Charity key findings and calls to action

Key findings

Polarising perspectives from the third sector

26,000 (13%) charities have shown almost no digital activity in 2019 (Segment 1); this is 10,000 more charities (five percentage points) than 2018. On the other hand, there are also 24,000 additional charities who are almost digital by default (Segment 5).

In total, 111,000 charities (56%) have full Essential Digital Skills needed to operate in 2019. The digital tasks charities are most likely to be able to do are:

  • Digitally communicate with customers and suppliers (91%)
  • Keep software up to date (81%)
  • Respond to customer queries (80%)

However, there are key opportunities being missed

When Charities are digitally adept it translates into better outcomes for beneficiaries, and for the charities themselves, it enables them to:

  • Reach those that need their services most; only 51% have accessibility procedures built into their websites. This means some of the most vulnerable people in society might be missing out on services designed to help them.
  • Save time - This is still the most recognised online benefit to charities. This year, a third of charities (30%) recognise they now save at least one day a week thanks to digital practices.
  • Grow their income - Charities with full Essential Digital Skills are 1.5 times more likely than those without to have had an increase in revenue, resulting in more resources for people and potential benefit for end users.

Younger charities are leading the charge

Younger charities (under 10 years of age) are more digitally active and are reaping the rewards. They are more likely to be ‘doing their business on the move’ (47%) so they can place focus on their donors, supporters and beneficiaries.

Older charities are blocked by dismissive digital leaders

26% of charities have no interest in 'doing more online'; this rises to 49% amongst charities with the very little digital engagement (Segment 1). The data shows that apathy amongst charity leaders is a defining factor; 45% of organisations have leaders that don't think digital is relevant, and this is 43% of established charities over 10 years old.

Security is the first step, but is not a pathway to trying more online

The 2019 Index score of 50 sees a 4 point increase from 2018. The Index data indicates that this has been driven by increased security infrastructure and capability, which has shot up 15 points in the last 12 months. The majority of other capabilities have plateaued since 2018.

42% of charities want tech talent and digital proficiency

 Organisations understand that they need employees with higher digital capability – this is an increasing issue for charities. In 2014 10% of charities identified a lack of digitally skilled talent as a barrier within their organisation; in 2019 this is now 42%.

37% of charities do not understand which technologies they should invest in to drive their organisation forward and this, alongside a desire for digital talent, illustrates why more charities than ever are paying for external expertise.  Despite this we know that only 2% of charities are making the most of free training. This shows there is a large opportunity for charities to access expertise for less.

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Calls to action

Created in partnership with Zoe Amar, Director at Zoe Amar Digital and Chair of The Charity Digital Code of Practice.

1. Leaders need to lean into digital

Leaders must embrace the positive potential of digital. This will require a mindset and a skillset shift. Without the expertise or the confidence to adapt, charity leaders may be reluctant and as a result, many charities are missing out on key benefits, including taking the focus from the back office to the beneficiary.

Charities need to learn from other organisations with the highest digital capabilities and ensure there are methods of training and upskilling leaders. Leaders do not need to develop the in-depth technical skills themselves, however they must build a deeper understanding of digital. Being open to change and able to influence the organisation before digital can be truly embedded.

2. Close the skills gap

Charities must take advantage of free training. With charities identifying their own skill set as a barrier to progression, the opportunity to use free training sources, which currently only 2% of charities do, there is a huge opportunity for charities to grow their capabilities. We also know charities are spending money on third parties and on consultants, when free training for staff could provide a cost-effective, long-term solution. Charities with the highest digital capability are trailblazing by taking advantage of more free resources and realising the benefits.

With a wealth of advice available through the Charity Digital Code of Practice, charities can use the practical tools and advice as a framework to increase their impact, efficiency and sustainability through digital skills.

3. Pay it forward

Charities need to collaborate and share successes to progress.  The report indicates charities value feedback and support from their friends, family and peers, with 55% of charities following informal routes to get support. The most digitally capable need to pay it forward by helping others, and larger charities could lead the charge.

Whether it's offering to mentor a smaller charity, or providing one-off advice, charities who are more digitally capable could make a real difference by becoming role-models and influencing the change that the industry needs to see.

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