A message from Mark Bentley.

When ShareSoc holds its monthly Board meetings, our primary focus is on how we can better serve you, our membership, and build a larger, stronger organisation that is able to exert real influence to improve the landscape for UK private investors.

As well as offering a broader and more regional range of attractive investor events, and increasing the range of educational materials we offer, we need to make the services we provide more accessible through electronic media. Roger Lawson has done a fantastic job, with virtually no resources other than his own unpaid time, to create our original website. However, we have now reached the limits of what can be achieved in that manner, and we recognise that we need a much more sophisticated site and membership management system to provide you with a comprehensive and easy to use service.

We aim to offer an attractive, mobile-friendly and easy to use website. This includes improving the navigability of the site, so that the high quality content we already have (as well as new content we plan to add) is more accessible to you. We also recognise the importance of streamlining the process of joining ShareSoc and signing up to our events. At present, this is a manual, labour intensive, process.

Currently, we operate two websites: our main site and the Members Network site. To improve accessibility, we wish to integrate these into a single website, which our members can log into and gain access to premium member-only content (currently only accessible through our Members Network site, which a number of members have reported they have difficulty accessing).

Over the last two years, Mike Dennis and I, with input from Roger, have examined how best to achieve this. Fortunately, we have established that we can develop the facilities we need using open source software: WordPress and CiviCRM, so there are no software costs as such. However, to create a website of a professional standard, professional input is required. After an extensive competitive process, we have identified expert contractors able to assist us with this, though much of the work to transition to this new site and system will be performed by ShareSoc’s own staff.

Besides the improved navigability and ease of use, we expect a number of other key benefits to flow from the systems upgrade:

  • User maintenance of profile information, so you can update information such as your email address and other contact details easily and immediately. 
  • Selection of email types you do and do not wish to receive from us, so you’ll only receive the types of email you want to see. This will also allow us to keep our members better informed, without alienating those who are not interested in certain types of email. 
  • Maintenance of the site and underlying data by any authorised personnel. As ShareSoc undertakes more activities it becomes impossible for one individual to maintain the site, as Roger does at present. This means that we will be able to keep the site more current, post more information and expand its scope. Expect lots of new, exciting developments!

To minimise risk and manage the workload on ShareSoc’s own team, the work to upgrade our facilities, which is considerable, will be conducted in a number of phases. I will post further articles in our newsletter, keeping you informed as the work progresses. In the first phase, the overall look and feel of the site, and its navigability, will be upgraded, also making it “mobile friendly”. However, during that phase, the members network will remain separate, as now, and there will be no logon facility to the main site, which will be entirely public. This first phase is now complete and you are experiencing the product of that work here. The other capabilities listed above will follow in subsequent phases.

As Mike is now fully occupied managing ShareSoc’s growing event roster, I have agreed to take on the task of managing this IT upgrade, on a voluntary basis.

To do all these things, however, we need your help. You can help us in two ways:

Firstly, the cost of contractor effort to conduct the first phase of the project was ~£6,000, below the original budget. Subsequent phases are expected to cost us a further £18,000. ShareSoc’s Board has determined that we cannot fund this from our ongoing membership and event income, as much of that income is required to cover the day-to-day administration of ShareSoc (including office costs) and the cost of our growing events team. Therefore we need to appeal to you for donations to support this vital capital expenditure, to improve our service to you and to secure ShareSoc’s future. We may also seek commercial sponsorship for the site, to help defray the costs.

We have established a discrete fund for such donations. The good news is that we have already had a number of very generous donations from past and current directors of ShareSoc, totalling £5,000 – so we’re off to a good start! That total includes a very generous donation of £3,000 from Leon Boros. Leon understands how vital this project is to ShareSoc’s future, and hopes that it will be at least matched by donations from other ShareSoc members.

I hope that you will feel able to support this project and donate generously. To do so, please visit this page.

With your help, I look forward to advancing this exciting project and to bringing you an improved web experience with ShareSoc.

Mark Bentley