5 key takeaways from the Charity Digital Skills Report

Charity Reporting

Last week we launched the second Charity Digital Skills Report in partnership with Skills Platform, our annual barometer which measures how charities are using digital.

It was good to see that the sector has taken some steps forward with digital:

  • 45% of charities don’t have a digital strategy, which is an improvement on last year’s figure of 50%.
  • Over a third (36%) say that digital transformation is being led from the top, an increase from 29% last year.
  • Just over half (53%) see their digital strategy skills as fair or low, a 10% improvement from 63% last year.

These are encouraging signs.

However the data highlighted areas for improvement, which I also believe are opportunities. Here’s what digital teams should do about them.

1. Get a good digital strategy.

You may have a stand alone strategy, or digital objectives within your corporate strategy. Our report revealed that just under a third (32%) of charities have a clear strategy for how digital can help achieve their charity’s goals.

Why not review where you’re trying to go with digital and how you plan to get there, asking yourself if it’s really geared up to deliver the change your charity was founded to deliver?

2. Think creatively about funding opportunities.

An increasing number of charities (58%) now see funding as their biggest obstacle to digital progress, up from 52% last year.

One charity I know tackled this by chunking investment for their digital transformation into a series of smaller asks, which they took to digitally savvy corporate partners. What do you need to get funding for, and who are the best people to approach?

3. Plan for emerging tech.

Despite self-driving cars, cryptocurrency and artificial intelligence being high on the news agenda, only 14% of charities are planning for how new tech trends could affect their work.

FutureLearn has a suite of free online courses covering new tech trends.

4. Map your charity’s digital skills.

More charities believe they could deliver their strategy more effectively by investing in digital skills (72%, up from 69% previously). Yet when I talk to charities they often don’t know what skills staff have.

NCVO has a brilliant free digital skills toolkit to help you plan a complete programme of activity.

5. Offer to support your leadership team.

The report demonstrated significant skills gaps amongst boards and other leaders.

63% of charities expect their leaders to understand trends and how they affect their charities, and 53% want them to have some experience or understanding of digital tools, growing from 46% last year.

Meanwhile the majority of charities (69%) cite their board’s digital skills as low or having room for improvement, down by 2% on last year.

Can you offer to support them with a briefing? Would they understand digital better if you reviewed the quality of your internal reporting? Could you help your CEO find a mentor who is a peer from a charity speeding ahead in digital?

An opportunity for digital teams

Whilst the Charity Digital Skills Report offers some worrying trends, it’s also a moment when your team could really make its name.

Few people in the building are likely to know more about digital than you do. You’ve got the knowledge, the skills, and more influence than you think.

Your charity leaders need your guidance, even if they don’t know it yet.

Read The Charity Digital Skills Report


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Zoe is director of Zoe Amar Communications, a marketing and digital communications consultancy who have worked with leading organisations including ActionAid, Crimestoppers, Macmillan and Anglia Ruskin University. She blogs for The Guardian about charities and communications and is on the advisory board for The Guardian Voluntary Sector Network. She co-founded the charity #socialceos awards.