Coding is an increasingly useful skill for charity professionals to help improve their organisation’s digital capabilities
Whether it is used for designing a website or an app, or using data to improve services, coding is an increasingly important skill for charity professionals to adopt.
Learning programming can avoid the need to hire outside expertise. There are a number of resources available to help charity professionals learn more about coding, including online tools and webinars.
We look at the added value taking time to learn coding can bring to charities and the sector’s digital capabilities.
This year’s Charity Digital Skills report laid bare the need for charity workers to ramp up their digital skills. One in four say they are poor at digital service delivery and half say their weaknesses include developing digital products.
Coding skills can address much of these problem areas.
When looking into coding for the first time, the subject can seem daunting - like learning another language for the first time. That’s because you will be.
But at their heart they are just ways to create instructions for computers to use. These languages are the heartbeat of websites, apps and other every day technologies charities use. Coding is just how we communicate with machines, to make them do exactly what we want them to do.
Becoming more efficient and productive is a key benefit of learning coding. It can help charity workers to better utilise computers’ power and capabilities.
By being able to write their own programs, charity sector professionals can free up time to spend on wider improvements and supporting people on the frontline.
Coding also helps charity workers to improve their communication and collaboration skills, especially with charity leaders. This helps charity workers to be more confident in supporting their leadership team to provide digital solutions to challenges. This can include updating a charity’s website, implementing new software or improving impact reporting.
Another benefit is gaining a better understanding of how technology works and how different programs and devices interact.
Problem-solving skills can also be gained from learning to code. After all, coding is about writing computer programs that solve problems and meet challenges. This can give charity workers a new, simpler way of solving the problems charities face, such as pivoting face-to-face fundraising events online during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Creativity is another advantage of learning coding, as it combines technology with imagination.
Improving email marketing is one specific way in which coding can help charities, according to the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO).
The NCVO recommends using coding skills to ensure emails are engaging and appealing to supporters. This includes making sure emails can be read on a mobile phone and can load easily. Resources recommended by the NCVO for charities include Emailology, which provides advice on coding responsive emails for a range of platforms and addressing common display issues across different browsers.
Another useful resource is the organisation donate:code, which matches charities with volunteer developers and designers. They can help charity workers better understand how coding can help their organisation. This can be through updating websites, adding online payments and donation options online, or setting up a social network.
Another way coding can help is by supporting charity professionals and volunteers to start a website or create a webpage of their own to promote the work they are carrying out for a good cause.
Among the most exciting advantages of having coding skills is being able to pass them on to support beneficiaries, other good causes and disadvantaged communities. This is a great help to ensure charities are promoting diversity and inclusivity.
Code Your Future is one such charity. It runs a coding school specifically for refugees and other disadvantaged people, to help train the coders of the future. This stresses the ease of learning code, as 87% of its students had little to no coding experience before starting. According to Code Your Future seven out of ten of its graduates find work or full time study after learning coding.
On a similar theme the Meet and Code scheme offers charities the chance to win grants to run virtual youth coding events and develop young people’s digital skills. Among charities involves is Paisley YMCA which is supporting young people in developing their coding and other digital STEAM related activity using the collaborative workspace Makerspace.
From professional development, and improving services to supporting disadvantaged communities as well as young people, there are many clear benefits for charity professionals to take the time to learn coding.