Recognising the declining numbers of songbird species’ in North Wales in the late 1990s, the Songbird Survival Action Group, formed of a small group of conservationists led by activist Keith Pulman, began with a pledge to protect Britain’s native songbirds.
Remaining a small but vocal pressure group for a number of years, the group soon recognised that major charities like the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) were ill-equipped to protect some of the country’s most important species. Achieving charitable status in 2001 as Songbird Survival, the group continues to work to safeguard those birds that other organisations forget.
Now based in a small office in Norfolk, the young charity has a staff team of four, with two permanent employees and two hourly-paid full-time workers. The four-person team spends most of its time chasing funding – with various charitable trust funds providing the bulk of income. The charity is ineligible for government funding, and while the public are keen to help, direct fundraising at trade shows and events, or on the high street, can only yield so much.
Approaching auto-enrolment may have been tricky for such a small, remote business with a lot on its plate, but the team has nevertheless managed to prepare fully for the charity’s staging date, set for 1 August this year, mostly thanks to the bookkeeping and payroll experience of its office manager, Georgina Bradley.
Bradley knew nothing about auto-enrolment when the initiative was first introduced in 2012, and was confused by the process before first using the resources of the a pensions provider and then receiving jargon-busting help from an online payroll service for small businesses.
“The combination of using these two services for someone like me, who otherwise would have no clue how to approach the auto-enrolment process, has been perfect,” said Bradley. “I think our pensions provider is the right place to go for the average business owner on the street who knows nothing about payroll – the fact it provides idiot-proof information is great.
“Our online payroll service explained things to me in layman’s terms too. The platform was simple and easy to use, and when I found quirks in the system, they were fixed within days of me raising the issue,” she added.
Bradley views auto-enrolment as having many positive implications for Songbird Survival staff, including herself. Having never been able to put money aside for her retirement before, she is confident the service will have tangible benefits.
With this in mind, Bradley stressed that streamlining the compliance for businesses like Songbird Survival was very important. She’s used The Pensions Regulator online tool for guidance, and advised other small business owners to get to know the resources it offers in good time, before their staging date arrives. “Get used to the site as soon as you can, because you don’t want to be under unnecessary pressure,” she said.
Keeping staff well informed of auto-enrolment developments has been relatively easy in such a small team, and Bradley has been careful to carry out all other necessary preparations in time for 1 August. “I’ve been lucky that it’s a simple concept – that people understand it without too much trouble,” she explained.
As a resource, the website of Songbird Survival’s pension provider has proved the most useful for Bradley – and she suggests company owners make the most of it early on. “It makes things much clearer and points you to other resources that might also help.
With everything in place for 1 August, Bradley is expecting an easy transition to auto-enrolment – making it easy for Songbird Survival to continue its valuable work.
If, as a micro or small business owner, you’d like further guidance on auto-enrolment then visit The Pensions Regulator website, where you’ll also be able to discover your personal situation through its Duties Checker system.
Also, if you’ve enjoyed the story of how Songbird Survival is approaching auto-enrolment compliance and duties then have a look at our other two in-depth case studies – Longthorne Gunmakers and Magic Whiteboard.
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