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Going digital is more than having a website say Small Charities Coalition & The Good Exchange

Going digital is more than having a website say Small Charities Coalition & The Good Exchange

Chief Executive of the Coalition Mandy Johnson spoke up about charities’ use of at Navca’s annual conference this week, commenting on some of the recommendations made in the House of Lords Select Committee’s report Stronger Charities for a Stronger Society and subsequent associated comments by Baroness Pitkeathley.

Baroness Pitkeathley chaired the House of Lords Select Committee inquiry into charities, with the resulting Stronger Charities for a Stronger Society report released in March. In an interview in July on the ICSA website, the Baroness said that many charities were missing a trick on digitalisation, and that all charities, however small, ought to have some kind of very simple website.

In Mandy Johnson’s Provocation at this week’s NAVCA Future Forward Event, she said:

“Advising small charities to get a website or to get onto social media, that’s what we should have been advising charities to do ten years ago. The world has moved on and if all we’re advising charities to do is get a website, we’re not encouraging them to become digital.

“Because for me, digital is about embracing solutions to challenges that we’re facing. So it absolutely starts with identifying those problems. It’s about thinking what are the challenges that collectively we’re facing that we can address through technology.”

The Small Charities Coalition CEO also called on all the organisations present to work together to help small charities in this area, saying:

“My challenge to you today is how can we collectively as infrastructure bodies come together to listen to the challenges we hear our small charities are facing and present solutions to them.  How do we get people thinking about their challenges and then how do we collectively think about the solutions, and how can technology be a part of that?”

In response, Ed Gairdner, COO of The Good Exchange made the following comments:

“The third sector is currently operating five to ten years behind the commercial sector when it comes to utilising digital technology particularly where it can be used to enhance fundraising and grant-making. Rather than focusing on the basics, such as websites and social media, we should be harnessing the power of digital to enable fundraising and grants to reach their end targets by facilitating new ways and enhancing current ways of doing things. In our view, until grant-makers accept that they are part of the digital problem and that they need to be part of the solution, digitising the sector will continue to be an uphill struggle.

“With this in mind, a more strategic and targeted approach to grant making is needed that will enable charitable projects to be found and auto-matched against the grant-makers giving criteria coupled with more collaboration between grant-makers, the general public and corporates, allowing the burden of risk to be shared across society and encouraging further charitable giving.”

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Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via

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  • Chester Mojay-Sinclare, the founder of Charity Checkout, argues that the Small Charities Coalition misunderstands the digital needs of small charities.

    He too presented evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities.

    He has blogged about what he told the Committee and why:

    Why I told the Lords that small charities need help with basic digital skills

    Mojay-Sinclare points out that charities using social media are 51% more likely to increase their donations, according to the same research. He argues that digital should be about solving challenges, but many sector leaders ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’ and are so concerned about creating digital solutions, that they are overlooking the ones that already

    In the case of smaller charities, he argues that this means adopting basic digital tools, such as social media:

    “It is easy to criticise digital advice that appears simplistic as being outdated, but we need to accept that the evidence tells us that smaller charities still have a lot to gain by adopting the most basic digital tools, such as websites, social media and online payments. The fact is that for the most part, the solutions have existed for over a decade now, but many small charities are still not using them. This is due to a lack of digital skills and knowledge within smaller charities.”

    Mojay-Sinclare says having himself spent almost 10 years working with small charities around online fundraising, he’s become frustrated with the lack of general digital awareness.

    During his evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities, he said:

    “I would like to see that every new charity has a technology trustee or a digital trustee, much in the same way that the majority of them have a treasurer… That would do several things. It would bring a focus to digital. It would create a role to
    which younger people would be drawn, and younger people would lean towards trusteeship more. That could be quite a simple way of attracting more of these skills…”

    “We have seen examples of charities increasing their overall giving from donors by up to 600% purely through adopting digital fundraising methods… Digital can play a huge part in helping charities to not only be more sustainable and raise more income from their local communities, but also in service delivery.”

    He argues that this would help solve the digital skills issue, which he feels is compounded by a lack of diversity among trustee boards, with the average age of a trustee being 57 years old.

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