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Information Management

Internal Manuals, Knowledge

Updated 25/11/13

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A briefings style page, in Management and Admin grouping.

Data Protection

The main thrust of Data Protection is protecting against abuse of data held on individuals. If you hold info purely with reference to their position in an organisation it doesn't count as personal data, and there are specific exemptions around membership of voluntary organisations, keeping accounts and marketing own goods and services. Bu if you record anything more than name and address and the minimum data needed to carry out the basic business activity of, for exmaple sending a book order, or use this info to do a follow up mailing for instance, then it comes within the legislation. The rules have to be followed, whether your organisation has registered (now known as Notification) with the Information Commissioner's Office or not.

From March 2000, the 1998 Data Protection Act extended the provisions of the original legislation, to include manual filing systems where personal ifnroamtion si readily accessible, and gives 'data subjects' the right to withdraw consent on various things, including direct marketing. There were transitional arrangement which ended October 2001, for personal data from before 24th October 1998.

Data collection has to be fair. This now means that the individual must know who is doing the collecting, and the purposes for which the data are intended to be used. Data shouldn't be kept for longer than necessary, must be kept secure, and should be adequate, relevant and accurate (which includes up-to-date where appropriate). There are extra restrictions around export of data outside the EC (+ Iceland, Norway, Lichtenstein) and sensitive data, which would include political opinions for instance. Your organisation should have someone who has clear responsibility for ensuring Data Protection issues are acted upon.

Registration currently costs £35, annually renewable, and you can register for as many purposes, data types and sources as you need for that amount. The Information Commission is also responsible for the Freedom of Information law - see their web site for data implications and more details on Data Protection, or phone 01625 545700. Or check out the training available from Directory of Social Change in particular, who also publish Data Protection for voluntary organisations handbook (second edition, see Law Publications).

Staff handbooks/office manuals/systems and procedures

It is good practice, and often very revealing, to produce an 'internal systems manual'. Where there is a specialist finance worker (or volunteer), finance procedures are usually written up separately, but otherwise they could be incorporated in the overall one.We have started collecting samples of various such documents, and also put together a Checklist of Policies and Procedures which would typically be included in an office manual.You shouldn't just reproduce these - all organisations are different, and you will have arranged responsibilities or split activities differently. But not starting with a blank sheet is a great help.

On VolResource: sample IT policy, sample financial procedures. Also some personnel management forms - see Checklist or People Management page for references.

Another item of great value is an organisational chart. This is often just of the staffing structure, but in a voluntary organisation a picture of the committee structure is often essential to understand how decisions are made and where responsibility lies. In a complex or large body, these may need to be separate charts, but cross-references should be made. See DSC Information Management book below for a helpful information flow charting approach.

Information Resources

See Buy Management Publications Direct for books.

Note: Freedom of Information (England and Wales, may differ slightly in Scotland) is a legal right to request access to all types of "recorded" information held by public bodies. Organisations providing public services might be caught in that the contracting body could make additional requirements to allow them to meet FoI requests, but otherwise unlikely. See Lobbying pages for FoI links.

Education and Training for Information Work in the Voluntary Sector is a research report produced by Leeds Metropolitan University early 1999. An Executive Summary may still be somewhere on the LMU website.

Association for Information Management (Aslib), Staple Hall, Stone House Court, London, EC3A 7PB, phone 020 7903 0000, email:

Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. 7 Ridgmount St, London, WC1E 7AE, phone 020 7255 0500, email: Also see their Information Literacy group?

Knowledge Management

Not to be confused with information management, but can be closely connected. Some see it as part of de-skilling and job reductions: extracting and exploiting the knowledge held by individuals about work in the round. But, to quote from elsewhere on VR: "How good is an office manual if it doesnt include some element of extracting and collating knowledge otherwise locked up in an individual?"

So what is it? There are varying views about what KM involves - see quotes below. Distinctions are made between Explicit knowledge (recorded) and Tacit knowledge (personal know-how); a defined body of information as distinct from a person's state of being in respect to that body. Data, information, knowledge, understanding and wisdom are all separate terms with different meanings, although writers (and organisations) often muddy these.

There is very little material on the web explicitly aimed at the voluntary sector. We would be delighted to hear of any.

It is probably more in what KM is applied to, rather than how, that the voluntary sector differs. So the following links (many quite old but should still work), could be useful.

FreePint, the newsletter for information professionals, had an article on Knowledge management for development: an international organisation's perspective, November 2005.

Fostering the Collaborative Creation of Knowledge: A White Paper from IBM Research gives some background on managing information in a holistic way (or as they say, an ecological view). We can't find the paper on the site any longer!

But can knowledge be managed, as individuals have different 'knowledge bases'? See The Nonsense of 'Knowledge Management'.

Some quotes

Peter Honey quoting Prof Susan Greenfield (name dropper!)

'information is just facts which on their own are not at all interesting. Knowledge occurs when disparate facts are linked and turned into ideas.' (Training Journal, June 2000)

From VNU's Knowledge Management White Paper:

"What managing knowledge as a resource means in practice actually spans a continuum from generating efficiency to fostering innovation."

Simon Kent, of Knowledge Management Software in Computer Weekly (June 01):

"Knowledge .... is information's evolutionary descendant, transcending primitive emphases on hardware, bandwidth and Java compatability with something much more powerful and sophisticated: individual and collective experience that can be leveraged to benefit virtually any activity."

From US government's KM web site:

"Essentially, knowledge management is at the intersection of culture, philosophy, and technology connecting people, communities and ideas for action."

Knowledge Praxis quotes from Karl-Erik Sveiby's posting to the Knowledge Management Forum, identifying two "tracks" of knowledge management:

from Larry Prusak, director of IBM Institute for Knowledge Management, as interviewed for ebusinessforum, Oct 00:

Key steps in instituting a knowledge-management programme: "A little strategy goes a long way. There are 4 simple steps: What knowledge do you want to work with? Where is it? What do you want to do to it? and to what end: what would you gain if you did this?" .... "You could do it in a day or two."

"Heirarchy is a distortion of knowledge ...(it) is a 19th century concept."

Designing a knowledge-management system: "You're better off enacting one than designing one. Letting the people who work in these organisations enact it, and give them loose advice."

from Michael Schrage, writing in Fortune magazine:

"an objective review would confirm that most firms grossly overinvest in technologies that let people see what's going on and dramatically underinvest in delegation and true empowerment.......knowledge confirms the absence of meaningful power."

In conclusion after discussing how efficient technology networks can lead to poor data due to 'selfish' practice by staff, managers or customers: "business reality dictates that organizations that commit to strategic networking must invest as much effort in designing the incentives for honest disclosure as they do in designing the technical infrastructure itself."