We’re delighted to have partnered with Skills Platform again on the sector’s annual barometer, The Charity Digital Skills Report. But what’s really changed since last year? And what should charities be doing about it?
Overall, we’ve seen some improvements this year. A number of charities are using digital more strategically. There has however been little change in other areas, and I worry that the pace isn’t fast enough, given the speed of change in digital. Compared to last year, there is growing pressure on funders and charity leaders to raise their game online. And as a trustee, I’m concerned to read that the majority of charities either don’t know or aren’t aware of any plans to improve the digital skills of trustees.
Here are my highlights from the report, and what they mean.
More charities are using digital strategically
This is good news. My one caveat is that it could reflect the pattern we saw in the recent Lloyds Business Digital Index, which showed that digitally mature organisations are leaving others behind.
Charities have improved slightly at innovation and digital product development (29% compared to 24% last year).
It’s positive that there’s been a 5% increase in charities who think they are good at innovating and developing new digital products and services.
64% think they are excellent or good at social media (up from 61% last year), whilst 66% think they are good to fair with analytics (up from 60%).
A sizeable number of charities are feeling confident about GDPR, with almost two thirds (64%) currently preparing for GDPR and sure they will have everything in place for when it comes into force.
Lack of alignment between digital and organisational strategy
Just under a third (32%) have a clear strategy for how digital can help achieve their charity’s goals.
Whilst this is an improvement from the 27% who had such a strategy last year, the bigger picture is that the vast majority of charities are still not aligning their digital and corporate strategies. This is a concern.The 9% of charities who say that everyone in their charity understands their digital vision, which has stayed at the same level since 2017, reinforces this.
A growing number of charities (58%) now see funding as their biggest obstacle to digital progress, up from 52% last year. It’s time for funders to develop their digital skills too.
I’ve spoken to many charities, large and small, who are struggling to get digital fundamentals such as a good website or CRM system in place. Yet the sector also needs to have an eye to the future, so that everyone can plan for it. What are the implications of automation for the charity workforce, for example?
Skills, talent and people
People are one of the most important areas to get right in digital transformation and charities still need to work on how they recruit, retain and motivate the staff who can help them do this. I’m particularly worried that more staff are planning to leave their charities unless they develop digitally.
This is one of the biggest issues raised by the report for me. Charities want more breadth and depth of experience from their leaders in digital. As someone wise once said to me, digital is ultimately a test of how good a leader you are.
Charities want their leaders to set a clear direction of travel in digital, and boards are not immune from this. I think trustees need to take responsibility for ultimately owning how their charities use digital, and commit to developing the skills they need to make informed decisions.
It is good that there are some signs of improvement. Yet the gaps in funding, leadership, skills, governance and emerging tech skills all point towards a sector that is still struggling to move forward with digital.
As the results indicate, charities need funders, their leaders and trustees to get on board with digital. But will they rise to this challenge?
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