We are proud to offer these tools and services as part of our Community First IT support.

Teams Collaboration

Microsoft 365 Business Systems

Endpoint and Defender Security

SharePoint Strategy and Implementation

Google to Microsoft Migration

Legacy Equipment Support and Replacement

Device Management and Support

Charity Background

Connecting and engaging with communities is at the forefront of everything Community First do. Based in Hampshire, this registered charity enables individuals and local groups to be the difference they want to see in the places they live. They identify where essential services could make a difference to peoples’ lives and facilitate this change through the actions of dedicated individuals and organisations.

The charity brings together a diverse group of 380 independent member organisations, all working towards making a difference in the local communities they serve.

They look to deliver inclusive core services and support to every service user, with a focus on actively including those less likely or able to participate themselves.

Their appetite to test new ideas and approaches to the delivery of services and support means that they are prepared to take measured risks in starting new projects, while undertaking the measurement of the success of their work through evidence-based testing.

The charity is actively involved in supporting both new and established voluntary and community groups, developing and running training courses for the business and voluntary sectors, operating extensive community transport services (such as Dial-a-ride and Call & Go), and managing a series of clinics and groups focused on wellbeing services and support programmes.

Client: Community First
Industry: Charity
Services: IT Support and Consultancy, Microsoft 365, Data Security

Challenges for Community First

Serving a large county, such as Hampshire, the charity requires several operating bases spread across the county – from the New Forest in the West to Havant in the East, Fareham in the South to Basingstoke in the North – with transport hubs and offices in between. These offices are either manned by full-time Community First employees, or volunteers who give their time to support the charities work, and all need reliable IT systems and connections to core applications to be able to provide the service.

As the types of services and support that Community First offer varies widely, their operations and infrastructure must follow this diversity, catering for transport logistics and booking systems, leisure centre activities and booking, membership fees, and course design and operation, to highlight just a few.

Behind these services are all the usual administrative duties that comes with running any business, however, for Community First there is also the added challenge of charity specific requirements. These include running, organising a large volunteer network, and making provisions for safeguarding processes of vulnerable service users.

Community First services and programmes include:

  • Developing membership of community and voluntary organisations
  • Training and course development
  • Transport services
  • Wellbeing that covers Home Services, Health Forums, Young Carers, Health Walks, START, and Prescribing Networks

Where did Vissensa get involved?

For a number of years Community First were supported by a local IT support company, close to their main Fareham office. This worked very well until the support company was bought by a larger IT services organisation, whose strategy was to grow by acquisition. Unfortunately, after the merger, they experienced a poorer standard of service to that enjoyed previously and eventually had to look for another supplier with a good local reputation.

Community First selected Vissensa after undertaking a rigorous tender process. They wanted to ensure that their core services were well understood by the incoming support company, and that the associated costs were transparently mapped out for the services they required, both at the time, and looking to the future. They wanted to ensure they chose a service that considered their immediate day-to-day requirements while transitioning to a new suppler, but also the future aspirations of the charity.

“Vissensa’s approach to the tender process, and through the selection process was very different to many of the other companies bidding for the work…” commented Tanya Dowthwaite, Finance Director for the Charity, “…they quickly understood how they could support the charity in the transition phase and identified the key area that would need to be addressed to maintain a reliable Business as Usual approach for all users.”

Vissensa was faced with several technical challenges, which included legacy equipment with low patch and security levels, negligible support documentation on the IT setup, and a list of long-running operational issues with IT that had damaged confidence in the ability to fix the issues. This, and the lack of any proactive planning and innovation by their incumbent IT supplier, were clearly hampering the charities efficiency. Restoring the faith of the charity staff and users in the use of technology was a significant KPI for the charity in the selection process.

Our Solutions

Vissensa introduced a rolling programme of updates and development for the userbase, which was designed to quickly establish their trust in being able to receive assistance in an agreed timeframe, and to modernise the way users accessed systems and information.

Less than 2 months after Vissensa took over the users and IT system support we received comments from mangers of the lines of business in the charity such as this:

“Just wanted to let you know that we have received great feedback from our staff…our users are absolutely delighted with the help they are receiving, and I understand that you have visited our transport team and solved problems for them.”

This is exactly the support that Vissensa can provide to charities and businesses across the South, and around the globe.

A migration from Google to Microsoft followed in order to allow the charity to make full use of the Microsoft Modern Workplace suite of products, in particular SharePoint, as the central repository for the charity’s information. This move also allowed Vissensa to significantly harden the security posture of the charity, their devices, and users.

Charities are beginning to realise that their IT is critical to the operation and, although many charities, like Community First, are modernising to take advantage of the digital work they need to encompass, many are still well behind the curve and vulnerable, especially from cybercrime.

Community First also wanted to take advantage of the functionality and security of the Microsoft Modern Workplace products, and Vissensa have mapped out a plan which allows the charity to move forward with these initiatives at their own pace.


“Ensuring that charity operations are as secure and efficient as possible is vital to our success as stakeholders, and users expect the services we deliver to be easy to use and administer. 

We are delighted that the charity selected Vissensa to be our IT partner as the breadth of their experience and commitment to providing an excellent service is evident in everything they do. This means that the charity can focus on improving and extending the services for our communities and delivering on our commitments to our trustees and stakeholders

Tim Houghton – CEO | Community First