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5 digital skills your charity can improve right now

Digital skills are moving up the agenda for charities. In October 2016 Lloyds’ UK Business Digital Index reported that 49% of charities lack basic digital skills. Charities are increasingly aware of the need for digital skills, with 22% investing in digital skills in 2016, up from 12% in 2015.
If I had to give you one piece of career development advice this year, it would be to invest in digital skills. The pace of change in digital is rapid and skills are the best way to future proof yourself and your charity. It’s hard to make an informed choice about which skills to develop though, as digital is a vast area.
That’s why my agency my agency is partnering with Skills Platform on the Charity Digital Skills Report , which aims to map digital skills across the UK charity sector. We’d love to hear your views on how your charity is using digital, and we’ll then share the results to help you understand how other organisations are deploying digital, and how your charity compares.
Charity Digital Skills Report
Here are 5 digital skills your charity should start developing right now to stay ahead.

1. Change management

This might not seem like a core digital skill, but for every charity, I know who is currently going through digital transformation change is the issue they are struggling with most. Digital is about new ways of working, thinking and behaving and can feel like a culture shock in every way, and not everyone will be comfortable with that.
Whilst there are lots of resources on change management out there, including this useful guide from Mind Tools, I’d recommend talking to people who’ve actually done it. Jo Wolfe of Breast Cancer Care wrote a very inspiring blog about change management and digital last year, showing how it can be broken down into manageable steps.

2. Strategic oversight

Yes, there are lots of free webinars and resources out there to help you get to grips with email newsletters, social media and other tools. Knowing how the different channels can work together will help your charity develop a better overview of digital, increasing conversion and getting better results from all your hard work. General Assembly has a good digital marking course online.


Why your supporters are wealthier than you think... Course by Catherine Miles. Background photo of two sides of a terraced street of houses.

3. Partnership building

Very few organisations can go it alone in digital. The charities who I see succeeding in this area are the ones who form good relationships with people who can help them. If you’re a small charity, that may be a local developer who’s happy to help you with a project pro bono. For other charities, it may mean partnering with others to develop a digital product.
At the Civil Society Technology conference last year, I heard the RLSB talk about their Wayfindr app which empowers vision impaired people to navigate their way around London using their smartphones. The project was made possible by a partnership with Google and I’d be surprised if we don’t see more charities partnering with corporates on tech projects in the future. Start by identifying your charity’s key digital needs, however small, and then look for organisations in your network who could help you.
My top tips are to get to the bottom of the problem you want to solve, then check if potential partners offer the right fit and, above all, are able to commit.

4. Analytics

Data is never just about the numbers – it’s about how your audience behaves.
Getting under the skin of how they use digital channels will help your charity deliver better results in digital. Google offers an online digital analytics course. If you’re able to highlight patterns and trends from your charity’s data that will be invaluable. This article by Hubspot is a good overview of how to start joining the dots across channels.
In my experience, leadership teams and boards sometimes need support in interpreting digital analytics, so the more you can show how that digital fundraising campaign or website visits have contributed to your charity’s goals the better engaged they will be.

5. Artificial intelligence

From driverless cars to fake news to IBM’s Watson, there seems to be an AI story in the news every few days. It all sounds like science fiction but it’s not – it’s here and it’s real. Earlier this week the Reform think tank published a report stating that robots could replace 250,000 public sector jobs.
What could this mean for the charity sector? Some of the savviest digital professionals I know are skilling up in AI. If you are not sure where to start, Udacity offers a free online course for beginners.
If your charity had to choose one digital skill to develop right now, what would it be?
Take the Charity Digital Skills Survey. It’s just 5-10 minutes long and your responses will be used to build a picture of digital skills across the charity sector. All responses will be entered into a draw to win £200 worth of Amazon vouchers sponsored by Charity People, and Search Star is also offering Google Adwords Vouchers. Responses must be received by 17 February.
Zoe Amar is founder and director of Zoe Amar Communications, an agency who help nonprofits and other great organisations develop their digital strategy, improve online skills and create brilliant brands and marketing.