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Benchmarking test shows charity marketers lagging behind on digital skills

Benchmarking test shows charity marketers lagging behind on digital skills

The digital marketing competencies of marketers in the charity sector lag behind those in the private sector, with usability, content marketing and SEO techniques amongst the most lacking skills, new research reveals.

Training body Target Internet carried out a benchmarking test of the digital marketing skills of almost 9,000 marketing professionals, including just over 500 marketers working in the charity sector in 2018, and repeated in 2020.  The test requires marketers to complete a series of tasks aimed at testing their knowledge in 12 areas of marketing, with a particular focus on digital.

Its findings, published in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), shows that the charity sector scored below average in 10 out of 12 core digital marketing competencies, and when comparing skill sets across professions, the sector was also behind industries in the private sector.

Target Internet found that 32% of those working for charities possess the skills necessary to develop digital strategies, in comparison to a 34% average. Financial services (40%), agencies (40%), IT/Tech (38%), and retail (35%) all outperform the digital strategy skills of those working in the voluntary sector.

In addition:

  • 41%, in comparison to a 47% average, possess the skills required to carry out fundamental marketing activities such as strategy implementation, audience segmentation and brand building techniques.
  • The sector also performed worst in some of the newest forms of digital marketing including usability (scoring 24% compared to the 28% average), content marketing (23% vs. 28% average) and SEO (28% vs the 34% average).
  • 27% possess mobile marketing techniques. This compares to 35% in agencies, 32% in financial services, and 29% for both IT/Tech and retail.
  • 28% possess the skills needed to take advantage of paid search advertising techniques, in comparison to 36% in agencies, 32% in financial services, 32% in IT/Tech and 31% in retail.

    However, the charity sector is above average in email marketing, with 57% possessing skills in this area. In comparison, the average score is 48%,

    Gemma Butler, Director of Marketing of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, said:

    “The complex nature of digital means that marketers need to be continually upskilling themselves just to stay in the same place. This is particularly true of the charity sector – a sector that cannot afford to fall further behind in digital skills while the pace of technology shows no signs of slowing down.”

    CEO of Target Internet, Daniel Rowles added:

    “The charity sector has historically struggled at many aspects of digital marketing and have often relied on agencies to assist them. The benchmark shows that across the board there is room for improvement as a sector, and these improvements in digital skills will help charities effectiveness, efficiency and directly impact the causes they support.

    “For UK charities, this highlights a distinct problem with getting to grips with digital transformation; an area that is vital to ensure charities can continue to do extraordinary, life-changing work.”


    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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