“With packages such as Office, CTX has allowed us to give this to all the staff and volunteers and provide additional workstations for training. This in turn gives back to our volunteers — they arrive here to help us, and we are able to help them with training on a package that will play well on their CV."

— Chris Green, IT trustee

Based in East Surrey, Furnistore is a charity that collects unwanted furniture and household goods in order to redistribute these affordably to people on low incomes. 

Chris Green is Furnistore’s IT trustee. “For people who are just starting out or who have nothing, we can kit them out with the basics — furniture, beds, tables, etc. This will either be free, or at a significant discount to the second-hand price, depending on their circumstances,” he says. Items are all donated locally, which can be collected by the charity, and are all of good quality. Furnistore also sells to the general public; “People can buy from us at our very good charity price,” he explains. “The grants side of things is diminishing, and general public sales help us to survive on our own two feet — which we must.” 

Furnistore has taken a number of software packages from CTX. One of Chris’s key observations is that the donation scheme can free charities from the constraints that come when just one or two software licenses are affordable. 

An experienced IT professional himself, Chris has also utilized more niche software from the catalogue. Visual Studio, for example, to develop a link from the charity’s new stock control system to its website, and Crystal Reports: “a very easy way to produce end of year reports.” 

MapPoint is being used to good effect. “We use it to visualize the distribution of sales — are there areas to concentrate on that we don’t cover, or where people don’t know about us? When we have enough data, it could be used to support grant applications.” Likewise, Chris extols the virtues of Visio and provides some good advice for charities that rely upon a large volunteer base. “Visio is a great way of visually presenting information for procedure and user notes,” he says. 

“It’s very important to help volunteers. They come and go, so charities need to have very clear documentation about what they are expected to do. Software like this would normally be luxury items,” he reflects. Many small charities don’t have the benefit of staff or trustees with in-depth IT experience, of course, and Chris sees a role for CTX in helping to guide such organisations through what is becoming an ever more extensive and varied catalogue of available products. Chris has recommended CTX to other charities and thanks the scheme “for the great facility that you’ve given Furnistore and other charities alike.”