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Digital a rising priority but skills gap persists, says report

Melanie May | 12 July 2023 | News

Person using a mobile phone. Photo: Pexels.com

Digital continues to be a rising priority for charities but the skills gap persists with more than half rating themselves as poor at digital fundraising, and other key areas including SEO and ads, learning from users from their website and analytics data, and keeping up with trends.

These are some of the key findings from this year’s Charity Digital Skills report by Zoe Amar and Nissa Ramsey. This year’s survey received 504 responses: the majority either CEOs or other leadership and management roles. 80% were registered charities, and half had an income of between £10,000 and £500,000. Almost a quarter were bigger charities – 16% with income of £1mn-£10mn, and 7% of £10mn upwards.

The report looks at a number of areas, namely: overall digital progress, digital skills, systems and tools, digital services, leadership, cost of living, AI, digital funding and learning, small charities, and EDI groups, Scotland and Wales.

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Progress and strategy

It found that nearly a third of charities (28%) don’t have anyone in charge of leading their digital progress. This is an increase on the 22% from last year who did not have anyone pushing forward with digital. A similar proportion however (31%) have someone leading on digital as part of or in addition to their main work, and this has seen little year on year change.

Less charities have a strategy in place for digital than last year, falling from 56% in 2022 to 48%, although the report says this may more small charity respondents to the survey this year. Overall, half of charities (52%) see themselves as being at an early stage with digital in 2023, compared to 43% in 2022.

Digital a rising priority

Despite the pressures facing charities this year, more than half (52%) said that it is more of a priority, which is an increase on last year’s 46%.

The top three priorities for charities this year are their website, online presence and social media, online fundraising and using data. 

8 out of 10 (79%) of the charities surveyed see improving their website, digital presence or social media as the greatest priority for the next year. This was also the top priority last year, but has increased from 68%, which may be connected to almost two thirds (59%) wanting to improve their online fundraising, up from 49% last year. 59% want to use data and insights to improve their services or operations, which is similar to last year.

Digital skills gap persists

In terms of digital skills, almost two thirds of charities say they have excellent basic digital skills – slightly more than last year. However, many still rate themselves as poor on their use of digital service delivery, and just fair on collecting, managing and analysing data; using data to inform decision making and strategy; and using digital tools for monitoring and evaluation.

And, like last year, 1 in 5 charities see themselves as excellent at social media, while 58% rate themselves as fair at creating accessible, engaging content, and 50% at email marketing. As last year, 56% rate themselves as fair at making the most of their website.

The report also found that:

AI uptake

This year’s Charity Digital Skills report also looked at AI with 100 respondents to its poll. Out of these charities, just over 1 in 4 (27%) are using artificial intelligence operationally, and a similar percentage (26%) have plans to use it.

64% of the large charities that answered on AI are currently using or plan to use it in their day-to-day operations, compared to 44% of small charities.

Most charities – 78% – agree that AI is relevant to their organisation and could transform how they work. This was more common among larger charities than small, at 98% of large organisations compared to 58% of small charities. However, only 19% feel prepared for AI.

The report can be downloaded here.

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