From embedding digital across an organisation, to recruiting the right experts and embracing risk, we look at the 5 key questions charities need to ask themselves about their digital culture
Digital innovation has transformed all organisations in recent years, a process which has only accelerated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This process of digital transformation has touched every area of charity work.
Social media has altered marketing and communications forever, as storytelling and messaging have become more targeted and efficient than ever before.
Meanwhile, charity beneficiaries are now only a tablet or mobile phone screen away from accessing support services, delivered through digital tools such as artificial intelligence, increasingly-sophisticated web-design, and innovations such as chatbots.
Online fundraising platforms are now commonplace and organisations are being supported across the board by digital tools to run their payroll, human resources and managing projects. COVID-19 has accelerated this change as more charity workers socially distance through remote and home working. The need to raise funds online is also more prescient amid a cycle of social distancing lockdowns as the globe adapts the pandemic.
To succeed amid this digitisation of the voluntary sector, charities need to ensure they have a strong digital culture. This means securing buy-in from leaders when it comes to embracing digital as well as hiring and using the right experts to help your organisation innovate.
According to the Access Group’s digital maturity report, there is still much work to do in the charity sector regarding their digital culture. This report found that 38% of charities believe their digital maturity is “very much still a work in progress”.
Here we examine the 5 questions charities need to be asking themselves to assess their digital culture.
Among worrying findings from the Access Group’s report on digital maturity is that digital culture only exists in parts of many charities’ organisation.
This found that 55% of charity leaders believe that digital innovation is mostly behind the scenes – covering organisational and areas such as customer relationship management, human resources and payroll. Service delivery is a key area where there is a lack of digital culture, according to those surveyed.
The report also identified charity impact reporting as another problem area. Almost half (47%) of senior managers said that access to digital reporting is limited to only some staff and is “not widely shared throughout the organisation, meaning access to digital metrics is limited”, according to the report.
To have a truly digital culture, charities need to assess which teams and areas of the organisation are digitally mature and which have a long way to go.
Transparency is key to the success of a charity’s digital culture. This ethos enables digital innovation to spread across an organisation, from leadership to volunteers; from fundraising to human resources. This means sharing success stories of digital innovation and telling all those involved in your charity how digital can help; what changes are taking place and highlighting the improved outcomes for beneficiaries that digital can generate.
Charities need to ask themselves how they can embrace transparency around digital and how they can best share success stories across their organisation.
Internal communications are likely to be key to this, as are collaboration and workflow tools and the use of forums and blogs by senior managers. Social media management tools are also likely to be invaluable in sharing stories of digital success.
For some charities, implementing a digital culture can represent a dramatic shift, especially in organisations used to in-person activities, meetings and events.
A key question charity leaders need to ask themselves is how their organisation, staff and volunteers can be more agile? Agile working can be a great place to kick off a digital transformation process, by positioning work as an activity rather than a place.
Recruiting staff with the right digital skills is a key challenge for charities. Do recruitment practices need to change to ensure charities can hire the best digital experts?
Some charities may also need to reconsider their staff training and how they can improve their own digital expertise.
In order to successfully implement a digital culture, a range of key roles all need to buy-in. This includes fundraisers, service delivery managers, content editors, social media experts, web developers and cyber security experts. Do potential experts already exist in the organisation who can be nurtured with training? Or will they need to be hired in?
Imagination and inventiveness are at the heart of a successful digital culture.
Risks need to be embraced to turn ideas into reality and invent new tools and solutions to problems.
Charities need to assess their attitudes to risk and wonder whether a risk-averse culture is stifling digital creativity. Outside help from the technology sector, such as a digital start-up, may provide a solution. Tech experts often embrace risk as they seek success in a tough private sector environment. Can their attitude to risk help charities to innovate?