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Charities losing focus on digital, survey suggests

Charities losing focus on digital, survey suggests

progress in charities has slowed with less than half having a strategy and just 10% having embedded transformation.

The Charity Digital Skills Report 2019, conducted by Zoe Amar, Founder of Zoe Amar Digital, and Skills Platform, shows that 52% do not have a digital strategy: an increase from 2018’s figure of 45%, and 2017’s 50%. Less than a quarter (23%) have a clear strategy for how digital can help achieve their charity’s goals.

More key findings:

  • More than a third (35%) of charities are using digital but don’t have a strategic approach, compared to 31% last year.
  • 14% of charities are thinking about developing a digital strategy, whilst 3% who are struggling to access basic digital tools.
  • Fewer charities are moving forward with digital. Last year 15% of charities had been through the digital transformation process and embedded it, compared to 10% this year and 9% in 2017.
  • 11% however are about to start on digital transformation, compared to 10% in 2018.
  • 22% have a digital strategy but have not yet embarked on digital transformation, holding steady with findings in 2017-2018.
  • 3% of charities are still struggling to access basic tools such as a website, email and social media, up from 2% last year.

 

Charity Digital Skills report infographic

 

The report also shows that just 35% are staying up to speed with how digital trends are affecting their work with a plan in place to tackle this, while there has also been a drop in the percentage of charities planning for how tech innovations such as AI could change their charity – down from 2018’s 14% to 12%, with 76% of charities now say they have low to very low skills in AI; dropping from 2018’s 73%.

Respondents to the survey identified a number of barriers to their charity getting the most out of digital with the top three as follows:

  • Funding continues to be the biggest challenge for charities with digital, at 56% compared to 58% last year.
  • Skills remain as the second greatest issue, with 53% of charities rating them as a barrier (up from 51% last year).
  • Culture remains as the third largest obstacle, with 45% of charities stating that it must change (down from 46% last year).

 

Charity Digital Skills report infographic

 

However, 61% say digital skills could help them grow their charity’s network and 57% want their leaders to understand trends and how they affect charities, with 73% wanting their senior team to offer a clear vision of digital. In addition, 45% want their senior team to have some experience or understanding of digital tools, and 41% said they want their leadership teams to be more agile and adapt to change.

When questioned on their priorities over the next 12 months, using digital to increase impact came top at 67%, while 59% want to use data more effectively. Almost half (48%) want to use digital to improve service delivery and 42% would like to deploy digital to increase income.

41% also want to create a strategy and improve skills, with 41% prioritising development of their colleagues’ skills and 23% keen to support their board and leadership team in developing theirs.

Zoe Amar, Founder and Director of Zoe Amar Digital, commented:

“It is reassuring that charities seem to be aware of the issues and where the gaps are, however, the slow pace of change and decline of progress overall needs urgent attention. Funders need to step up as the report shows the need is growing across the sector and funding has remained the biggest challenge every year. Perhaps charities could also benefit from more support to demonstrate social impact and the meaningful value digital brings otherwise the sector is at risk of being left behind.”

Marie Orpen, Head of Digital at Guide Dogs, added:

“There is definitely a strong correlation between the lack of progress and some of the challenges charities have highlighted in this year’s report such as a lack of strategy and resource, low organisational buy-in, infrastructure and pace. Digital transformation is not digitisation, point solutions or procuring the latest shiny bauble.  It is strategic change: putting your audience at the heart of everything you do; using technology to solve fundamental problems; learning from the data and innovating.”

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 www.thepurplepim.com.

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