Customer Story

The Queen’s Fund: Turns to Google Cloud to help women in crisis in Victoria, Australia

The Queen's Fund Hero Image

Using G Suite and Google Cloud Platform, The Queen’s Fund has overhauled its technologies and systems to process applications for grants to help women in crisis faster, more efficiently, and more effectively.

Google Cloud Results

Cut the time needed to create group emails to social workers from 2 hours to 2 minutes

• Upgrades efficiency and responsiveness of an organization that helps women in Victoria who are in crisis, distressed, or experiencing an emergency

• Improves the security and handling of sensitive information associated with women who may have new identities or restraining orders against a former partner

• Enables the president of the organization and other volunteers to work more flexibly and productively

Helping women and children who are in crisis, distressed, or experiencing an emergency is the mission of The Queen’s Fund. Founded in 1887 by Lady Elizabeth Loch, the fund is one of Victoria’s oldest charities and commemorates Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Lady Loch initially established the fund to help women in Victoria who had been widowed by a gas explosion at the Bulli Colliery that killed 81 miners. “The Queen’s Fund has been run by volunteers continuously since 1887,” says Sally McLean, President, The Queen’s Fund.

The Queen’s Fund provides a range of grants to Victorian women in need. These include short-term assistance for rent, medical, and household expenses; grants to open up educational opportunities; and funding to enable women to rebuild their lives and nurture their children. In 2016 and 2017, The Queen’s Fund provided A$278,431 in assistance to 846 women and 1,194 children. The organization collaborates with social workers who are best placed to identify who needs help and the type of help that is most effective.

“The social workers who refer women to us come from social welfare organizations across Victoria,” McLean says. “We also receive referrals from general practitioners—basically anyone who is in a position to help a woman get her life back on track.”

Basic technologies used

Prior to 2013, The Queen’s Fund volunteers relied on basic technologies to receive grant applications, make decisions, and report back to the organization’s funders. Social workers could submit application forms online or by mail. This information was captured and stored in a database accessible from a single computer. If McLean needed information to develop a case study for reporting back to the organization’s funders, she had to email a request for that data to the volunteer whose computer could access the database.

McLean and the other volunteers typically used their own personal email accounts to conduct The Queen’s Fund business, with only one domain-based email address used for submission of funding applications.

Furthermore, when The Queen’s Fund needed to send a group email to all the social workers who submitted applications, a volunteer would have to spend up to two hours a week cutting and pasting relevant information into drafts. The organization also relied heavily on social workers’ records and memories to fulfill a requirement that a woman who received a grant was then ineligible for a further grant for the following 12 months.

Securing information about women

“With Google, we looked like a professional organization for the first time. We now all have domain name email addresses with appropriate signatures and logos. In addition, we have the ability to share and store documents more securely and efficiently.” - Sally McLean, President, The Queen’s Fund

“The nature of what we do—being a grant-making organization run by volunteers—means we don’t have a lot of risk,” McLean says. “Our biggest risk is the privacy and confidentiality of information. When I joined in 2013, my job was to make the information we receive about women more secure. A large majority of the women we help are victims of family violence, so a number of them have new identities or intervention orders in place to prevent their former partners from finding out where they are. If this information fell into the wrong hands, the ramifications could be catastrophic.”

While McLean wanted to make information more secure, she also wanted to make it simpler to extract from a database. This would make the data easier to share among committee members.

Furthermore, she wanted to enable volunteers to create documents, file them centrally, and share them directly with each other. “We had no software on our computers to perform these tasks and we were sharing documents using USB devices,” McLean says. “As a lawyer myself, I knew we needed a better solution. I got in touch with someone from Google, and with their help, identified G Suite as meeting our requirements.”

G Suite for Nonprofits enhances collaboration

In October 2016, with assistance from Google, The Queen’s Fund implemented G Suite for Nonprofits. This enabled the organization to create email accounts for volunteers on a branded domain; store files across Gmail and Google Drive; collaborate on documents through Google Docs; and conduct surveys through Google Forms.

“With Google, we looked like a professional organization for the first time,” McLean says. “We now all have domain name email addresses with appropriate signatures and logos. In addition, we have the ability to share and store documents more securely and efficiently.”

Email time cut from two hours per week to two minutes

Thanks to G Suite, the organization has been able to reduce the time required to create and send emails to all the social workers who submit applications from two hours a week to two minutes.

Easier reporting to funders

“The efficiencies we’ve gained from the portals, as well as the application forms and database hosted in Google Cloud Platform, are phenomenal. For example, in meetings now we can pull up an application form, accept it online, and send a social worker an email advising them of its status in a single, seamless process.” - Sally McLean, President, The Queen’s Fund

“I also like Google Forms because we can now easily meet our obligation to our funders to report back on the impact our grants are having,” McLean adds. “Because the social workers sit between us and the women we help, we need to ask them to provide feedback. Google Forms enables us to collect and analyze their input.”

With G Suite established and delivering benefits to the charity, a grant from the RACV Community Foundation—an organization that acts as a source of philanthropic funding for Victorian charities—paved the way for further improvements. “We received a grant that would enable us to build a new website, portals, and database we could run securely in the cloud while providing access to all our volunteers and committee members,” McLean says. “Google put us in touch with Shine Solutions Group, and it agreed to help us with the portal component of the project pro bono.”

Shine Solutions Group helps deliver efficiencies

Shine Solutions Group then developed a new application submission portal for social workers and an administration portal running in a Google Cloud Platform (GCP) architecture comprising Google App Engine, Google Cloud SQL, and Google Cloud Storage.

“I usually log on at night, and now I can access the database any time I need to in order to obtain the information I need to develop case studies about how our funding can make a difference to a woman in crisis.” - Sally McLean, President, The Queen’s Fund

“The efficiencies we’ve gained from the portals, as well as the application forms and database hosted in Google Cloud Platform, are phenomenal,” McLean says. “For example, in meetings we can pull up an application form, accept it online, and send a social worker an email advising them of its status in a single, seamless process. These efficiencies have been particularly useful at a time when media articles have increased the profile of The Queen's Fund. This has led to an increase in donations, but also an increase in the applications we've received for processing. The number of applications increased from our monthly average of 75 to 123 applications in August 2017.”

Direct database access

McLean now has direct access to The Queen’s Fund database, enabling her to complete work for the charity around her family commitments.

“I usually log on at night, and now I can access the database any time I need to in order to obtain the information I need to develop case studies about how our funding can make a difference to a woman in crisis,” she says.

The database also provides alerts to support The Queen’s Fund’s requirement that women who have received grants are ineligible for further grants in the following 12 months. This eliminates the need for The Queen’s Fund volunteers to rely on the memories of the committee and social workers. By keeping documents in Google Drive and making them accessible through the portal via authentication into G Suite, sensitive information is now more secure.

“We’re now operating far more effectively and efficiently than we were prior to 2013,” McLean says. “Google has really upgraded our capability to help women in crisis in Victoria, and we look forward to continued improvements.”

Deployment Partner (G Suite authorized reseller)

Shine Solutions Group

Formed in 1998, Shine Solutions Group provides a range of services spanning development, DevOps, data engineering, and managed services. The business aims to deliver quality solutions in a holistic way.