Using Data to Serve the St Pancras Community


Sponsor: SPCA
Sponsor Liaison: Nigel Spencer
Student Team:

Joshua Barney, Matthew McGourty,

Vivian Vacharakupt, and

Annie Zimmerman

Abstract: The goal of this project was to identify strategies and software that may be used to better manage the collection, maintenance, and analysis of data at the St Pancras Community Association (SPCA). We conducted background research and interviewed staff at the SPCA, other community centers, a local funding organization, and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) companies. We conducted a needs assessment and developed criteria for choosing a CRM and data management strategies. We recommend SPCA immediately implement simple fixes, such as timekeeping and organization structures, and adopt the free CRM “Time to Spare.” Pending the availability of funds in the future, we recommend SPCA move to the paid CRM “Beacon” which offers additional tools and functionality.

SPCA – Final Report

Final Presentation

Executive Summary

   1. Problem Addressed

The Saint Pancras Community Association (SPCA) was founded in 1999 in the London Borough of Camden to provide services to residents, especially those living in the Saint Pancras and Somers Town ward (, 2023). The SPCA is in a neighborhood with a greater proportion of at-risk and underserved groups than other Camden Wards (Camden Council, 2016). The SPCA provides a variety of services to meet the needs of those groups, such as programs for the elderly, a nursery, and a community kitchen (, 2023). The SPCA collects large quantities of data on their beneficiaries and programs and has been managing this data using Google spreadsheets and paper forms. These approaches limit how the SPCA collects, evaluates and reports data that might be useful in evaluating services and attracting funding.

   2. Objectives

The overall goal of this project was to identify strategies and software that may be used to better manage the collection, maintenance, and analysis of the SPCA’s organizational data. Our team achieved this goal through the following four objectives:

  1. Determine the data management needs and preferences of the SPCA staff, volunteers, patrons, and other stakeholders (such as members of the board of trustees and outside funders).
  2. Evaluate current and best practices in the management of customer data by other community organizations, particularly as it relates to funding practices.
  3. Assess the advantages and disadvantages of different types of customer relationship management (CRM) systems, including freeware and commercial options, used in the voluntary services section.
  4. Provide a roadmap for short to long-term data management and begin implementing early phases.


  3. Methods

We conducted background research on Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems and interviewed staff at the SPCA, other community centers, a local funding organization, and CRM companies. During interviews with SPCA staff, we asked what kind of data they collected, what their process for data collection was, what went well in this process, what did not go well in this process, and what they use data for. Data from interviews with SPCA staff was used to develop a checklist of criteria for a data management system, and this criteria was confirmed by interviews with local community center staff who were asked similar questions. We also sought potential data management solutions used by other centers during staff interviews. The checklist of criteria was tested against potential CRMs, and if a system did not meet enough of the selection criteria, we eliminated it from our list of contenders. Finally, we combined the results of our data collection and research into a final set of recommendations for the SPCA, including a free, paid, and other short-term technical solutions.

   4. Needs Assessment:  Determining the Data Management Requirements of the SPCA

We found that the SPCA collects large amounts of data on beneficiaries, including contact information, addresses, health status, and services that they use (Figure 1). All of this data is known as “beneficiary data.”

Figure ES1 – Data collected by the SPCA which counts as “beneficiary data”.

Currently, the SPCA employees link this data to beneficiaries in an Excel or Google Sheet, holding each person in one row of the sheet while columns contain data about that beneficiary. The SPCA collects most beneficiary data using paper membership forms, which is then manually entered into digital spreadsheets. When asked, staff reported that this system performs poorly, as it lacks automation and costs employee time.  Staff reported that they must manually sort through the nursery forms to retrieve and update data. This process is laborious and does not work well for the department’s needs. Many staff highlighted challenges associated with the lack of standardization, automation, and centralization of data collection and storage. There is no standardized evaluation process at the SPCA. Many evaluation efforts are conducted on an ad hoc basis to meet funding requirements and lack specific milestones and markers by which to gauge program success.

Based on the needs assessment, we developed a set of criteria for the selection and design of a new data management system. These criteria are depicted in a checklist form (Figure 2).  “Tracking beneficiary information” and “tagging users & sorting by tags” are two important criteria. All SPCA staff emphasized the need to track beneficiaries as a basic administrative function. Tagging would allow staff to identify and sort beneficiaries by program, health status, and other attributes to demonstrate to funders what kinds of beneficiaries are served and how they benefit. Since using data to meet funding requirements is a major cost of time at nonprofits, features which simplify report generation for funders are particularly valuable.


Figure ES2 – Checklist of Eight Requirements for Evaluating CRMs.

   5. Current and Best Practices at Other Organizations

We interviewed staff at three community centers and one funding organization based in Camden. These interviews confirmed the findings from our interviews with SPCA staff and introduced potential data management solutions. The three community centers are of a similar size to the SPCA in terms of staffing and beneficiary base, and provide similar services.

Although the three centers collect similar data in a similar fashion as SPCA, these centers collect additional data and conduct more evaluative efforts. Centers reported using additional demographic data to report to funders, such as ethnicity,which the SPCA does not currently do. One community center surveys beneficiaries on program registration and continues to survey beneficiaries as they progress through the program. The center uses this data to demonstrate the effectiveness of programs to funders. Currently, the SPCA does not have a systematic or standardized process for effective program evaluation.

The community centers interviewed used the data management systems Time to Spare, Salesforce, and Substance Views. The funding organization had begun recommending Time to Spare to grantees. The community center using Time to Spare was very satisfied with the system. The other two community centers reported less satisfaction with their current systems. The 

Salesforce user was dissatisfied because the system was expensive, implementation took a long time, and features initially promised by their third-party installation consultant were excluded. The center using Substance Views found the software does not meet all its needs, so they are seeking software to supplement its capabilities. Based on this feedback, we concluded that Time to Spare was the best available option.  

   6. Advantages and Disadvantages of Different CRMs

Based on background research and interviews, we drew up a short list of six CRMS that might meet SPCA’s needs and our selection criteria (Figure 3).

Figure ES3 – Final contenders for data management systems for the SPCA

The first three systems listed (Google Suites, HubSpot, and Timer to Spare) are free systems. As can be seen in Table ES1, Time to Spare performed best in all categories except the client-to-employee ratio, which we used as an indicator of customer support. As a small Camden-based CRM, Time to Spare has only three employees and a client base of over 500. Despite this, we determined Time to Spare is still likely to be the best fit for the SPCA since it has “Good” technical support (as determined by reported response time and a personal interview with the staff of Time to Spare) and fulfills 7/8 checklist requirements.


Table ES1 – Comparison of Free CRM Systems.

The last three systems in Figure ES3 (Insightly, Donorfy, and Beacon) are paid systems, compared in Table ES2. Insightly was eliminated as a contender because of its higher cost margin. Donorfy was eliminated because it focuses on donors instead of beneficiaries, and the SPCA requires a system focused on tracking beneficiary information. This leaves Beacon as the best option. 

Table ES2- Comparison of Paid CRM System

7. Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on our background research and interviews with staff at SPCA, three local community centers, and a local funding agency, we recommend a “roadmap” approach to implementing improved data management practices (Figure ES4). We recommend:

  1. SPCA takes immediate steps to better organize its data collection and storage procedures, using Google Suites and the timekeeping system we devised. 
  2. SPCA considers implementing Time to Spare in the short term. Time to Spare is a free CRM that appears to have all the features currently needed by SPCA. It has good technical support and is being promoted by one of the major local funding organizations of nonprofits in Camden.
  3. Pending the availability of funds, SPCA should implement the paid CRM option, Beacon. Beacon provides a superior package to Time to Spare, such as better reporting features. If the SPCA’s needs are not fulfilled by Time to Spare, and they acquire funding, then Beacon is a high quality, affordable CRM option. 

Figure ES4 – Graphical representation of roadmap recommendations