Charity Digital – A brief history of our 16 years supporting charities

Charity Digital was established 16 years ago to explore ways charities could embrace technology and the internet for social good.

Early work was grant funded largely by tech entrepreneurs with activities focusing on digital raffles, email marketing and credit/debit card donation-processing.

In 2006, we were approached by Cisco and Microsoft, who wanted to make charitable donations of hardware and software to UK charities. The programme had already been piloted in the USA by TechSoup and the two large tech companies were keen to expand globally.

It was recognised early on that charging a small administration fee at around 4% of fair market value would allow the programme to be self-sustaining and it set Charity Digital on the path to self-sufficiency using a social enterprise model to fund its activities.

Through the latter half of 2006, we worked hard to develop an e-commerce platform and validation services to support the programme.

Growing services for charities

In the early days, we relied heavily on word of mouth, print advertising and direct mail to promote the programme. By March 2007, 1,340 charities has signed up, saving £2.8m in purchase costs versus fair market value.

During the 10 years that followed, more donation partners came on board with the likes of Symantec, Adobe, Autodesk and Box joining the programme.

As we matured as an organisation we really focused on being a digital exemplar operationally – especially around marketing. This enabled us to increase to 600 new charity signups each month.

Our involvement in validating UK charities for the Office 365 and Google for Non-Profits programmes also drove more charities to take Charity Digital Exchange products.

During the last financial year, 5,436 new charities registered, saving £22m on software and hardware procurement. By the end of October 2017, Charity Digital will have over 32,000 eligible charities registered and will have delivered £200m in savings over the lifetime of the programme.

We know from the hundreds of reviews left on Trustpilot that most of the charities we work with could not have afforded the products we provide at full market price. The procurement savings are significant but the impact that the technology has on efficiency, effectiveness and staff morale is far greater.

Looking to our future

It’s clear from increased engagement with Charity Digital over the last 3 years that charities are starting to see the potential for digital technology to really support their mission and increase their impact. To assist charities and improve digital adoption, Charity Digital is launching two new programmes over the coming months.

Charity 101 will supplement the compelling news and case studies on our Charity Digital News website, providing a broad-base level, digital, best-practice guide to trustees and senior managers.

A marketplace site will follow, connecting commercial organisations wanting to provide leading products and services at discount to charities looking for the best-value solutions.

We believe that by being the best, most trusted source for UK charities to gain insight into, education on and access to digital solutions, we can really accelerate charitable impact in the years to come.