The Australian Sewing Guild is a national organisation that has been in existence for 21 years, with a mission to share and further the art of sewing. It offers events and resources that aim to promote the benefits of sewing and keep the art alive. The ASG provides a support network for all levels of sewists from beginners to advanced, as well as promoting sewing-related businesses via its Industry Partner program.

 

As a national organisation with a geographically scattered board, the Australian Sewing Guild (ASG) needed a portal to improve communication, increase efficiency, and create a structured system for virtual meetings. But they also needed it to be accessible for even the least tech-savvy members. We spoke with Board Chair Louise Sparrow to learn how Our Cat Herder helped them achieve this goal.

Board seeks a better way to communicate between meetings

Current ASG Chair Louise Sparrow found out how hard it was to communicate well with other board members when she joined the board six years ago.

“The only way to have good discussions was face-to-face,” said Louise. “With email, it was difficult to keep the thread going, so things got lost.” Important discussion points were missed and action items fell through the cracks.

Before Our Cat Herder, the board met face-to-face in a central location six times a year, with ASG footing the bill for travel and accommodation costs. If something came up between meetings, it was usually tabled until the next meeting rather than dealt with remotely. ASG needed to improve their remote communication and streamline decision-making so they could become a more efficient, action-oriented team. When Louise took over as chair in 2016, she made it her mission to do just that.

After researching various options, ASG chose Our Cat Herder as their new board portal, and they’ve been active users of the platform ever since.

 

Portal helps ASG take swift action and make decisions remotely

Since transitioning to Our Cat Herder two years ago, ASG’s five-person board has moved most of its remote conversations from email to their portal’s chat rooms. Each discussion thread is clearly organised and labeled within the portal, reducing messy email chains and making it easy for everyone to stay up-to-speed.

If a workgroup needs to have a private discussion, a new chat room is opened up with limited access. Likewise, volunteers not on the board can be added to chat rooms for special projects without being given access to the entire portal.

 

 

When a formal decision is required, the decision maker function makes remote voting easy. Board members cast their votes with the click of a button, and the portal automatically files it for the board’s records.

This new way of communicating is so effective that ASG now feels comfortable making important decisions between formal meetings. In fact, they have reduced their total board meetings from six to four each year. Two of those four meetings are now held virtually, using a combination of video conference software and Our Cat Herder, helping ASG to reduce their travel costs by approximately 30%.

Despite meeting less often, the board works more efficiently than ever. “Things happen more quickly now,” said Louise. “If we want to implement something new, we don’t have to wait – we just take care of it.”

Our Cat Herder enforces structure and improves project oversight

When ASG moved half of its meetings to a virtual space, Our Cat Herder’s automated systems provided the structure they needed, both within and outside of their formal meetings. Here’s how:

Minute-taking function
Before Our Cat Herder, ASG hired an independent minute taker. It was too difficult for a board member to take quality minutes while participating in the discussion. Now, by using the minute-taking function, they no longer need to hire out the task.

A member uses the pre-formatted minutes template in the portal, customising it ahead of time and filling in the blanks during the meeting. Many items can be automatically approved. Action items are marked complete with the click of a button and new tasks are easily assigned.

Document management
ASG stores all of their documents within their portal. Previously, they used Dropbox for storage, but this required everyone to keep items on their own account. Members quickly ran out of storage space and could no longer access all of the documents.

With Our Cat Herder, documents are stored in the portal on a central account, so storage space isn’t an issue. Items like meeting minutes and voting results are organised automatically, eliminating the need for manual filing. Working documents are uploaded directly to a discussion thread or meeting section for easy access.

Action items
As chair, Louise appreciates the ability to get a bird’s eye view of projects and track everyone’s progress on action items. “We didn’t have anything like this before,” she pointed out, “so it was hard to get a comprehensive list of all outstanding agenda items.”

Now, the action items list helps her keep tabs without having to constantly email members for updates.

Attendees at the Australian Sewing Guild Convention in Cairns.

Our Cat Herder gives boards an intuitive, user-friendly option

Although Louise considered herself to be tech-savvy, she recognised that not everyone on her board is as comfortable with technology. This was top of mind when she researched options. She counted usability as the number one reason she chose Our Cat Herder. Onboarding everyone was straightforward. According to Louise, even the board member who was “totally hopeless” with computers picked up the system within minutes.

With Our Cat Herder, she found a portal that helped modernised her board’s processes, while still providing an intuitive, easy-to-use experience.

“Over the past three years, I’ve spent my life trying to get the Guild into the twenty-first century,” she said. “And we’ve succeeded. Our Cat Herder has been a big part of this.”

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