#BeMoreDigital Strategy Day offered an exciting blend of sessions and workshops, all of which were dedicated to digital strategy. Here we look at the highlights of the event
Charites have been through an intense period of change over the past year, switching to virtual events, adopting new digital platforms, adapting existing digital platforms, taking on board new working models, and generally shifting operations to meet demands.
Charities have been robust and resilient throughout COVID-19, rising to the demands of the moment and meeting the needs of their users. They have often been forced to react with short-term solutions to immediate problems, particularly in the digital arena.
Charities switched to virtual events, adopted new digital platforms to collaborate and communicate, adapted existing platforms to meet user needs, created innovative fundraising methods to maintain funds, shifted to new working models, and much more.
The period of rapid transformation may be coming to an end. Some sense of normality is seemingly around the corner – and it is looking promising. For many charities, therefore, the time has come to prioritise long-term thinking.
That does not mean a return to slow digital uptake, an absence of enthusiasm for the virtual, but rather ensuring long-term goals build upon the digital acceleration of the past year or so.
In short, charities of all shapes and sizes need to think about digital strategy, start prioritising preparedness, and plan for long-term success. Our #BeMoreDigital Strategy Day addressed that shift, with sessions and workshops completely dedicated to strategic thinking.
Here is how the day panned out. For anyone interested in any of the below sessions, we will be publishing the recordings on the Event Hub here!
After the Charity Digital Head of Marketing, Chris Hall, introduced the #BeMoreDigital Strategy Day event with an intriguing football analogy, we kicked off with the first session.
The session, delivered by Michael MacLennan, founder at COVID:AID, provided a perfect start to the event, as it covered the basics of digital strategy. Michael started by looking at the five Ws – Who, What, Where, When, and Why – and explored how charities can use these to define their strategy, particularly in the earlier stages.
Michael explained that charities have a lot to consider when writing their digital strategy. He explained that the strategy must be realistic, ambitious, and put the objectives of the charity at its heart. Charities need to include all of the above, Michael said, but also include elements of growth, such as a target to reach a wider audience or including an expanding scope.
Michael ran through the various types of content that could form part of a strategy, suggesting that charities should aim to diversify their content. Michael looked at podcast, videos, and graphics and imagery, briefly explaining how charities can work with these forms.
Michael also covered the top-down to bottom-up strategy, the basic tactics that people can employ including newsletters and social media channels, the need to make improvements achievable, the importance of stakeholder buy-in, the need for patience, and much more.
After a brief word from our CEO, Jonathan Chevallier, we turned over to Gregory H from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), who filled in last-minute for Becca K.
Gregory started by explaining why board members should care about cyber security. He said that adequate cyber protection provides organisational resilience, allows charities to comply with regulations, and ensures they meet the needs of donors, beneficiaries, and the public.
Gregory talked about the NCSC’s Board Toolkit, which has been created to encourage charity boards to get a little bit technical, promote conversations between boards and experts, and equip board members with the right questions to proceed.
Gregory answered some interesting questions from the audience. The first question was perhaps the most pressing, with an audience member asking how people can actually get their board interested in cyber security, which is a problem many charities face.
Gregory suggested raising awareness and telling board members about the massive risks, but he also mentioned the potential impact of scare stories. Gregory said that too many boards and charity leaders only care about cyber security after an attack – and that needs to change.
The next session, delivered by Ross Pitbladdo, Technology Business Partner at British Red Cross (BRC), explored how charities could make long-term digital changes, ensuring that they always put people first.
Ross began by explaining that organisations don’t change, people do. And charities need to not fear change. Change is uncomfortable, Ross said, but it can yield significant results.
Ross talked about the BRC approach to change management, which depended on the ADKAR model. The ADKAR model relies on Awareness of the need to change, Desire to support that change, Knowledge of how to change, Ability to implement change, and Reinforcement to sustain change. The model was the most appropriate approach for the BRC audience, Ross said, but other models might be more appropriate depending on the nature of the change.
Ross explained, with reference to each point, how the BRC implemented the ADKAR approach in a recent digital project to give tablets to front line workers.
Ross then talked about the need to have a Digital Change Champion (DCC) and the criteria they need for selection. The DCC, Ross said, should be respected among peers, close enough to the project team to provide adequate feedback, understand the need for change, and be tech savvy enough that they can troubleshoot issues.
After discussing some resources BRC had developed and looking at the feedback cycle and the need for constant development, Ross highlighted the three biggest takeaways from the session, which were as follows:
The session was insightful and thought-provoking, particularly for charities that have traditionally shied away from change – a luxury that few charities can afford.
After some minor technical difficulties, Lucy Duszczak, Digital Marketing Manager at YHA, introduced the concept of hybrid working.
She explained the basics of the working model and some of its benefits, such as a better work-life balance, a greater ability to focus with fewer distractions, the boost to your organisation’s image, reduced commuting costs for employees, and so on.
Lucy also ran through some of the risks, including the lack of equality with some employees working more visibly than others, the connectivity issues that we are all familiar with, the risk of burn out, loneliness and mental health, costs of home equipment, and other issues.
Lucy then ran through some of the first steps that charities can take to ensure employees know what to expect – and some further steps that charities could take to amplify the benefits and mitigate the risks. She said that employers should seek to provide choice, allowing hybrid to work for each individual’s needs, and provide support so employees are well-prepared.
Charities should also aim to practice transparency and trust, Lucy said, which allows employees to feel valued and appreciated. And, importantly, charities should be empathetic, understanding the concerns of employees and reacting appropriately to those concerns.
For our final session of the day, Matt Haworth, Founder at Reason Digital, hosted a panel with Matt James (Director of Communications and Engagement at WellChild), Suzanne Begley (Digital Transformation Specialist at Cruse Bereavement Care), Said Dajani (Head of Digital at Diabetes UK), and Stephanie Canavan (Associate Director Data and Digital Transformation & DPO at MSI Reproductive Choices UK).
After a brief introduction with the panellists, Matt Haworth kicked us off with a tangible question, asking the panel about a service that they have transformed.
Said took the lead, explaining how COVID-19 had transformed various elements of Diabetes UK, particularly the ways in which they communicated with their service users.
Matt James explained that he experienced a huge growth in comms, as questions and concerns flooded in after the arrival of the pandemic. He explained how that growth in questions led to a shift in operations, as his charity delivered a new service that would provide support, reminding the audience of the importance of meeting user needs.
Suzanne explained that COVID-19 was a ‘perfect storm’ for a bereavement charity, as they faced increased pressure from various fronts. The charity had to immediately shift operations, equipping volunteers to deliver remote support and finding new ways to help people.
The key themes of the discussion were empowering service users, the importance of training volunteers, and the need to adapt services to meet the demands of users.
Matt Haworth asked the panel why they think digital acceleration has been so succesful over the past year and how charities can take learnings into the future.
Said claimed that charity employees adopted digital solutions largely because they had no choice – and once those solutions were used, once people adapted to new ways of working, many employees immediately noticed the benefits.
Matt James echoed Said’s point and also suggested that the impetus to adopt digital was created by letting go of a working culture that emphasises planning a bit too much. During COVID-19, charities abandoned excessive caution that once dominated working culture.
Steph and Suzanne built on the above points, suggesting that previously they would have been over-cautious, practicing a conservative approach with lots of planning, but that was no longer an option during COVID-19.
Steph said that the services charities are currently offering would not have happened had COVID-19 not shifted working practices, allowing a little more risk and a lot more action.
The afternoon consisted of a variety of interactive workshops. In ‘Cyber security and digital strategy for smaller charities’, cyber security expert Michala Liavaag showed attendees how to incorporate cyber risk management into the planning and execution of a digital strategy.
And in ‘Using the code to further your digital impact’, Zoe Amar, Founder of Zoe Amar Digital, taught attendees the principles of the Code to help them further develop digital impact.
Zoe was joined by Callum Metcalfe at Young Lives Vs Cancer and together they explained how the Code helps leaders to shape a vision for digital, change the culture of their charity, work with users to understand needs, and much more.
Thanks to all who attended our #BeMoreDigital Strategy Day. We hope you learned lots and can apply your learnings to improve your digital strategy in the future.
As mentioned, Charity Digital will release recording of some of the above sessions, so keep up-to-date with our websites or subscribe to our emails for more information.