We explore a few of the ways that digital tech helps charities survive and thrive through challenging times
Digital technology has been a vital safety net for so many organisations during the pandemic.
But looking ahead, it’s become clear that digital tech and the skills gained during the outbreak have the potential to help the charity sector stay resilient over the much longer term. Digital can help charities adapt more quickly to challenges, bounce back from setbacks and make the most of resources during times of financial hardship.
What exactly does a resilient charity look like? The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) defines a resilient charity by six characteristics:
So why is digital tech so key in these areas of resilience?
Charities that can effectively articulate their goals and communicate the impact their work is having gain more support, recognition and funding over time.
What’s the best way to do this? By communicating on digital platforms and using data as a storytelling tool. As we’ve shown time and time again, you don’t need a huge budget to do this well, though having a central CRM system for data with reporting capabilities certainly helps charities create accurate and effective reports on their impact for stakeholders and funders.
In our recent podcast from #BeMoreDigital2020, Kate Rees, Impact Manager at NSPCC shared her ‘5 steps to better impact reporting’ and how the children’s charity uses data to bring its hard work to life for a range of stakeholders.
By evidencing that they can continue to deliver services safely and effectively through digital, charities can secure the vital funding they need to run now and in the future.
Remote service delivery through online channels and apps is helping charities not only carry on their services, but reach more people in hard to reach groups or locations, and meet unexpected demand. We recently looked at a few charities who have discovered demand they never knew existed online. Charities embracing tech are able to keep up with their service users where they are and have the edge on competing organisations who aren’t on those platforms.
Hosting their own webinars can be an ideal way for charities to extend their digital reach and create a lively interactive platform for service users and donors - some great tips here from Charity Digital’s Marketing Manager Chris Hall.
The ability to shift how they operate internally is also a key way charities stay resilient. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this has meant embracing virtual meetings and video conferencing like never before, where cloud-based tools facilitate easy collaboration from anywhere. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development have said that “Quality flexible working can help organisations attract talent, improve employee job satisfaction and loyalty, reduce absenteeism, and improve well-being; it can also make businesses more responsive to change.”
Digital fundraising represents such a massive opportunity for charities that we run a virtual conference, Digital Fundraising Day, dedicated entirely to helping charities generate income online.
While in-person fundraising events are off the cards, charities have shown their innovation and creativity in launching virtual ways of fundraising that attract and engage donors. From #GivingTuesdayNow to the London Marathon pivoting to an online fundraising event, online fundraising during Covid-19 has, if anything, ramped up and fundraisers have been more active than ever.
Local care home charity, Orchard Trust, recently raised £2,5000 via a ‘virtual summer fair’ after pivoting from their annual face to face event. Hosted on Facebook, it included lots of free entertainment videos and creative fundraising ideas like a virtual pet show and online raffle, with donations taken via Virgin Money Giving.
The Charity Digital Code of Practice has ’Leadership’ as the number one area of digital that will “help charities stay relevant and increase their impact.”
In times of rapid change, the most resilient organisations are not afraid to bring in new strategies around digital. But they also nurture a strong ‘digital culture’ based around knowledge sharing and open communication at every level, that recognises tech needs to be driven by the people that use it.
Leaders need to give room in their strategies for staff to adapt to new ways working, such as the switch to a remote working environment. Hand in hand with the tools should come supporting staff with their wellbeing, motivation and morale, including building confidence and recognising progress.
Online platforms can help charities forge fruitful relationships, not just with supporters, but with those they may wish to collaborative with for mutual benefit.
Take a look at these great examples where charities have pulled together under a single online movement to become a force for good when they share a common aim – like Prostate Cancer UK and the Movember Foundation.
It’s easy to reach out on social media, to communicate messages under the same hashtag or logo, or create a collaborative video. If you’re a small fish, leveraging the name of an established charity with a wide audience online can give you the lever up you need to grow.
Lastly, a digital can help charities stay abreast of what’s happening in the wider world and anticipate challenges and opportunities. Charities can use open data (data that is freely available for anyone to use) to inform their decision making with context about the areas in which they work. For instance, could knowing from Government data that crime is increasing in a certain area help a young peoples’ charity know where next to start up its programmes around education and gang crime prevention, or open its next youth centre?
This kind of forward-thinking decision making might come from a charity’s own data, helping a charity go from fire fighting to a more strategic, long-term approach. In this case study from tech innovation lab Nesta, Citizens Advice decided to use data science to anticipate or even predict changes in the issues affecting its service users, so it was able to act sooner to prevent problems escalating. A rise in debt-related queries let the charity identify people at risk of homelessness early on and target resources towards supporting them.