Homeless Link is the national membership organisation for homelessness charities in England. We help our over 850 members deliver better services to homeless people and one of the ways in which we do this is through the provision of paid membership services such as events, training and consultancy. We also provide the In-Form Case Management system for our members.
There are four reasons why we produce In-Form, focused directly on our vision and mission:
1. To help our members deliver better services to homeless people
2. To help our members demonstrate their impact to funders and other stakeholders
3. To build the evidence base on homelessness and the impact of our members
4. To generate a small surplus to improve the sustainability and resilience of Homeless Link
We started In-Form in 2009, building upon the success of an earlier project that we’d originally started back in 1998. In-Form is an online case and service management system built on the trusted and secure Salesforce platform. We are partners of Salesforce.org, the arm of Salesforce that focuses on non-profits and education and this gives our members access to their platform at a price that charities can afford.
In-Form is a phenomenally successful project. We produce 3 versions of the In-Form system:
· In-Form Community – free of charge for small homelessness charities
· In-Form Essential – out of the box system to small-medium homelessness charities
· In-Form Enterprise – Full customisable solution for larger homelessness charities
Today we have over 300 charities using In-Form to manage their work with homeless people, recording their journeys through their services and managing all the interactions they have with the charity. These 300 charities employ over 17,000 users and manage hundreds of thousands of case records.
The In-Form team at Homeless Link is responsible for product development, implementations, training, support, customer success, sales and marketing. In total we now employ 30 staff at Homeless Link to work on In-Form and we expect to generate about £3million this year to support the In-Form project. In-Form is sold on a commercial basis to our members and is a sustainable social business – delivering impact for us and our customers, but also making a small, but valuable surplus for Homeless Link.
One of the keys to this success was discovering the Software as a Service (SaaS) sector in about 2015. Up until that point, we thought of In-Form as a service business because we customised the application for each customer and prided ourselves on excellent customer service and support rather than employing tons of developers to build whizzy new features.
The reframing of In-Form as a SaaS business was one of the true lightbulb moments in my working life, and we have transformed our business by thinking in a more structured and
systematic way about how product development, sales and marketing and customer success working together can drive our business forward and accelerate our impact. The primary focus on customer success rather than marketing & sales or product development not only works, but more importantly is aligned with our values as a membership charity.
Since seeing In-Form as a SaaS business we have not only been getting much better at what we do, we have grown much, much faster. It took us 5 years to get to £500,000 in revenue, 5 more to get to £2million. And we are still growing at 30% each year. And over the years we have contributed over £700,000 in surpluses into Homeless Link, our parent charity.
I have spent my entire career working for charities in the homelessness sector. It’s been a great 35 years. There have been two common themes to all my work:
· Using my background in computer science to help apply new technology to solve social issues
· Building social enterprises, not just working for grant-dependent charities
In-Form combines both of these themes into a successful project that I hope is an example for other charities to follow. I am so proud of In-Form and so grateful to the amazing team that have worked for Homeless Link over the last 12 years in making In-Form such a great success.