Following Volunteers Week this year, we are highlighting the Beacon Team and the work they do to deliver the Beacon service to U3As.
Beacon is a U3A management system designed by U3A members for U3As. Beacon enables U3A administrators to manage their membership, groups and finance through a simple yet functional interface.
Beacon is packed with features to make U3A volunteers’ lives easier. Group leaders can securely email their group members, secretaries can produce a TAM spreadsheet in just a few clicks and treasurers can track receipts and payments – all in one U3A-dedicated system.
Over 400 U3As now choose Beacon for their administration, and between them they have a quarter of a million members. They are supported by a dedicated team of U3A volunteers, the Beacon Team, based all across the UK.
Beacon Team members have a variety of roles and responsibilities, and all their work supports U3As and their use of Beacon. From testing changes to the software to demonstrating the system to new users, and from preparing user guides to recruiting new team members, each member plays their part in ensuring all U3As that wish to use Beacon can do so.
Since the lockdown began, we’ve heard several stories from U3As who’ve found Beacon to be a vital way of keeping in touch with their members. All Beacon data is stored on the cloud, which means authorised users can all access the same version, ensuring accurate recordkeeping.
Beth, secretary of Up Holland and District U3A, said, ‘Beacon proved to be an invaluable tool in organising our forthcoming AGM. In addition to sending out agenda papers and voting forms to over 700 members with one click, Beacon produced the letter for non-email members, and the download to generate a spreadsheet to record the votes as they were returned’.
Many Beacon Team members are also involved in the Beacon Upgrade Project, which will ensure the system is fit for purpose for U3As both now and into the future. There are six dedicated sub-Teams for the project, each made up of and led by U3A volunteers from the Beacon Team.
It is not possible to talk about Beacon without also mentioning the Beacon administrators, who play a key role in supporting their local U3A, preparing their data for importing, and providing training to users within their U3A. Their efforts enable U3As to carry out their administration more easily and more safely with Beacon.
Beacon is a great example of the U3A ethos in action, with members helping members, learning being shared and expertise being pooled. The Upgrade Project will put Beacon on a strong footing into the future, but it wouldn’t be possible without volunteers.
So, to the whole Beacon community: thank you.