Using Surveys to Assess Needs and Prioritise Support

BRR explain how they've been using surveys to assess need and prioritise support.

Organisation Profile

How is your charity working towards Digital Inclusion? 

We are buying people devices and topping up people's data and credit. We ran a crowdfunder which raised about £18,000 - which is significantly more than anticipated. And we've also had phones donated from another large company. We are taking referrals from our partner organisations in Bristol. So we feel we’re in a really good position to get people connected.

How are you using digital with your members? 

Providing devices and data means we've been able to move many of our activities online during lockdown. We’ve held our member consultation groups online and Pride Without Borders, our LGBT+ support group also meet using Zoom. We have a WhatsApp group for families in our Early Years project. For our 1:1 work with members we’ve mostly been using phone calls.

We haven’t yet got classes or more social groups set up but that's our next plan. We think the first sessions of those will be helping those use Zoom and laptops.

How many people have you already supported/do you aim to support? 

We have purchased about 40 devices for people, such as basic smartphones and tablets. Members have a choice, depending what makes the most sense for them.

We’ve also purchased 100 top-ups of data. We usually top up £20 using Lyca, they have a great deal called the UK Mega Plan which gets you 12GB of data a month.

How do you decide who gets this support?

We use a Google Form which asks people a series of questions about what they need and what they’ve already got. For the phone top-up we don’t have any criteria, anyone who asks receives it. We haven’t put it on our website but we’ve put the word out with partners. We realised everyone was struggling which is why we didn’t have strict criteria. 

We felt this was a nice way of being able to top-up remotely, but there have been challenges. Three Mobile only allows one top up per day per credit card, when you try to use multiple credit cards they can get blocked for fraud. We’ve since started using paper vouchers and text the member the voucher number.

Members don't receive texts telling them their credit has been topped up, which can lead to some confusion, so we follow up with a text message telling the member the amount topped up and how long its expected to last.

For devices, we have a point based system. Points are given for the following reasons: 

  1. Do you currently have access to the internet? (No = 2 point)
  2. Do you currently have a smartphone? (No = 2pt)
  3. Do you currently have a computer, laptop or tablet? (No = 1 pt)
  4. Are you currently working and/or receiving benefits? (No = 1pt)
  5. Are you reliant on hardship support, e.g. from Red Cross, Borderlands or BHN? (Yes = 1pt)
  6. Do you have children, if so how many? (1pt per child)

The Google Form puts this into a spreadsheet and this gets reviewed by the team once a week, looking at those with the highest scores. The other factor we look at is how long people have been on the list too.

We buy roughly 5 devices a week to allocate. Once the 4-5 people have been agreed, we send questions such as ‘do you need us to order a SIM’ and ‘can we contact you’, ‘can we contact other partners to let them know you have a device’ as well as brief  disclaimers about technical support, loss and theft. 

What made you choose this method?

External partners can refer people and it's great to use internally too. We wanted something to be quick, transparent and something different people in the team could pick up at any time.

The Google Form works well because it links directly into the Google Sheet.

How do you distribute the tech?

We order the phones directly through Argos or Curry’s and get them delivered directly to the person. We’ve gone for the cheapest smartphones, at roughly £70. When we purchase devices for members, we also top them up too.

What challenges have you encountered?

It’s relatively time consuming to top-up devices. Our chairman and board members do this through their debit cards, which doesn't feel like the best use of their time.

But other than that, it’s working really well. We haven’t been overwhelmed with requests.

There will come a point where we’re not able to do this so freely so we’re worried about the expectation we’re creating amongst members.

Might you stick with this method going forward?

We’re tweaking things as we go along. We have money in the budget to carry on top-ups until the end of the financial year.

Because of the corporate donation of phones we had from Tesco (roughly 100). We’re able to meet demand for the next few months in terms of distributing devices. 

What’s been really effective is the campaign we did around phones, “Don’t take me for granted!” which resonated really well with those who donated.

What feedback have you got from clients?

People are really pleased. It makes a massive difference. We’ve had a lot of lovely calls to our advice line from people saying thank you.

It’s especially transformative for those with children, who need to access school work and entertainment.

It’s been really helpful for advice appointments, therapy and welfare checks. We are so used to working face to face, seeing someone's face on video really helps you get a sense of how they really are and how well they're coping.

It is much easier when doing complex case work too and when members meet with solicitors, they need to see your face. Knowing that this might be the future for a while, it feels much much safer.

We intend to gather some more concrete feedback in the months to come.

What practical advice would you give to other organisations?

Be aware that lots of people are working on this. Initially we weren’t sure that we could meet the need and were hesitant because we didn’t feel comfortable not being able to meet people’s needs.

I would say go for it, creating a strong strategy for the fundraising campaign works well. We’re happy to share more resources to prevent others having to reinvent the wheel. 

How do you get funding for your Digital Inclusion work?

We’ve had a few offers from corporate companies who have offered great discounts on bulk deals. Be wary about the terms, as we have been asked to hold contracts in members' names. But this is negotiable.

As mentioned, we ran a crowdfunder and have raised £18,065.