The charity sector: Bridging the digital skills gap
As industries turn to digital transformation to adapt and grow, the charity sector has a known digital skills gap, playing catch up with other sectors in this area more than most. At the start of 2019, 150 UK charities submitted responses to a digital benchmarking tool, created to accompany the sector’s first digital code of practice. The findings indicated that:
• 63% do not have a digital strategy
• 75% have ‘very few digitally skilled people around’
• 40% do have significant analytics in place, either tactical or strategic
The results show that while the majority of charities have strong digital leadership at board level (77%), many are struggling to deliver digitally at ground level. This is attributed to the shortage of digital skills within the sector.
However, a positive indicator is the increasing use of analytics in the sector. While still below the benchmark, charities are focusing on understanding supporter behaviour, and in turn the most effective ways to engage and respond.
“It’s no surprise that we’re behind the curve on digital, and we know that we need to do more, but what’s so valuable about this report – and the code itself – is that, by focussing on the culture and practice of digital, rather than the technology, it shows us where we need to concentrate our effort in order to kick-start improvements overall.” Martin Campbell, Digital Collective Chair and CIO at World Vision UK
With digital skills being a strong driver of performance across a charity, the findings highlight that bridging the skills gap is crucial for today’s charities. The verdict is that ‘there’s a long way to go’; something that the new digital code of practice hopes to improve.
A separate survey, by Tech Trust, reports that charities with a digital strategy are more optimistic than those without. 92% of digitally-focused charities say that technology will enable them to increase donations, productivity, efficiency and measurable impact. With such strong gains to be had, what is holding charities back?
Getting to grips with digital
Most charities without a digital strategy lack investment in the people, tools and training needed to make it happen. Yet, due to the pace of technology, the technological divide will become more difficult to bridge for those who don’t get on board now.
As the Tech Trust report concludes, charities who invest in technology have the potential to improve almost every aspect of their operations – from internal efficiency to online user experience. A few strong digital people in an organisation, working with the right partners on the right projects, can have a transformative impact on both fundraising and service delivery.
5 examples of technology in action
1. Streamline processes – employee and volunteer apps (Age UK ‘Steps’)
2. Greater transparency, tracking payments from donor to beneficiary – utilises blockchain network (St Mungo’s)
3. Fundraising in a cashless society – contactless payment technology (Cancer Research, Sue Ryder, Macmillan, NSPCC)
4. Tackling homelessness – cashless donation points (TAP), crowdfunding platform (Beam)
5. New technologies – enabling Bitcoin donations (Red Cross, Save the Children)
Employing a digital strategy has a transformative effect on charity organisations, with procurement well placed to help effect this change. Charities who invest in technology are able to reap the benefits across the organisation, from internal processes to fundraising and service delivery.
Despite the digital skills gap, it’s essential to harness strong digital people for key projects. Digital initiatives will enable charities to increase donations, productivity, efficiency and measurable impact.