“It makes my life easier!”

This month, Sue Anderton, who is the Archaeology Group Leader at Lancaster & Morecambe U3A, shares her Beacon experience

I have been using Beacon for over a year now as one of a group of Leaders who manage the Lancaster & Morecambe U3A Archaeology Group. The group currently has 194 members of which only 29 have no email access.

I found the Beacon system very easy to navigate from the start – it is quite intuitive even if you do not feel you are an IT expert, which I most definitely am not. Once the necessary Data Protection issues were sorted by our helpful Beacon expert, logging in was very straightforward with just a Beacon ID and a password of my choice. After logging in, the Administration page allows you to look at the Group list and choose your particular Group.

Once on the Group page there is an overview of the Group which can be used to give details of the time and location for meetings as well as a brief overview of what the Group does and who the Leaders are. This is the bit that would be available to non-Beacon users.

Once in your Group area on Beacon you can add people very easily just using the person’s membership number. The system does all the hard work adding all the relevant information for that person such as address, email, contact numbers etc. I find this invaluable, since all I have to input is a maximum of four numbers! If a person leaves the Group – one click on “Remove” and it’s done.

The system is great for sending bulk emails to members – you can select all members who have an email address on the system and write your email. Emails can be made more personal by using the “tokens” on a side bar. For example writing “Dear #FORENAME” will personalise each email sent by adding the recipient’s first name. It makes it so flexible and allows you to be as formal or casual as you wish.

The system will also enable you to download selected members details as an Excel or PDF file – I have used this to create a list of Members’ names when participating in a field trip so that I have a tick-list for the coach. I have downloaded the names to make a Group Register too, far quicker than me trying to type it all myself!

Managing the Calendar for the meetings is straightforward although one of our other Leaders tends to do this role – another plus point for Beacon.  The system allows a Group to have multiple Leaders allowing the Leader load to be shared.

All in all, it makes my life easier so I would encourage anyone to “give it a go”.