Tom Latchford, CEO of Raising IT, discusses the role of digital in charity sector
27 Feb 2015by CharityDigital Editorial
Charity Digital News recently caught up with Tom Latchford, CEO of Raising IT, a fast growing software-as-a-service platform for non-profits, with customisable mobile-first designs and easy integration.
Do you think digital is positively disrupting the charity sector?
Yes, absolutely, although I don’t think it’s disrupting as much as it could do. Other sectors have experienced digital disruption in a massive way, but the third sector is lagging behind. At Raising IT we are passionate about learning from other sectors and applying these tactics to the charity space.
The reason charities have not done enough is not just the charity’s fault, it’s the funders. Funders are risk averse, and are not putting their money behind innovation which could lead to incredible impact.
What role do you see digital playing for charities in 2015 and beyond?
Over the last year we have seen charities really perk up to the fact that digital can be transformative. And actually, they need to transform their digital to do that. Most people come to know charities through their websites and most websites in the UK are just brick walls to engagement. They are not emotionally engaging, they are not designed from a user-centred point of view and they’re not built with help from supporters, service users or beneficiaries. This is what we are really trying to change.
Over the past twelve months we have seen digital move even more mobile. Across a lot of our charity websites over 50% of traffic is coming from mobile browsers. We now have a mobile first approach. What that’s doing for charities is forcing them to be much more succinct and simple in their communication which ultimately drives up greater engagement.
What key factors do you think make a great charity website?
When building a website, before we even start talking about technology, we workshop around who the charity is trying to engage, their beneficiaries and their supporters.
We don’t start talking about functionality and widgets, we start talking about real people’s emotions. Within the charity sector, this is profoundly important. Emotional engagement is the crux of the website. This is the biggest error that charities can make, that the website becomes the internal infrastructure of the organisation projected on to the outside world, which doesn’t do anything for anybody.
My advice is to think about the emotional experience for each and every person that your charity cares about communicating with. Prioritise those people and make sure that user journey is simple and seamless. What that depends on is very high quality content and images, with key points communicated in simple language.
What advice what you give to charities looking to move to the cloud?
The cloud receives a lot of buzz, but what it really means for charities, if you bring it back to its core, is that it lets them get on with what they should be worrying about, to focus on their cause. I think it’s critical for charities to find reliable cloud partners where they can get a safer and more reliable service for their customers, beneficiaries and supporters.
What are your top social media tips for charities? Do you think there are any forgotten channels that should be paid attention to?
My advice is to start small and scale up. Charities are often very risk averse, but it’s really important to dip into digital, to start testing and looking at results. Then you can build a case for further investment.
Social media does require investment. It’s a fantasy that you give the responsibility to an intern and expect it to become a strategic centrepiece in an organisation. That’s not going to happen.
Charities need to build up a strategy in-house. They need to be timely, relevant and surprising. By surprising I mean; to do things differently, think differently, to do things in a way which entertains and engages emotionally.
Charities don’t need to be worrying about diversifying into every social network and spreading themselves thin. They need to be building deep strategies of engagement within the main platforms that are out there, where their users are.