We speak to Andy Bell and Matt Collins, managers of Digital Candle, about their digital advice service and ask about the biggest digital challenges facing the charity sector
Digital Candle is an initiative from Platypus Digital, supported by Catalyst. It is a free service that matches up charity and civil society workers with volunteer experts in the areas of digital, data, and design.
The service is simple. Charities ask a question on the site and Digital Candle matches them with one of more than 300 experts who can offer free advice and support over a one-hour call.
There is no catch. Charities won’t be added to mailing lists or contacted by agencies wishing to sell services. They simply receive one hour of free advice on the topic of their choice, from an expert who has volunteered their services to help charities better understand digital.
Andy Bell and Matt Collins tell us a little bit more about the service and offer some general advice for charities struggling with digital.
Andy Bell (AB) and Matt Collins (MC): Digital Candle exists to connect charities that need digital advice with experts who want to help. Our users perhaps explain it best:
Lisa at Right to Remain, who was helped by Jo at Jelly Mould, said: “My Digital Candle call was one of the most useful meetings I’ve had in a long time – so much learning and reflection was packed into one hour of volunteer time. I’m rethinking my project plan as a result.”
Stuart at Baggator, who was helped by Oliver at Northbridge Digital, said: “Couldn’t have asked for more from the 40 minutes that Oliver & I spent on this. Simply put, he did just what I needed – offered an alternative way to achieve the goal I was working towards. His alternative suggestion broke the logjam and now I can see how we can do things.”
The idea for Digital Candle was sparked by the extraordinary stat that 45% of charity leaders don’t see the value in digital (Lloyds Digital Charity Index, 2019). We thought that one way to change this would be to connect those working in charities to those working in digital.
Since launching in February 2020, we’ve matched nearly 500 people from a wide range of charitable organisations with experts. They’ve helped with everything from customer relationship management (CRM) advice and search marketing, to cloud computing and service design.
AB and MC: The most important issue is moving services from face-to-face to online. This has been huge since lockdown started. Most small charities were reliant on face-to-face interactions to deliver their service. Suddenly this door closed and they needed to move what they did online.
Social media and public awareness is an important issue, too. All charities want to increase awareness of the work they do. They want to use digital marketing to connect with volunteers, donors, and beneficiaries.
And, finally, charities are facing issues with CRMs. Charities often are stuck with CRMs that they hate. While it might sound like a boring database issue, even small charities have hundreds of people they need to manage relationships with. If a poor CRM makes this hard, that adds up to hours grappling with tech problems and not delivering their service.
AB and MC: Talking to someone with relevant experience gives you a better idea of where to start…or how to improve what you already have.
The experts can’t provide a fully detailed action plan in the space of an hour, but they can set charities on the right path, help them overcome obstacles, and signpost additional resources.
A charity is not limited to one call, so they can ask to be matched with different experts at different stages of their journey, depending on what help they need. With more than 300 specialists available, charities can tap into a wide spectrum of expertise depending on the stage and nature of their project.
We introduced a call feedback mechanism two months ago; since then, every single rating from charities has been five-star. This is a snapshot of the reaction:
\uD83D\uDD6F️Here's just a snapshot of what #charities have said about their recent #DigitalCandle calls.— Catalyst (@wethecatalysts) January 29, 2021
If you work for a charity or non-profit organisation and need help with digital, data or design, visit https://t.co/VOt2cd51Tb for one hour of free expert advice. pic.twitter.com/JFpvLGeW4S
Here's what participating #charities & #volunteer experts have to say about Digital Candle.— Catalyst (@wethecatalysts) November 6, 2020
Why not join them? Whether you work for a #nonprofit & could use advice, or you're a #digital, data or design expert who could provide it, get involved today at https://t.co/9JAEP8m5us pic.twitter.com/rccEgWV3Q1
AB and MC: We took many things in the pre-COVID-19 world for granted. Charities expected their service users to come to their building. Fundraisers often relied on crowds of people: whether during the London Marathon or simply a coffee morning.
Demand for digital has surged since the pandemic started. You can connect with the thousands of people who need help through search marketing. You can recruit donors and virtual events fundraisers through Facebook Ads. You can manage your relationships through Salesforce and Dynamics. It’s important that charities understand the wealth of digital opportunities.
We hope Digital Candle helps them do that.