We explain why charities should assess digital capabilities, reach out to their audience, and increase accessibility to meet service users needs’ in 2021
The epidemic has emphasised how important it is to reach out to audiences digitally. Charities are exploring different ways to connect with both supporters and service users, trialling new alternatives and adapting to the ’new normal’.
To create a special bond between charities and service users, it’s important to understand what people are looking for. We look at some of the steps charities can take to meet service users’ needs in 2021.
Meeting service user needs includes assessing the digital maturity of your charity. Understanding what can be delivered by charity teams helps to craft the right set of solutions.
The NCVO’s Digital Maturity Matrix has a section that is particularly helpful for charities. The service design section guides charities to the creation of better content and services.
Other digital tools also come in handy when thinking about user needs. One example is the Charity Digital Code of Practice and Digital Leadership Framework, which defines how digital services are being delivered. Together, these resources form part of your charity digital ‘toolkit’.
Now that your teams know what they are capable of, it’s time to ask audiences what they need. This could also be an opportunity to seek out expert advice. For IT teams, creating a set of ‘user stories’ helps conceptualise what the service might look like.
Zoe Amar explains the importance of engaging audiences: “We all have a lot of assumptions about what needs are, so it’s really important to validate (or disprove) these through user research. Just spending 30 minutes with five different users – talking to them, observing how they behave and separating out their underlying needs from what they tell you they want – can be the difference between creating a beautiful but useless product and one that delivers real value.”
Charity digital leaders can turn to Trustees. Trustees are often seasoned charity leaders. Engaging them at senior levels helps assess the direction of your digital project.
Once you’ve decided on the digital service, ensure everyone can connect. Conducting an accessibility audit makes digital service delivery more inclusive. Charities can use other strategies to improve accessibility, such as making font sizes larger, adding captions to video and graphic content, and ensuring web layouts are suitable for screen readers.
By improving accessibility, charities can be confident that the service appeals to the widest range of audiences.
Keeping technology simple is one strategy to reach the tech-adverse. Understanding that not everyone has a smartphone, The Mix’s support programme uses text messages to connect users with help.
For The Mix, using simple technology has broadened its reach to both regular and smart phone users.
Responding rapidly to coronavirus restrictions, charities have changed service delivery for the better.
Wag and Company aims to end loneliness by matching older people with canine ‘friends’. Since the pandemic started, they are pivoting to making services digital. Rather than cancelling services, the charity holds video calls with older people and their friends.
Using digital, charities can actually stretch to meet service user needs. Dingley’s Promise is a charity supporting children with special needs. Their experience of meeting service user needs includes filling the gaps in services and preparing for when things improve.
The charity is using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram to reach out to potential users. The charity also adapted its training programme. By creating a free, online training course the charity is able to reach out to non-local users. The new digital services have allowed Dingley’s Promise to increase its reach to new digital service users.
When meeting user needs, don’t forget the human element. Charities should include as many people touch points as possible to build that connection. “Charities do relational culture better than any other sector,” says Matt McStravick from the digital design lab Deepr. “We’re trying to identify it, put it together, and codify it as meaningful guidelines that anyone can access at any point when designing digital services. We want to make this as valuable as possible as quickly as possible.”
Consulting firm Oliver Wyman says charities can go digital without sacrificing the human element. The firm says that charities like Grassroots Suicide Prevention and SH:24 are successfully including that relationship element.
Going beyond service delivery, digital can also help charities demonstrate transparency. Oliver Wyman says that technology helps stakeholders gain insight into the decision-making process. Holding live board meetings on YouTube is one example the company finds useful.
New tech to meet service user needs is something to take forward. Remember to also leverage tech in other areas like engagement with donors and trustees.