CILIPS Conference 2010

May 26, 2010 by

Calling all Information Workers in Scotland!  Just a reminder (or an introduction if you weren’t aware) of the upcoming CILIPS (Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in Scotland) conference.

It will be held in Glasgow at the Mitchell Library  from 7th to the 9th June.  There’s also Branch and Group day which runs concurrently on 9th June.

So you’re wondering what it is… well it’s a gathering of other people within the Information community.  There are 4 strands to the Conference / Branch and Group day: Learning for Life, Digital Futures, Curriculum for Excellence and Yes! We Can!

You can attend the sessions you’re interested in or just network with other attendees.  There’s also a marketplace where you can purchase library related items or even speak to someone from the Copyright Licensing Agency.

It may not seem like the conference fits with the voluntary sector roles we all hold but actually, there’s lots of speakers and topics that can have a direct bearing on the work we do!

I’d say if you’ve never been before, Branch and Group day is great experience! It’s good value for money (£45+VAT for CILIPS members or £52+VAT for non-member AND it includes lunch!) and it’s an opportunity to meet people with a similar interest.  Not to mention the fact that if we all attend, we’ll raise the profile of the voluntary sector within the Information sector.

I’m hoping to attend the Branch and Group Day so maybe I’ll see you there.

For more details about the conference visit the CILIPS website: CILIPS

FYI – Registration closes on 2nd June!


Twitter as a Marketing Tool for Charities

May 13, 2010 by

As I mentioned in my last post, the Soil Association Scotland recently joined Twitter. Many charities are now on Twitter and it offers an excellent way of keeping up to date with your stakeholders and supporters.  This article is based on personal experience and does not represent anything like an official Soil Association approach to Twitter.

1. Think about it first. Browse Twitter and see how people use it, before setting up an account.

2. Once you start, tweet with confidence. You want to sound as though you have something to say that’s worth listening to.  

3. Be focussed. At the same time don’t just use Twitter purely to market, because that will bore people. Some people successfully use Twitter as a noticeboard where they only post occasional marketing notices, but by adding in other related items of interest, you make yourself more interesting and improve your Twitter experience. 

@SoilAssocScot tweet about our events and publications, other events we attend, news from the organic movement in Scotland and notes from our office allotment. 

If your charity is on both Facebook and Twitter, try not to say exactly the same on both, specially if your audience is the same in each case.

4. Follow people! They may follow you back (though following is not necessarily two way!). As a charity, most people who are seriously interested in your work will respect the fact that you don’t have time to follow them back. It’s better to have relatively few followers who are really interested and who will read and engage with you, rather than a thousand followers who never read you.

5. Make a ‘favourites list’ for the days when you’re too busy to read everyone’s tweets.

6. Retweet things! If a charity you follow has just posted some vital news you can share that with your followers by retweeting it. This shows you’re interested in engaging with the medium. It can also help to build your Twitter persona.

6. Use hash tags. Hash tags are a way that Twitter uses to group tweets on the same topic. @SoilAssocScot’s favourite hash tags include: #food and #organics. If you add a hash tag to your tweet then other people interested in that topic will pick up your tweets and may start following you or re-tweeting you as a result.

7. Talk to other people on Twitter by including their names in Tweets. This makes you seem more approachable and can win you followers and make you more influential. Twitter also offers a private message service for when you want an ongoing conversation with someone.

Follow Soil Association Scotland on Twitter:

What is your advice about how to use Twitter to market your charity?

Can Social Media Work for Your Charity?

May 4, 2010 by

I’ve just started working for the Soil Association in Scotland. One of the things I noticed when researching the charity was that the Headquarters office are very active on Facebook and Twitter. These are very useful places for a charity to be if you are public facing and Twitter can also be very useful if you work with other non-profits or with corporate partners as everyone seems to be on Twitter these days!

But will it work for your organisation? You need to have something to say on a regular basis without resorting to repeating yourself endlessly. You need also to have the staff resources to keep your accounts up to date and the management support to let staff do the updating, to publicise your account and to interact with supporters and others who follow you. You can set up separate Twitter accounts or Facebook pages for different projects or for different local offices, but only if there is good reason for doing so.

We’ve set up a separate Twitter account for Soil Association in Scotland. This will offer updates on events in Scotland, publications and reports available to Scottish supporters and notes about the progress of our organic office allotment. It will also mean that we can follow some of the many organic retailers and farmers and other useful food and environment related people on Twitter. We won’t be setting up a separate Facebook page, we’ll feed our news into the main Soil Association Facebook page.

This is still in the very early days, but you can follow us at:  I’ll update here on our progress as we go along, and my next post will be some advice on using Twitter that I’ve developed from my own personal Tweeting!

Freedom of Information Part 2

April 12, 2010 by

This is the second guest post from Paul Mutch from the office of the Scottish Information Commissioner.

There are many examples where FOI has been put to good use by a range of voluntary organisations and campaign groups. The Commissioner’s 2009 annual report details a number of these cases. This post shares some of them.

The disability charity ECAS, for example, has used FOI to access information on Edinburgh Council’s decision to reduce funding to the Edinburgh Disability Equality Forum, while Inclusion Scotland has actively used FOI to gather information on the availability of appropriate housing for people with disabilities.  The charity has gone on to use the information collected to work collaboratively with local authorities and politicians to improve services.   

The Rarer Cancers Forum has used FOI to discover that twice has many patients in Scotland have to appeal for special treatments than in England, while, the coalition group ‘for Scotland’s Disabled Children’ (fSDC) is currently using FOI to examine local authority spending on services for disabled children.  The progress of fSDC’s requests can be tracked online at, a website which helps individuals to make FOI requests.  

At a grassroots level, the C Diff Justice Group –set up by the families of those who died during the 2008 Clostridium Difficile outbreak – have been using FOI as part of their ongoing campaign to prevent any reoccurrence, while campaigners from the Scottish Rural Schools Network have actively used FOI in successful campaigns to prevent the closure of rural schools. Information released to the Network also played a role in ensuring that legislation to protect rural schools was strengthened by the Scottish Parliament.

As these groups demonstrate, FOI has the potential to be a valuable tool for the sector, and has already helped to make a difference in the work of third sector organisations.  For further information on using FOI, visit, or contact the Scottish Information Commissioner’s team at, or by phone on 01334 464610.

Equality Network and IOSG join forces for a special meeting

April 8, 2010 by

Here at the IOSG headquarters (really just my desk at work), I’m very excited to tell you about the next IOSG meeting.  Its a special joint Equality Network & IOSG event that will include 2 speakers; a representative from SPICe (Scottish Parliament Information Centre) and Tim Hopkins from the Equality Network who will be giving a presentation on ‘how to lobby’.   At the very end, the IOSG will meet briefly to catch up on business.

Date:  Tuesday 13th April 2010
Time: 10 to 1pm
Where: Training Room at the LGBT Health and Wellbeing Centre, Howe Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6TE

Let me know if you can make it no later than Monday by 12 noon so we can ensure enough biscuits and tea. (email Shayna or leave a comment)

I hope to see you on Tuesday.

How to Evaluate Information Work – Part 3

April 6, 2010 by

Are you reaching the right people?

In the previous article in this series we discussed how people can find out about your work. But how do you know whether your information reaches the right people – those who need your services or those who are most likely to support your cause? And are those people using your information in useful ways?

 People may subscribe to your e-bulletin but never open it, or take a printed leaflet and just recycle it. Hopefully your eye catching design and compelling text means that this doesn’t happen, but how can you find out?

 If your services are in demand, and you have an ever increasing subscription list and a pool of regular donors and volunteers then your communications are probably working! On the other hand if no-one seems to be interested then you may need to improve your communications.

 The statistics about your website and e-mail campaigns can give you a feel for how many people actually read what you write. It’s useful also to take every opportunity to ask people how they found out about your work. You can ask ‘how did you find out about our services/events/newsletter?’ on booking forms, evaluation forms and subscription forms. You can then analyse how people find out about you and use this to refine how you market your work. If some information channels aren’t working for you, ask yourself whether you are using them to their full potential or whether in fact they’re not the right channels for you.

If you are asking people to take action you need to be able to find out whether your communications are helping them to take those actions! Many charities now ask their supporters to feedback using postcards or emails to say wehn they have taken action. It is relatively easy to see how much influence you have on Twitter and Facebook by watching what your supporters do with your information and how often they share your posts.

You should research which forms of communication might best suit your work before leaping in and making the commitment. Online communication can take a lot of time to use effectively. You may find it useful to read some of the articles on Beth’s Blog: How Non Profit Organisations can Use Social Media; the NCVO Marketing Blog and the Ask Charity Blog to start your thinking about how to use online marketing for the best impact. Just because a lot of charities are using Twitter, doesn’t mean you need to!

For a more in depth guide to evaluating information work, try Issue Lab’s Are We There Yet? A Communications Evaluation Guide.

Freedom of Information Part 1

March 30, 2010 by

This is a guest post by Paul Mutch of the office of the Scottish Information Commissioner

Scotland’s Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation celebrated its 5th anniversary on 1st January this year.  The introduction of the FOI Act has meant that, since 2005, the public have had a right of access to the information held by over 10,000+ public authorities – allowing individuals and organisations to access important information on the issues that matter to them.

But is this ‘right to information’ of value – and of practical use – to the voluntary sector?   Is FOI a tool that can be actively used e.g. to help fulfil organisation goals, to achieve campaign or policy objectives, or to advise clients? 

Recent statistics published by the Scottish Information Commissioner – the man charged with enforcing Scotland’s FOI legislation – appear to suggest that the use of FOI by the sector is low.  The Commissioner’s 2009 Annual Report – published online at – reports that the voluntary sector accounted for only 2% of the appeals received by the Commissioner in 2009, compared to 73% from members of the public, and 13% from the media.  This figure also represents a decline from 2008, when 7% of appeals came from the sector. 

It is important, however, for this data to be considered in context.  These figures are only about the appeals made to the Commissioner, so they relate only to the situations when an FOI request has been refused by a public authority.  The data does not, therefore, include any of the requests which are answered first time, without the need to appeal.  Indeed, data on this aspect of FOI is limited, largely because the FOI process was designed to be as straightforward as possible – both for requesters (who don’t even need to mention FOI when making a request, nor identify themselves as a representative of a particular organisation) and for public authorities (who are not required to monitor, record or report on request volumes).

Where data is available, it suggests that voluntary sector requests will normally answered in full, first time, with no need to appeal to the Commissioner.  Recent research carried out by the University of Strathclyde found that voluntary sector respondents reported this outcome in 67% of FOI requests. 

There are many examples where FOI has been put to good use by a range of voluntary organisations and campaign groups. The Commissioner’s 2009 annual report details a number of these cases. We will look at some of those in the next post in this series.

For further information on using FOI, visit, or contact the Scottish Information Commissioner’s team at, or by phone on 01334 464610.

Tell us what you like (or not) about the IOSG

March 19, 2010 by

The Information Officer’s support group has been successfully running since August 2008. But like everything, even though its successful, we want to know why. What works? What doesn’t?

If you’ve not already completed the survey and you’re a part of the IOSG, we’d appreciate you taking a few minutes to answer our 10 questions.

If you’re not a current member of the IOSG and you want to become a member, don’t feel left out, feel free to answer the questions. (Please post a comment saying you’re not a member and let us know your name and organisation so we can take that into account when reviewing the survey and so we can contact you about future events.

Oh yeah, the survey will close on Friday 2nd April.

To access the survey use the link provided:

Thanks everyone who has already completed the survey.

How to Evaluate Information Work – Part 2

March 10, 2010 by

How do People find out about your Work?

In my last post, I introduced the idea of evaluating information work. You want to know who knows about your organisation and how they find out. First you need to be clear about how people can find out about your work.

 You have your own information sources – perhaps a blog, website, e-bulletin, Facebook or Myspace page, Twitter, paper publications. But how well connected are you?

  • How many people link to your blog or website?
  • How many people are fans of your Facebook or Myspace page?
  • How many people order your paper publications?
  • How many external organisations display your paper publications?

 It’s useful to search the internet (see Shayna’s article here about how to maximise your searching!) to find out who refers to you. Is your information being displayed in relevant websites or are your events being advertised on Australian websites? You have no control over how information passes round the internet and there’s no harm in someone in Australia knowing what’s happening in their field in Scotland! However you need to target the right places if you want your information to reach the right people. You also need to let people know where you can be found! Your web presence needs to be advertised at every opportunity, your leaflets need to be widely distributed to the right places.

You also want to know what people actually read! Most websites and e-bulletin packages offer statistics so you can find out how many people read your website or open your e-bulletin. Twitter and Facebook let you see who likes your ideas enough to pass them on. Paper publications can have cut-off forms that people can return to request more information, to book a place on a training course, to donate money or to volunteer their services.

 After all, you don’t just want people to know about your work, you want them to use your services, engage with your organisation and possibly to change their behaviour. I’ll discuss that issue more in the next post in this series. In the meantime you can find out more about evaluation at the Evaluation Support Scotland website.

 Where can people find information on your organisation? What do you think are the pros and cons of the different information channels? Leave your comments here and I’ll pick up on the most interesting points in my next post.

How to Evaluate Information Work – Part 1

February 17, 2010 by


In a difficult economic climate, it’s increasingly important to be able to demonstrate how effective your work is. Evaluation helps you to work out the impact of your communications. 

It can be tricky to work out the impact of information work. Who is aware of your work and how much do they know? Does this information then lead them to take up your services or donate to your cause? How do you find these things out? And at what point does the effectiveness of information work give way to the effectiveness of service delivery or fundraising?

Over the next couple of weeks I will share ideas on how to measure:

  • How people find out about your work.
  • How people use your information.
  • Whether your information is reaching the right people.

 I will be discussing evaluation that can be done by a small organisation with not a great deal of resources. You can find out more about evaluation at the Evaluation Support Scotland website.

 If there’s anything you want to know about evaluating information work, please ask in the comments section! I will pick up interesting points in the next post on evaluation in the week beginning 8 March!