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Eastside Community Trust informs and inspires community action in Easton and Lawrence Hill, Bristol. They provide people with places and ways to connect. They’re passionate about putting local people in control to build healthy and happy neighbourhoods.

Use this Guide so that when your staff meet someone new their contact details become available to all staff in your organisation. It’s particularly useful for organisations already using Microsoft tools or where your staff keep contact lists using their email address book. Step 1 explains more about the type of contact sharing it works for.

Steps to sharing individual contacts inside your organisation

This Guide offers a way to store and share contacts across an organisation. When staff keep contact lists in their email address book it can create problems when:

  • you need details they have, and they are on leave
  • you need to contact someone they had the details for, but they have left your organisation. 

You probably won't need this Guide if your organisation already uses a CRM (customer relationship management system). But you could use it for any contacts that your CRM doesn’t handle. For example, you might have stakeholders that aren't in your CRM.

You could also use this method alongside using a digital marketing platform to manage your mailing lists. 

This Guide does not look at how to share contacts for large group mailings.

If your organisation doesn't use Microsoft tools many of the steps could be done with other tools.

Eastside Community Trust realised that they needed to improve their contact sharing when their CEO went on maternity leave. before leaving she struggled to find a way to share her contacts. Then when she returned she had to rebuild her lists.

As more of their staff got work mobile phones, similar problems appeared. Contacts stored on mobile phones couldn't be accessed by other staff when the phone owner was unavailable.

Also, if a person was in contact with multiple staff, and their contact details changed, every staff member had to update their contact details for that person.

Eastside Community had tried using a customer relationship management system to share contacts. But it took front line workers too long to learn and keep up to date. They didn’t want to use the CRM to track other data. They needed a simpler system that could:

  • Store contact information: name, email address, phone number, organisation, contact type, short note

  • Populate each staff member's Microsoft Outlook with a shared contact list

They also needed it to have an easy to find, searchable and usable interface for people to look up contacts and phone numbers.

As they were already using Sharepoint and Microsoft Outlook, it made sense to use a Microsoft tool to build their contact store. They chose Microsoft Power Apps.

Think carefully about the fields you build in your Power App carefully. What you choose will affect accessibility and inclusion. Here are some of the things to consider.


How will you store people’s names? Are you going to split the name up into parts? How can you make this accessible and culturally inclusive?

Inclusion guides often recommend using a single name field that can accept a lot of characters. You could add to this a field for “Known as” - where you store nicknames OR which part of people’s names they use in conversation.

Sometimes you need to break names up. If you do, use First Name and Last Name.


Do you have any contacts who have both a personal and an organisational relationship with your organisation? Are you going to handle this by making it possible for people to have more than one email address? OR will you give people two records if they use different email addresses as they interact with you in different ways. There is no correct answer here, but you need to know which to help your teams be consistent.

Phone number

Are you just keeping a main contact number? It is more common to take one number rather than asking for both mobile and landline numbers now. Do you need work and personal numbers to be separate?


Do you need to collect this? Often knowing the organisation will be relevant to why you are contacting the person. Might people belong to more than one organisation?


Do you really need to collect this? Some organisations continue to store it, but only because they used to send out information by post.


Notes fields can be tricky. If you have one you have to train staff to use it in a consistent way. This will help it stay meaningful. You also have to make sure it doesn't end up containing sensitive data or personal details about third parties. Some things that could go in a notes field might be better as a dropdown menu of short phrases. You could store accessibility choices such as “uses a textphone” or “prefers email to phonecalls”.


It could help people search for someone they need to speak to if you add a type or category of contact. It might take some work to decide what the right categories are. You’ll also need to be careful that when you start thinking about categories, you aren’t doing work that would be better done in a mailing list programme. You’ll also need to think about whether people need to be listed under more than one category.

Data protection/consent

How will you store information about who has the right to use this contact and how? Will all contacts be the same, or will some contacts be phone only or email only?

Eastside worked mainly with Power Apps' default options. They chose these data fields:

Name: stored in 2 parts for continuity with previous records

Email: one email address per record. When people have two different emails they use two different records. Each email address usually means a different kind of relationship with Eastside.

Phone: one field for work, one for personal phone

Organisation: Each person has just one organisation. Many people can have the same organisation.

Address: They store postcode only. They use the data to gauge which local areas they are making connections in. 

Notes: Contains information about how the person connects with Eastside.

Categories: They use 13 different categories (Power Apps calls them “departments”). A developer configured the app so that people can belong to more than one category. The categories they chose are: volunteer; supplier; individual; staff; trustee; member; local business; VCSE; funder; public sector; school; tenant; participant.

Data protection: These contacts are not used for marketing purposes, so a formal consent process is not needed. Instead contacts are used for the purposes of working together in a particular way. Eastside has the right to store and use the details for that purpose.

The simplest way to combine data is to gather spreadsheet files from all your staff first. 

Outlook allows you to export your contacts as an Excel file. Staff can do this by selecting which contacts to include. This means they can check that they only include personal data that your organisation has a legitimate reason to store. Remember, you don’t always need people’s consent to store their details, particularly if you aren’t using them for marketing. You can safely assume that you have a legitimate reason to store the contact details of your grants officer or your trustees, for example.

You should also consider safeguarding at this stage. You need to think about whether it is appropriate for everyone to see all contacts in the combined list. This might create another reason not to include some information.

Then ask someone who understands spreadsheets to combine them and sort through for duplicates or data errors.

Then you can run a single import action to get all the data into your Power App.

Eastside took the approach described above. Staff were happy to participate in the process as they had been talking about finding a better way to share contacts for some time.

They also made a decision not to add any children to the data, because all users of the app can see all uploaded contacts. Instead, staff who are working with children continue to store those contacts in project specific systems.

First, add the contacts to the Power App. The app will appear in your organisation's Sharepoint. Then each team member will need to take a few steps so they can see the app and add contacts to it in the future. How to help them take those steps:

  1. Make sure that they are set up to access it safely and in compliance with data protection rules.
  2. Create instructions for how to add the Power App to their available set of Sharepoint apps. They only need to do this once. After that they will just need to remember the app icon and name to open it each time they want to use it.
  3. Make sure staff know how to find the list that the app sends to Outlook. This will allow them to email people without having to open the app itself.

Eastside made sure that all their staff had:

  • A Sharepoint login that used their work email address

  • Anti-virus software installed on the computer they were using.

They created instructions showing how to use the Sharepoint menu to find the Power App. The app is named “Eastside Contacts”. Instructions explain how to add it to a staff member's Sharepoint dashboard.

The app has two main views - one to search for people and the other to add new contacts. So Eastside also created instructions on using those.

Some staff needed 1-1 support to follow the instructions.

Once staff had completed the process the email list appeared in Outlook in the same place as internal email lists.

Any new process takes time to get used to. Some staff will adopt it, and others might find they’ve gone back to storing contacts in their Outlook address book. You’ll need to work out the best way to encourage people to keep using it.

Eastside are about to undertake their first review of the process. They know that the store is being well used in general as they can tell new contacts have been added. 

But they need to look into a system for who takes responsibility for some key things. This includes checking for duplicates, and generally ensuring the address book is in a healthy state.

Further information

See other Shared Digital Guides that relate to sharing contacts:

If you think you need more than a simple contacts system and want to find out about choosing a CRM use Datawise London’s free guide to choosing a database.