working
  • Increasing manual workload when accessing data for insights


  • Detailed requirements gathered from across Acorns
  • Acorns selects a new technology partner with confidence

Key services

  • Requirements Gathering
  • Creation of ITT
  • Partner Selection

Acorns Children’s Hospice provides support to children and the families of children who have been diagnosed with life limiting or life-threatening conditions, across the West Midlands.

Acorn hospices run a variety of therapeutic activities in a homely environment. In the past year alone, they have helped 945 families across the West Midlands.

A legacy system

Acorns have had their current CRM for the last 30 years. Although serving their needs well initially, over time there were increasing strains on the capabilities of the CRM to adapt to modern ways of working. Vicki Rowles, Acorns’ Head of Fundraising, told us, “We were outgrowing the system. Over time we’ve kind of made the [old CRM] fit for us, but it’s not necessarily the way it was designed.” Increasingly those workarounds were becoming untenable.

Further, approximately two years ago Acorns established a new, specialist data team to understand and generate insights over the data they held. However, the processes required to draw these insights held by the old CRM necessitated extractions that were, “more and more manual.”

Although there was some hesitance about making such a large change to the organisation, and changes to a system that was so familiar, Acorns placed an emphasis on the change piece early.

Precisely identifying the pain points with the old CRM, and communicating them internally, was an important part of this process that made the case for a change organically, to all levels of the organisation.

One of their goals with the project was to give their supporters, “the best possible journey that we could.”

Where I might have made a decision because I felt like I just knew Acorn's better, Hart Square was really impartial, they go with the data, the information, the knowledge that's shared. Hart Square brought that sense of calm and almost a translation of what was happening which we could understand.

Vicki Rowles
Head of Fundraising, Acorns

To achieve this, Acorns brought in an external consultant to help them shape supporter journeys. They did an excellent job working with teams to standardise many processes that were, until then, unwritten. “She was the one who said… I’ve got an amazing organisation that you could work with. She was the person that introduced us to Hart Square.”

Vicki felt Hart Square adapted to Acorns specifically. “What I found was that Hart Square listened, took that on and then they kind of worked their plan around what we’d already set out.”

Gathering requirements

Hart Square ran workshops to understand the requirements that Acorns would need from a new CRM. Using anonymised discussions, without management, increased the rigour of this process. “There was no mention of who said what or how it would come about. So once the first group had seen that, it made the other groups far more likely to speak.”

Hart Square highlighted areas where more clarity or development was needed from their requirements. Vicki told us this was highly valuable: “if I had just been faced with the document, I would have missed that.”

Selecting the right partner

Once the ITT had been created Hart Square coordinated a thorough partner selection process.  Hart Square went back through the requirements all over again with “a really fine-tooth comb” to get ensure an in-depth understanding of the system before engaging with the tech partners.

Vicki explained that they were “great at just being calm and explanatory”, guiding Acorns through the Hart Square method whilst also being happy to alter the process to suit their needs: “He was really accommodating.”

Hart Square then drew on its technical expertise to help interrogate the offerings, and then “really translated it into English for the non-technical level.” On the tech partner side, Vicki said their Hart Square Consultant, “prepped them really well” so they had a solid understanding of Acorns’ needs. Hart Square became “the consistent point throughout it all.”

Vicki told us that she valued the fairness that was brought to the selection process. “So, where I might have made a decision because I felt like I just knew Acorn’s better, [Hart Square] was a really impartial, they just kind of go with the data, the information, the thing that’s shared…” She felt Hart Square “was just that sense of calm and almost translation of what was happening.”

Vicki’s advice to organisations in a similar position was to “expect that things are not going to happen exactly the way you planned.” She emphasised the need for a diverse range of skills and experience internally. “I think probably my biggest piece of advice would be to say don’t do it on your own and make sure that you get a well-represented working party from your own organisation.”

“I think building a good relationship with whoever you’re working with as a consultant does make a difference.” Vicki felt that a good rapport was key.

Finally, Vicki recommended self-awareness over one’s abilities and experience as key, “to have a real good level of self-awareness, to know where your own gaps or weaknesses… make sure that you fill them with other people.”

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