Sparkrock Blog

Nicola Dickinson

Nicola Dickinson
Nicola Dickinson is a Founding Partner at Sparkrock. She formed Sparkrock with a vision and mandate to deliver award-winning, meaningful and affordable technology solutions exclusively for the non-profit and public sector. With a passion for assisting non-profit and public sector, she provides true value by being an active member of the non-profit community.
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Recent Posts

Nice to Meet You! Why you should be at the next Sparkrock Meetup.

by   Nicola Dickinson on 11.17.17

How many times have you gone to a "networking event" to meet and connect with those in your industry, only to leave feeling overwhelmed and disappointed with the conversations had? Often these events have good intentions to help people build professional relationships, but miss the mark on delivering a quality experience. They are crowded, unstructured, and not specific enough on the focused industry. Well we're here to make a change, and give you the opportunities you've been looking for.

Topics: Finance , Sparkrock , Product Innovation , Support & Success , k12 , Human Services , Networking

Key Takeaways from our recent K12 Meetup!

by   Nicola Dickinson on 10.11.17

On September 28th, Sparkrock brought together over 30 attendees, across 12 Ontario school boards, to discuss issues and trends most prevalent in the province, and listen to the amazing guest speakers that were lined up. The day proved to be an exciting and engaging one as we kicked off the event at the Ontario Science Center with an open discussion highlighting key objectives and challenges faced by the boards in Ontario as well as key initiatives designed to increase the Sparkrock K12 ERP solution’s value and effectiveness.

Topics: Finance , Product Innovation , Support & Success , k12

5 Brilliant Tips to Avoid a Cash Flow Crisis at your Nonprofit

by   Nicola Dickinson on 06.20.17

Last year, 450 Toronto-area Goodwill workers were locked out  due to a "cash flow crisis" that led to a shutdown of the long-standing charitable organization, delivering a devastating blow both to staff and those who rely most on the non-profit organization.

The question is: why did this venerable Nonprofit, which earned $28.1 million - including more than $4 million from the province of Ontario - in 2014, collapse so suddenly? Goodwill CEO Keiko Nakamura did not provided clear answers, so we can only wonder what may have caused some of these issues.

Since we work with many Nonprofits - helping them leverage the latest in technology to manage their finances effectively - we've decided to pull together 5 ways that your Nonprofit can make sure you don't experience a "cash flow crises" of your own:

Topics: Finance

Greater Governance for Better School Boards: 3 Actionable Tips

by   Nicola Dickinson on 06.01.17

We know that good governance means you’ve got a good framework for decision-making, set responsibilities and roles for employees and constituents, and a mission to provide students with an education that will set them up for success.

But what about great governance? Taking that extra step towards peak performance boils down to two key factors: is your school board organized, and is your integrity always at 100%?

Sometimes it’s hard to tell. No two school boards govern the exact same way. Governance guidelines are based on anything from past practice, to by-law rules, to pure policy. There’s no baseline for what creating great governance looks like - only a set of expectations that you need to fulfill, and a checklist of results that should be coming to fruition.

So here are some actionable tips for maintaining great governance at your K12 School Board:

Topics: Finance

Two Key Benefits of Investing in a Social Enterprise

by   Nicola Dickinson on 04.20.17

Nonprofits can raise funding in a variety of ways – from donations to grants to loans to issuing community bonds. However, there can come a time in a nonprofit’s growth where these sources alone are not sufficient or sustainable enough to fuel their programs.

When this happens, there aren’t too many other options for nonprofits to consider. Unlike for-profit organizations, they do not have the choice of planning to increase sales revenue to fund growth. Or do they?

Topics: Fundraising , Outcomes-Impact

5 Questions Every K12 School Board Should Ask their Technology Provider before Purchasing Software

by   Nicola Dickinson on 03.21.17

Ontario school boards do everything they can to keep their employees happy and create safe and effective learning environments for their students. At the same time, these boards operate with limited administrative budgets, so every penny counts and being productive is very important. This means that choosing the right technology partner for your Finance, HR and Payroll needs can be a daunting task. It takes a lot of time to evaluate vendors and trust that the company pitching you a solution is the best one for you. That’s why we’ve pulled together a list of the 5 most important questions you should ask any solution provider before purchasing their software:

Topics: Finance , Technology , k12

Need new technology? Here's how to build the business case.

by   Nicola Dickinson on 10.07.16

For many Human Services organizations, the ROI of technology is indisputable. Yet some organizations have been stung by very memorable IT project failures, and these failures stick in the minds of the people who write the checks. As a result, the level of trust in software can be low, and this lack of trust (combined with growing economic pressures and scrutiny from boards) has caused business leaders to become highly skeptical when it comes to spending big bucks on IT projects (“the last time we gave you money, you blew it!”).

Topics: Finance , Technology

Top Five Features of our K12 ERP 2016 Solution

by   Nicola Dickinson on 05.16.16

You want to provide the best learning environment you can for your students. There’s no question there. We believe to do this your administrative staff need to be able to remove the manual barriers to getting their work done and that starts with their ERP solution. Our latest release, Sparkrock ERP 2016 is better than ever for K12 organizations. Together with Microsoft, Sparkrock has made major investments in our ERP platform giving school boards advancements in procurement processes, funder reporting, fixed assets, HR, and Payroll. Here are the top features we deliver to school boards:

Topics: Finance

5 Ways to Improve Employee Attendance in K12 schools.

by   Nicola Dickinson on 01.18.16

According to an October 2008 study from the Center for American Progress, the average teacher misses nine or 10 days per year, and on any given school day in the United States, about 5 percent of teachers aren't at work.

Excessive teacher absences can have serious repercussions for K12 education. The cost of hiring substitutes goes up, and in some districts, qualified substitutes are scarce. Worse, student progress and test scores suffer when teachers aren't around to present lessons, answer questions and facilitate classroom discussions.

Topics: Finance

How to Build a Mentorship Program for New K12 Teachers

by   Nicola Dickinson on 12.17.15

 As the baby boomers start to retire, you lose the most experienced teachers in your school board. How do you engage in succession planning to ensure that student achievement stays high when younger, less experienced practitioners come to replace them? Many schools have found the answer to these questions in mentorship programs that encourage teachers to share their experience and knowledge.

Though mentorship programs can take on a number of forms, their goal is always to promote student learning in K12 education. Evidence suggests that mentorships encouraged by the administration produce gains in student achievement and expand opportunities for distributed leadership in schools. The programs also enhance the quality of discourse among educators, increase the focus on evidence-based practice, contribute to conflict management, and motivate teachers who often find genuine satisfaction in a mutually shared learning environment.

If you have been considering building a teacher mentorship program at your school board, here are some ideas to get you started:

Topics: Finance

The Current Teacher Supply and Demand in Canada

by   Nicola Dickinson on 12.10.15

Canada first experienced a surplus of primary and secondary school teachers in 2005; although this process was reflected across the country, the situation was illustrated most clearly in Ontario. Between 1998 and 2002, Ontario witnessed a record number of retiring teachers, which created a dramatic increase in new teachers when many young people flocked to fill the newly empty positions.

Topics: Finance