Read how charities could better utilise technology.

Charities ‘need to more digitally-astute’

Since 2008, charities in the UK have been working hard to mitigate the fallout of the financial crisis and it hasn’t been easy as a recent report observed. The Charities Aid Foundation and the Association of the Chief Executives Voluntary Organisations found that one in seven chief executives are of the opinion their organisation is “struggling to survive”.

This is more acute with smaller charities - with an income of under £1 million - with one in five finding it difficult to secure funding and meet demand. It’s no surprise to learn then that in the last 12 months, a third have tapped into their reserves.

One way in which they can temper these challenges - in addition to teaming up with other third-sector organisations - is to better utilise technology. Interestingly, the study, entitled Social Landscape, finds that take-up of digital solutions to boost their operations is not great across the sector.

This is backed up by another report, which was released at around the same time. According to the 2015 Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index, done in association with Go ON UK and Accenture, charities are failing to embrace all things digital.

More so, the poor adoption is particularly evident with such organisations, when compared to other small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The index showed, for example, that over the last year, the number of charities with basic digital skills has in fact decreased by three per cent (from 45 per cent to 42 per cent).

Meanwhile, over the same period, the number of SMBs with the equivalent skillset has gone up by two per cent (from 75 per cent to 77 per cent). However, the authors of the study say that both charities and SMBs have room for improvement, as well as changing the way they perceive technology.

“Perceptions and motivations remain key issues, with a quarter of organisations still believing that doing more online isn’t relevant to their business,” Baroness Lane-Fox, chair of Go ON UK, said at the time.

“Another large issue uncovered by this year’s report is the intelligence that charities are being left behind in this shift, and we must do more to ensure that this doesn’t continue. The UK has a proud tradition of giving and charitable work, and surely supporting charitable organisations to achieve their digital potential must be part of this.”

Gareth Wilson, a managing director in Accenture's Financial Services operating group (United Kingdom and Ireland) added that evidence clearly shows that there is a link between “the digital maturity of an organisation and its success”.

He concluded: “By making digital a part of the fabric of their operating DNA, these organisations could stretch their boundaries in startling new ways.”

The best advice is to approach things in gradual way - it doesn’t have to be a sudden and severe shift to a digital way of working, as the culture shock of this can have a negative impact on productivity, finances and staff morale.

As such, any approach needs to be properly thought through and implemented cautiously to reduce risks and establish what does and doesn’t work. What is certain is that once digital is properly understood and assimilated, there is no looking back. The future doesn’t have to be bleak.

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