U3A Beacon is an on-line facility for managing local U3A associations, particularly with regard to membership, finance and groups. It is a secure system accessed by username and password, allocated by each U3A site administrator. Upper Bann’s site administrator is John Trimble, pictured right.
We were the first U3A in Northern Ireland to adopt Beacon but it is widely used by U3As in Great Britain (currently around 100 use the system with many more waiting to join). All U3As are co-hosted on the same server, with comprehensive security arrangements to ensure that the data of each U3A is effectively isolated from that of all others. Moreover, the encryption key used to encrypt sensitive data fields is different for every U3A.
The system is accessed by an internet browser and can therefore be used on most computers, tablets and smartphones. Access initially is limited to Committee Members and Group Leaders but in due course members will be able to access their own data so that they can change their email address, phone number etc. and in time may be able to renew on line (if happy to do so). Recommended browsers are Firefox and Chrome but other browsers are also generally compatible. Although only in its first year of use, Beacon will help convenors manage groups and our calendar of events – click here to see draft list of groups and click here to see our calendar of events.
U3A Beacon simplifies management of the membership database, which becomes increasingly more onerous as membership grows. It also facilitates reclaiming of Gift Aid from HMRC as all information about subscriptions and date of signing Gift Aid declarations will be held in the one secure place.
U3A Beacon will be used for distribution of mail (primarily but not exclusively email) to members of groups and to the membership as a whole. Email is much more useful than e.g. phone calls or text messaging as it is possible to include attachments such as guidance notes, menus and photographs.
Members who wish to obtain a membership card should send a passport style photo (head and shoulders) to firstname.lastname@example.org. Some basic tips on how to take selfies are given below.