SMiSA News

Very Connect - An Introduction

We are in the process of switching to a new database management system called Very Connect. Members will receive an email explaining the pertinent points but here we bring you fuller information on why we need a new system, and what it means for you.

The current set up and why it needs to be upgraded

Until now we have been operating with a number of different systems, none of which are interlinked.

  1. Excel spreadsheets for the core membership data
  2. Mailchimp for sending the regular update and ballot emails,
  3. Election Runner for the director elections and £2 Spend ballots
  4. Eventbrite for registrations for things like Manager Q&A nights
  5. and of course Gocardless where members initially set up their direct debits

Each of these apart from Eventbrite have separate member email address lists which need to be individually updated for all changes to member data and status, and then reconciled frequently to ensure consistency.

All this background administration is a considerable workload for the SMISA committee. Removing the need for much of this work would free up committee time to help move SMiSA forward in other ways.

Although we take regular backups of files, the data could still be vulnerable to things like hardware failure or file corruption on individual computers or other devices.

Also in these days of strict data privacy and GDPR regulations a stand-alone spreadsheet based system does not deliver the required standard of security for member data.

The use of Excel, Mailchimp and Eventbrite are free to SMISA at present, although that may not always be the case in future. Eventbrite incurs costs of c £100 per ballot.

What will replace the current set up?

A list of core requirements for any new system was drawn up, and considerable research and trials undertaken of available off-the-shelf solutions. We eventually decided to go with a Glasgow-based platform called VeryConnect, which provides a membership database platform which can be customised and comes with built-in integration to Mailchimp and Gocardless.

The system will deliver the following benefits for member administration:

  • one central database of member data
  • built-in email and balloting functions
  • no need to maintain separate mailing lists in Election Runner and Mailchimp
  • Internet cloud based so can be accessed by all authorised committee members without the need to copy or download and distribute information for specific purposes.
  • Secure service provider platform with frequent backups.
  • Fully compliant with GDPR laws
  • The link with GoCardless ensures member data is captured as part of the joining up process.

The new portal also allows members to register and log in, enabling them to check and update their own personal and contact details, avoiding the need to contact SMiSA by email to request changes.

There are many other standard features which could be made available in future, including blogs, interest groups event calendar and the chance to read SMISA documents stored in the system.  These will be introduced gradually as and when appropriate.

All of this will let us provide a much improved service to members.

Costs  

But as you’d expect, professional systems like this don’t come for free. There is a one-off set-up cost (£4,200), and like most software services these days, an ongoing monthly subscription (£300).

If we use the inbuilt polling function in place of Election Runner this will save about £400 per annum.

We believe the net cost represents good value for the degree of functionality and customisation Very Connect will offer us, compared to many of the other possible solutions we looked into, many of which cost a lot more but with limited customisation options.

Whilst we always strive not to spend funds on operating costs if we can avoid it, we can’t go on forever as an organisation with a six-figure annual income and more than a thousand members if that operation is being run from an Excel spreadsheet on someone’s personal PC.

Also, if we’re not able to streamline the workload involved here, we may have needed to employ a part-time administrator to look after this for us, which other trusts (such as The Well Society and Foundation of Hearts) already do. This system will set us up for the foreseeable future as regards membership records and all that they involve.

Next Steps

All of our membership data has now been uploaded from the spreadsheets into the new system and we are currently working with Very Connect on the final set-up of the live system and running our final checks and reconciliations of the data.

Not all functionality will be activated on initial roll out of the portal, as we want to ensure that the core membership functions are in good order first.

Members will soon be invited to log in and register. We will require everyone to do this to check their address and contact details, and update them if required. You will also be able to set your preferences for contacts from SMiSA and to add optional information to your Profile page.

Meet the Manager Night

New St Mirren management duo Jim Goodwin and Lee Sharp will discuss their plans with supporters at a special SMISA-run Meet the Manager night next week.

The Q&A event will take place on Thursday 15 August in the hospitality suite at the Simple Digital Arena and will also see Jim and Lee welcomed into SMISA as honorary members as we continue on the road towards majority fan ownership.

Jim is looking forward to what he hopes will be a regular meeting with the supporters and thanked SMISA for inducting him and his assistant as well as for their ongoing work.

He said: “It’s a fantastic honour for both Lee and me to be inducted as honorary members. What SMISA have done for the club is quite incredible and it’s a great organisation. They’re a group of people who are extremely passionate about the club and desperate for success. And hopefully Lee and I can deliver that for all them and all our supporters.

“I’m looking forward to speaking with the fans on the night. I’ve done similar things before as club captain and I’d love to have regular meetings with the supporters as I think it’s really important.

“That level of interaction always has to be there at any club. There can’t be any division between the club, from board level, through the manager, the staff, the players, the youth academy and the fans as well. We’re all in it together. So I look forward to meeting the supporters and answering their questions on the night.”

The event is free and open to all St Mirren fans but due to the capacity of the venue, places must be booked in advance via Eventbrite link below and will be first-come, first-served. One ticket per application.

Please note that due to the terms of the club's licence, the event is for over-18s only. Doors will open on the night from 6.30pm, and the event will start at 7pm.

You can book your place HERE

July £2 spend results

SMISA members have voted in favour of two projects that will help both the St Mirren Women's team and the St Mirren Youth Academy in the latest £2 spend ballot.

Membes were asked to chose whether they wished to spend £1000 to buy a set of away strips and BALA Sport Fairtrade Footballs for Kate Cooper's squad, and whether to provide Head of Youth Allan McManus with £3000 to pay for taking Academy squads down to England to take on Premier League and Championship opposition.

Both proposals got the overwhelming support of the members. Around 73% (620 members) backed the suggestion to give the women's team financial support and 89% (749 members) opted to provide the youth academy with much-needed funds.

Both are pivotal parts of our club and hopefuly this money will help them continue to grow.

Our next quarterly ballot will take place in October and any members wishing to forward projects for consideration can do so by email at [email protected]

Director's Q&A with David Riley

DAVID RILEY was elected on to the St Mirren club board by SMISA members towards the end of last year. Here he provides his first update to members on what that experience has been like so far.  

 

Q: How have you found your first seven months 

on the club board?

A: The first seven months have been surreal but extremely enjoyable. I still can't quite believe that I've been given the opportunity to shape the future of our club. It's not something anyone ever imagines they will have the chance to do. I've been on a very steep learning curve since December but I've had tremendous help and support from everyone at the club as I've gone around finding out how the business functions on a daily basis.

 

Q: What has been the one thing you’ve learned

 in that time that perhaps surprised you?

A: How few people there are involved in the running of our club. I always assumed there were loads of people, each with their own area of responsibility. The company I work for has almost half a million employees so I'm used to thinking that way but we have a small team of people who do an excellent job every day, sometimes under circumstances that are not easy. My goal during the next 18 months or so is to look at how we do things and try to find ways to improve on them to make life a little easier for everyone; both staff and customers.


Q: What particular projects have you been 

involved in or helped with?

A: There have been a few but the main priority for me was our ticketing system. I know many fans on different devices have had issues of one kind or another over the years and although they're not always avoidable there is certainly a lot of room for improvement. The problem is not always a system issue as such but if I'm not able to buy a ticket or renew my season ticket when I want to do it then that's a problem. I'm working directly with Interstadia and our ticket office staff to address this.

Another thing that wasn’t really a project but an unexpected task was being involved in the recruitment of our new manager. It wasn’t something I expected during my two years on the board but it was great experience as we move towards fan ownership.


Q: What’s been the most enjoyable aspect of 

being a director so far?

A: I can't single out any aspect of the job, I've honestly enjoyed every minute...maybe with the exception of my dear old mum phoning me to tell me my photo was in the Paisley Daily Express and that I really need to go on a diet because they couldn't fit me on one page!


Q: As SMISA’s elected representative how important is it 

to ensure the supporters are taken into consideration where possible?

A: It's my top priority. I'm a supporter first and foremost, as is everyone on the board. I'm focussing on improving the supporter experience in all dealings with the club. Without supporters we wouldn't have a club so we should never stop looking for ways to improve the relationship between the club and those who spend a lot of money supporting us.

Changes won't happen overnight and we won't get everything right first time but I am committed to making improvements in as many areas as possible during my time on the board.

There are, of course, times when what's unpopular with the supporters conflicts with what's best for the club, in a business sense; giving over the South Stand to opposing supporters being a good example of that.

That decision allowed us to bring in two players in January without whom, there is no doubt, we would be preparing for life in the Championship this season. The supporters’ opinions are not being ignored in making decisions such as this but we, on the board, have a duty to act in the best interests of the club and maintaining our place in the Premiership is where our club needs to be and deserves to be.


Q: What are the key attributes a director should 

possess to be able to make a positive contribution

to the running of the club?


A: Social skills are, in my opinion, as important as any business skills you can bring to the role. On match days you host and have conversations with the opposition team's board alongside some well-respected figures from the game so good communication skills are required.

In board dealings, the ability to see both sides of an argument and take a measured approach when making decisions are critical along with good time management skills, genuine desire to get involved and a willingness to go outside your comfort zone. It's not always easy but it's always worthwhile.

Q: What do you think could be done to make the

 club run more efficiently?


A: Generally speaking, in any business you will find that things are done in a certain way because "that's how they've always been done". There is the wise old saying; if it ain't broke don't fix it. That's true to a point but you first have to make sure that it really ain't broke, even a little. In my day job I'm paid to optimise processes and improve efficiency across multiple departments. A big part of my job is asking questions, suggesting alternatives and trying them out.

 It sounds simple and it is. That's what I have started and will continue to do at the club. It helps me get an understanding of the individual jobs and how the departments interact with each other and our customers but it also allows me to look at how everything gets done, without any preconceived ideas and potentially see opportunities to make improvements.

Should any member wish to discuss a club-related issue with David, he can be contacted on [email protected]

Thommo meets Thommo! Legend thanks SMISA for mural

STEVEN THOMPSON has thanked SMISA members for supporting plans to create six new murals around the Simple Digital Arena including one of his famous goal celebration in the 2013 League Cup semi-final win over Celtic.

The former Saints striker, who is now a BBC pundit, stopped by this stadium this week to take a look at the painting by local artist Mark Worst in the concourse of the Family Stand and admitted it was an honour to see one of the highlights of his career commemorated in such a fashion.

SMISA members voted in the January £2 ballot to back a proposal to create murals representing six of the club’s major trophy wins and then were asked to suggest which of those they wanted Mark to recreate on the stadium walls. Mark, with the help of some of the SMISA board, then chose the images he felt would best represent those six celebrations.

The work was completed recently giving Thompson the chance to see it for himself.

He said: “The artist has done really well so I’m really pleased with it. It’s such an honour and I hope the mural is up there for a long, long time.

"It’s a moment I remember incredibly fondly from the League Cup semi-final win over Celtic. You can tell from my face that I might have enjoyed that goal ever so slightly! And you had big Cheesy [Mark McAusland] of all people wide on the right wing to whip in this great ball for me to score.

 “That was one of the best moments of my career, without a doubt – scoring for St Mirren in a semi-final at Hampden. I’m really proud of it. That put us 3-1 up against Celtic and you’re starting to think we might actually make it to the final.

“That was the best team performance we had in my whole time at the club. We were absolutely incredible. You had young Meatball [John McGinn] with his skinhead bossing Victor Wanyama all over the park.”

 Thompson thanked SMISA for suggesting and funding the project. He added: “It’s great that this is something that has come from the fans. Any dealings I’ve had with SMISA they’ve always been absolutely sensational.

"It’s great to have a relationship with them and I’m always more than happy to work with them and feel a part of the club again.

“My son Struan is part of the St Mirren 2007 team so I’m at the training ground almost as much as the first-team players! I don’t get to as many first-team games in the flesh as I would like but I at least get to analyse all our matches for Sportscene. And it’s nice to be able to do that on the team you support.”

 

 

Work to begin on stadium murals

In the January £2 ballot, members voted in favour of a proposal to have murals painted on the walls inside the stadium by local artist Mark Worst.

We asked members to choose which of the club's 11 major trophy wins they would like to commemorate and, based on that feedback, Mark and members of the SMISA board have chosen the six images that Mark will now start to recreate. There will be two murals each in the concourses of the Main, Family and West Stands. 
 
The images selected are:
 
- the cover of the 1959 Scottish Cup Final match day programme
 
- Jimmy Bone and team-mates with the 1980 Anglo Scottish Cup 
 
- Tony Fitzpatrick and Billy Abercromby celebrating the 1987 Scottish Cup win
 
- Mark Yardley from the Millennium Champions season of 99/00
 
- Steven Thompson celebrating his goal in the 2013 League Cup semi-final win over Celtic 
 
- Stephen McGinn waiting in the tunnel to collect the 2017/18 Championship trophy. 
 
Mark is due to start work this week and will work throughout the summer so that all six murals are finished for the start of the new season. We will keep members updated with his progress. 
 

May update

We emailed our members recently with an update that included the result of the April £2 ballot, a SMISA AGM report, a chance to play on the pitch for free in Saint For A Day, and details on the first St Mirren women's game due to take place at the Simple Digital Arena. Details are below.


April £2 spend ballot

We wrote to you a couple of weeks ago with details of the £2 spend option for this quarter. It was a single-issue ballot on this occasion with members given the option of supporting the purchase of Community Season Tickets for season 2019/20 to be used free-of-charge by local community, charity or other groups or keeping the money in the pot for possible future use.

We received a total of 885 votes. Thanks to everyone who voted. The results are as follows:

Option 1: Community Season Tickets – 707 votes (80%)
Option 2: Retaining money for possible future use – 178 votes (20%)

We will now move forward with buying the season tickets and invite any groups interested in using them to attend a match next season to email us via [email protected]
 
SMISA AGM report

We held our annual general meeting in Paisley town centre on March 30 and would like to thank all members who attended.

Member Graeme Aitken spoke about his proposed Special Resolution that would have included an option on the quarterly £2 ballot for the money to be banked to be used once SMISA becomes majority owners of the club.

The resolution was defeated by 25 votes (including nine by proxy) to 12 (one by proxy). We are grateful to Graeme for taking the time to travel from London to present his case.

At the meeting there was also confirmation of two new members to the SMISA board – Douglas McMahon and Lawrence McCabe – while Colin Orr was re-elected as per SMISA legislation.

Kevin Park and David Nicol have chosen to stand down from the SMISA board and we thank them both for their contribution in recent years. David will remain on the club board alongside David Riley, the SMISA-elected director.

Anyone interested in reading minutes from the AGM as well as the slides used in the presentations made by SMISA board members, can do so by clicking HERE.
 
Saint For A Day

Two teams of St Mirren fans will get the chance to "live the dream" by playing on the pitch at the Simple Digital Arena on Sunday May 19 and we have managed to secure places for two of our members to take part in the match for free.

Each of the 32 players involved (two squads of 16) will be given an official team strip that they will be allowed to keep after the match, while there will also be a medal presentation to all players followed by food and refreshments. The match will also be filmed by club staff.

Any SMISA member (aged 18 or over) who wishes to play in the match should email SMISA board member Kenny Docherty ([email protected]) with their details including a contact telephone number by Wednesday May 8th at 5pm. In the event of more than two members wishing to play, we will select two names at random. The winners will be notified shortly afterwards and must be available to play in the game that kicks off at noon on Sunday May 19. The prize is non-transferable.
 
St Mirren women's team

Immediately after Saint For A Day on May 19, the SMISA-sponsored St Mirren women's team will play their first ever game at the Simple Digital Arena, kick off 4pm. Entry is free and we would encourage all members to try to get along to give the team your support.
 

Regards,

The SMISA committee

 

 

SMISA AGM minutes

We held our annual general meeting in Paisley town centre on March 30 and would like to thank all members who came along. Here is a summary of what took place with a link to the slides used by board members in their presentation. Any questions please email [email protected] 

 

Minutes of The 1877 Society Limited, (SMiSA) Annual General Meeting

Saturday 30th March 2019, University of West of Scotland

1.      Introduction (George Adam)

George Adam, Society Chair, opened the meeting by presenting an overview of the agenda for the meeting, and remarking on the highs and lows of the past year for SMiSA and the football club.

In particular he spoke about the recent meeting concerning the behaviour of some fans at, and whilst travelling to, St Mirren games. He advised that Police Scotland had informed the meeting that St Mirren is currently ranked as the fifth most difficult club for them to police. This is not a league table we wish to be near the top of, and George highlighted that all at the meeting had agreed to work together to improve matters.

George also appealed to those present to help out by encouraging more member recruitment and/or assisting the committee with their ideas and time.

2.      Highlights of the past year (Colin Orr)

Colin took the audience through a series of picture slides which highlighted some of the key events on the past year.

3.      Membership & Finance (Alan Quinn)

Alan presented some key numbers regarding membership numbers and finances, together with an update on progress towards the implementation of a new administration platform for the membership database.

4.      Objectives (Lawrence McCabe)

Lawrence updated the meeting regarding progress on last year’s objectives and introduced the committee’s intended objectives for the coming year.

The presentation slides for items 2, 3 and 4 can be viewed HERE

5.      Club Director Update (David Riley)

David spoke briefly about his first few months on the Club board and about what the role entailed. He emphasised the fact that we have a wide range of knowledge, experience and skills within our membership and that these could be valuable assets on the Club board.

It's hoped that our members will consider their own particular attributes and think about joining the SMiSA board then possibly standing for election to the St Mirren board in 2020. David is also carrying out a review of all departmental processes to make sure that they are fit for purpose and help drive growth in the coming years. He is committed to ensuring that the Club is in the best possible shape when SMiSA assumes majority ownership by 2026.

6.      Formal Resolutions

  1. The Society’s accounts for the year to 30th November 2018, which had been previously issued to members, were put forward for acceptance. The accounts were accepted unanimously.
  2. AQ outlined the Society’s responsibilities under the Community Benefit Act 2014 regarding audit of accounting records. No further questions were raised and votes were conducted by a show of hands to :
    1. Disapply the need to appoint an auditor
    2. Re-appoint the Independent Financial

Both votes were passed unanimously.

7.      Election of Society Directors

GA introduced the election for directors to the Society Board.  Each year a third of the elected board are required to stand down. This year three board members stood down but two (David Nicol and Kevin Park) did not wish to stand for re-election.

The third person standing down (Colin Orr) was wishing to be re-elected, along with Lawrence McCabe and Douglas McMahon who are standing for the first time.

Votes were held to approve the appointment of these three directors, all being passed unanimously.

8.      Member Resolution

Member Graeme Aitken was then invited to address the meeting regarding his proposal that every quarterly £2 spend ballot should include the option to save the money for when SMISA becomes majority owners.

Graeme explained his reasons for this, and the advantages he believes this would bring.

Colin Orr responded on behalf of SMiSA, principally that it is not necessary to commit £2 spend funds in this way as the Society’s projections and plans are based on accumulating a sizeable cash surplus before completing the purchase of the majority shareholding.

Those present raised a number of questions which were answered by Graeme or members of the SMiSA Committee as appropriate

Q: A member commented that he did not think that adding an additional option in the ballot to save money would make the ballot more complicated.

A: CO explained that including the option Graeme wanted could create anomalies in the vote. If a ballot still included the current option to reject a project but keep the money available for future, it could split the vote - making it possible the option to spend on a project could win a ballot even if a majority of members had voted for one of the options not to do it. But if we didn't include the option to keep unspent money available, any money we choose not to spend would - under Graeme's resolution - be locked away until the buds were bought, even if we wanted to spend it. Thus we would lose flexibility to spend on a big ticket item at a later date.

Graeme admitted he could have worded the resolution differently but agreed members had to vote on the wording he had proposed.

Q: Graeme Aitken referred to the committee having “found some money down the back of the sofa” to donate to the Community Trust Festive Friends event.

A: AQ responded by clarifying that the sofa is actually the £2 spend bank account, that the quarterly ballots do not always spend the full amount available each quarter, and that any surplus is left in the account where it is available for future ballots if required.

 There being no further questions, the meeting proceeded to a vote on Graeme’s resolution, after Graeme had received a warm round of applause for his contribution.

Voting on the resolution was as follows :

For : 11 in the room (plus 1 by proxy)

Against : 16 in the room (plus 9 by proxy)

The motion was therefore defeated. GA thanked Graeme Aitken for his contributions. Graeme responded by saying that he had learned from the experience and would be back next year to try again!

9.      Questions & Answers

The meeting was opened for questions / comments from the members in attendance. A summary of these are listed below.

Q: How will SMiSA continue to raise money after the takeover, to pay unexpected or every day bills?

A: AQ and CO replied that the exact nature of how SMiSA will function post acquisition has not yet been determined, but a paper is currently being prepared by the committee which will propose various options and scenarios. This paper when finished will be sent to all members for their feedback. It is, however, envisaged that members will be able to continue paying subscriptions post acquisition in order to have reserve funds available should the Club need them. But it is not possible to say at this time what that rate might be.   

Q: How many members was the original number of members required to make the buyout proposal viable?

A: 1000

Q: One member commented that he thought Graeme Aitken’s resolution was a great idea, because he doesn’t always approve of the items put forward for the ballots. How does the committee decide which items to include?

A: CO outlined how suggestions can come from the Club, SMiSA members, Community Trust, Youth Academy etc. All suggestions have to be assessed in terms of cost, feasibility, compliance with member priorities (as per the 2017 survey results). This can take time, but all ideas are recorded so not overlooked. He encouraged members if submitting ideas to provide as much information as possible.

Q: Why had the purchase of match balls for the first team, as requested by Jack Ross, been considered a suitable item for the £2 Spend?

A: CO replied that Jack had wanted the first team to be able to train with the new specification match balls which had been introduced for that season, but which had not been budgeted for in the Club budgets for that season.

 There being no further questions, GA then concluded the meeting with a thank you to everyone, and enjoy the match!

 

 

 

 

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