2020 in Review: Scaling up IFF's Operations and Community
In January 2020, we set out with concise goals: Streamline and standardise internal processes and pick up the pace with our community engagement efforts. Through this rare writing appearance on the IFF blog, I will elucidate what these goals entailed and how much we were actually able to achieve:
Streamlining Operational Processes:
Throughout 2019, we realised that in order to succeed, we will have to improve and completely revamp our internal operations. This included the following:
- Streamline internal accounting processes,
- Stay up-to-date on regulatory compliances and get additional independent help with this,
- Automating our donor management processes, and
- Formalising our HR and Staff Wellness policies.
These objectives were set towards the start of the year, i.e. Pre Covid. The first two from the list faced huge delays because of the lockdowns. If coordinating before the pandemic wasn’t hard enough, Covid made it even tougher. Since IFF is an 80G and 12A registered non-profit organization, there is an avalanche of compliances and regulatory processes that we have to go through to get things done. We decided to reach out to people who were experts at these things and became a member of the Centre for Advancement of Philanthropy or CAP. This helped us gain confidence, knowing we were seeking regulatory advice from an independent body before establishing processes.
Our older accounting processes were not ready to adapt to remote work and this was a huge point of stress for us when we started working from home. We had to adapt quickly with almost no notice. Thanks to the adjustments and quick measures taken by Apar and IFF’s board, we were able to make it through the lockdown and later cleaned up big parts of our processes. In November 2020, we were also able to finish the bank processes that had made very little headway during the lockdown. This has made our lives much easier and we’re looking forward to improving upon this through 2021.
We also got accreditation from Credibility Alliance and Guidestar to keep on increasing our financial transparency towards the public. You can see information about IFF’s financials on their websites. We hope to publish our first Annual Report in 2021 to provide you with more detailed information about this.
Automating Donor Processes and adopting HR and Staff Wellness Policies:
One other important goal we had to achieve was automating our donor management process. Our older system was reliant on manual processes. The problem was that this had the risk of errors and delays as we grew our donor base. These processes simply weren’t going to work if we wanted to scale up. And we really wanted to scale up! This was made possible by ERPNext’s Shivam and also our volunteer Anoop, who have worked with us relentlessly to get this process completed in time. This is a testament to our volunteers’ dedication towards IFF’s growth. At the time of writing, we had automated 90% of our processes and it’s nothing like the broken process we started out with. This was one of the highlights of the year for IFF’s operations staff.
We also managed to get a lot more batches of merchandise dispatched than we did in 2019. We sent IFF merchandise in 5 batches as opposed to 2019’s one sole dispatch. We are looking to improve upon this more since we are still not happy with this pace. We also adopted most of our HR Policies and updated our Leave Policy by introducing a Menstrual Leave Policy for the staff. All of these policies were drafted by staff who were involved throughout with inputs and improvements.
Internet Freedom Forum
Another one of our goals was to expand our public engagement efforts and welcome new people to the IFF community. To do this, we launched the Internet Freedom Forum in February 2020. The forum now has close to 400 members and 500+ discussion topics. Our hope is to have 1000 forum sign-ons by the end of 2021. Spread the word!
The original pre-covid plan was to host one small IFF event at our Delhi office every month. We were lucky enough to be able to host Rohit De in our office in February, but that was the first and last in person event we hosted in 2020. After the lockdown, we moved towards hosting digital events and even set up our own instance of BigBlueButton (a privacy respecting open source video conferencing tool) with the help of Abhas, who volunteered to set it up for us. This year would have been impossible if not for the help of our community!
Towards the beginning, we were really excited and hosted upto 3 events in a month! However, it was not sustainable and we decided to focus on quality over quantity. We shifted focus towards hosting practical webinars on topical issues. A public favourite turned out to be cheekily titled Why is Navika reading my texts? However, the highlight was our flagship event, Privacy Supreme. It saw the highest number of registrations in any IFF event and had an amazing lineup of speakers which included an interview between Faye D’Souza and Mahua Moitra. Close to 200 people tuned in for the event live and it was later viewed by close to 2000 people. We have created a playlist of all the digital events we have hosted, take a look:
Board Game Night and Monthly Newsletters
This year we also focussed on giving timely and regular updates about our work. We started sending out a newsletter each month giving our members, donors and newsletter subscribers an update on our work. To make things a little fun and to entertain ourselves during the lockdown, we also hosted two board game nights for IFF members in partnership with ReRoll.
This has been a challenging year and we want to move towards 2021 with hope and kindness. Operations and Community are the backbone that enables our Policy and Strategic Litigation work to continue in a sustained manner. Our hope is to strengthen our operations and build community through 2021 to empower IFF to do the important work it has set out to do.