Charity digital transformation

Published by Susan Robinson on 9 May 2021

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Some of the key phrases for 2020 that will stay with me for a long time are:

  • “You are on mute”
  • “Can you hear me”
  • “I can’t put the camera on I am not appropriately dressed”
  • “I love your wall paper” (Not mine!)

Everyone will have their own list but what is significant is how much the sector has taken on the digital world.  Board meetings and AGMs held digitally; online training and interaction done virtually; management teams actively looking at new ways to deliver services and record information to name just a few.

When money was getting tight preparation and daily updating of cash flows became a critical management tool.  This information needed to be available in a digital format.  There have been hiccups on the way e.g. a new programme designed to improve processes may not have worked as expected and has had to be abandoned.

The sector is still on a journey.

Skills and funding remain an issue, within the organisation and outside.  It will be interesting to see the results of the recent Census.  The Census letters were sent out assuming that they would be completed online, although you could ring for a hard copy.  A number of elderly people do not have access to WiFi or computers and don’t want to learn new skills (or may be unable to).  How many have not completed their returns?  You can’t instigate a digital offering if your users can’t use it.  However, this should not stop your digital strategy or give you an excuse not to do one.  You still need to consider how it can help move your plans forward and what alternatives are in the market place to help those who don’t have access.

The recent “Charity Digital Skills Report 2020” produced by The Skills Platform identified that 66% of charities rate their board’s digital skills as low and 51% of charities don’t have a digital strategy.  As I get older I find my uptake on the digital world a struggle.  I may be the exception, but it does highlight the need to encourage younger and more diverse people onto the board.

I do wonder, if a survey was done of people working in the commercial sector, what their skills would be?   In larger firms there is an IT department that does everything for the staff, they just log on and ring the helpline when necessary – an expensive option for a small charity though.  Are people in general sufficiently upskilled to help charities when they join a board.

As a trustee, what have I learned?

  • I can now use Microsoft Teams and Zoom. I discovered my home laptop was too old to enable me to use some of the advanced features of both products; potential additional costs to the sector may become necessary to upgrade hardware and software.
  • I miss the body language of a group of people to help gauge issues or levels of support, but I don’t have to travel to meetings thereby saving time and potential costs to the charity.
  • We have now identified one board member to get a better understanding of the software package we have in use. This is needed for continuity and getting the best information from it.
  • I have now presented a few online webinars and it does get easier.

I am still on the journey.

Fundraising is going to be crucial as we move forward.  I recently tried to make an online donation.  The website was not secure so I could not proceed.

When was the last time you looked at your own charity’s website?  Is it easy to make a donation?  Try it.  Does the website provide useful information about what you do and why you do it?  Does it encourage someone to make a donation?

I talk about the Trustees’ Annual Report and the story it should tell, it is important that this is carried through to the website.   Provide good quality information about your services and how people can access them.  Don’t make it too complicated as, like me, your beneficiaries and donors need it to be simple and easy to navigate.

I believe the sector has done well over the last year adapting to the new situation and enhancing its digital ability.  There is still a long journey ahead but we should continue to build on what we have done and work to deliver our service in the most robust, sustainable and efficient way possible.

We have taken the mute button off, don’t put it back on again!

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