Charity Digital Code of Practice

Published by Peter Manser on 17 April 2019

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In late 2018 the UK’s first Digital Code of Practice for charities was launched, providing practical advice for charities large and small on how to improve their digital capabilities. It follows on from a recent report from Lloyds Bank that showed less than half of charities have access to the full range of basic digital skills needed for charities to remain relevant and prosper in the digital age, and that often charity leaders lacked the confidence to implement the necessary changes. This is worrying news when digital skills are becoming increasingly necessary for a wide range of charity activities, from service delivery to fundraising. There can be few, if any, charities that aren’t somehow affected by the increasing digitalisation of society.

The Code has the support of the Charity Commission, as well as a broad range of other bodies active in the not-for-profit sector, including Lloyds Bank and the Co-op Foundation who funded its development. Director of Policy, Planning and Communications at the Charity Commission, Sarah Atkinson, welcomed the launch of the Code, stating “Digital is changing the way the public behaves. For charities to stay relevant, increase the difference they can make, and protect their charity from risks, understanding and engaging with the digital world is vital.”

The Code sets out 7 key principles for charities to address:

1. Leadership
Charity leaders must lead on digital as a way of helping their charities be relevant and sustainable.

2. User led
Charities should make the needs and behaviours of beneficiaries and other stakeholders the starting point for everything they do digitally.

3. Culture
Charities’ values, behaviours and ways of working should create the right environment for digital success.

4. Strategy
Charities’ strategies should be ambitious about how they can use digital to achieve their vision and mission.

5. Skills
Charities should aim for digital skills to be represented at all levels of the organisation.

6. Managing risk and ethics
Charities need to determine and manage any risks involved in digital.

7. Adaptability
Charities will need to adapt to survive and thrive as digital affects how everyone lives and works.

The Code recognises the differing needs of large and small charities, and two different versions of the Code have been developed as a result. Both are built around the same seven principles, but the supporting guidance reflects the differing circumstances that affect charities of different sizes.

At Kreston Reeves we are recommending to all our charity clients that they use the Digital Code to assess their own existing policies and procedures, and to highlight areas where improvements can be made. For some charities this may seem quite daunting at first, with yet more work that needs to be done in an area of governance that detracts from the core charitable activity. But good governance is essential for charities of all sizes to protect themselves from risk and to keep the charity safe from harm, and nowhere is this more important than Digital. History is littered with examples of organisations that have failed to recognise and adapt to change, and have suffered as a consequence. Can you afford to allow your charity to be the next to do so?

Find a copy of The Charity Digital Code of Practice here.

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