Two of Britain's biggest children's charities have merged their IT facilities in a bid to save £800,000 in three years.
The NSPCC and the Children's Society have formed a limited company, Charityshare, to manage the joint venture. IT services such as helpdesk, training and technical support will be shared, but confidential databases will be kept separate.
Finance directors at both organisations decided to take the plunge because they were both seeking a partner with similar IT technologies. The move is thought to be unprecedented among charities of their size.
"We will save more by sharing our IT services than by operating separately," said John Graham, director of finance at the NSPCC. "There will be an estimated 25 per cent saving over three years, equal to £800,000 across both charities, which will mean more money for children and young people."
Savings have been achieved by upgrading to broadband, eliminating any duplicated IT infrastructure and telecommunication links, merging services and cutting some personnel.
Both charities ran down IT staff numbers over the past nine months to pave the way for the merger. Four redundancies have since been necessary and 12 staff have been transferred to Charityshare. The finance directors and IT managers at both charities will lead the company until a head of services is recruited by April.
Charles Nall, finance director at the Children's Society, hoped more charities would be able to join the scheme in due course. But he warned that involving a third party too early might muddy the waters on VAT breaks.
"HM Customs have been very helpful so far and have confirmed in principle to secure the VAT rebate on the venture, but substantial savings would be damaged if VAT wasn't forthcoming," he said.
NSPCC's corporate supporter Microsoft has covered the cost of the upgrade of network software.
The Charity Commission has welcomed the tie-up.