We list the 10 digital tools that no charity can do without, with one for each of the topic areas we cover, including fundraising, service delivery and operations
Digital is now more integral than ever to charity operations, with a wealth of tools available to help them be more efficient.
But more can be done. The 2020 Charity Digital Skills Report found that two thirds of charity representatives believe their leaders lack or need to improve on their digital skills.
To help we have taken each of our ten key topic areas and listed one vital tool from each of them.
The ten topic areas are: finance, marketing & communications, leadership & skills, operations & efficiency, data & analytics, fundraising, risk & compliance, service delivery, tech for good, and ethics.
Managing relationships with donors is vital for the smooth running of a charity. A robust CRM system is crucial to achieving this.
This key data and analytics tool helps to bring together all a charity’s relationships in one place and ensure they are being approached in a way that suits them. A CRM system helps to analyse data about supporters and explore ways they can give more money and more regularly to a charity’s cause.
Typically, CRM systems offer benefits such as donor segmentation for more targeted communications, better management of fundraising campaigns and fast and accurate reporting on the impact of campaigns and activities.
Among CRM products designed specifically to help charities is Salesforce.org Nonprofit Cloud, which offers real time measurement and artificial intelligence (AI) insights into donors.
An alternative is the cloud-based Microsoft Dynamics 365, which has a range of functions such as tracking fundraising goals and automating supporter communications.
Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram, should be central to charities’ marketing and communications.
For example, a CharityComms and Media Trust survey published in April found that Facebook was used by the vast majority (84.5%) of charities as an essential communication channel during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Savvy use of text, video, images and private messaging on social media can significantly boost a specific fundraising campaign or help communicate with beneficiaries as well as to mobilise volunteers.
But social media use needs careful management. This is where a social media management tool can help by organising what is being published and when it goes live across different platforms. It saves time by helping to schedule posts, as well as offering analysis of what is working and what isn’t.
There are a raft of social media management tools available to help including Buffer, which is especially useful for scheduling, and Hootsuite, which focuses on scheduling, monitoring and analytics. Others include Sprout Social, which is used by 20,000 brands globally.
Charities are vulnerable to attack from cybercriminals, especially with more working from home post-COVID-19 lockdown.
A survey by Specorps Software this year found that around two thirds of charities have seen an increase in cyber crime amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
With around a quarter of charities considering making home working permanent, charity digital leaders will need the right tools to keep remote systems secure.
To protect a workforce from attacks, a robust cyber security platform is needed.
This essential security tool helps to protect against threats such as phishing, where criminals send false emails to gain access to money or data. Another is ransomware where hackers steal data in return for a ransom. Crypto-hacking, where cyber criminals gain unauthorised use of devices to mine for crypto-currency, is another.
Skurio is among a number of firms that offers charities a protection platform to reduce the risk they face from cyber crime. Its digital risk protection platform includes features such as setting up monitoring alerts and assigning alert messages across a charity’s team.
Another is Avast, with features such as filtering content and antivirus protection.
The number of online fundraising platforms has grown markedly in recent years as charities look to harness the effectiveness of websites to generate funds and attract supporters.
These are often easy to use, with some waiving fees entirely for charities or passing them onto donors instead.
JustGiving for example has collected more than £4bn for charities since its launch in 2001 and another of these platforms, Virgin Money Giving, has supported 18,000 UK charities and 890,000 fundraisers to raise more than £685m.
Another powerful use of online fundraising platforms is through promoting in-memory giving, where charity supporters raise money in the name of a loved one. This is estimated to be worth £2bn a year.
Understanding what works and what doesn’t is key to successful charity operations.
A charity can’t be efficient until it knows how it is making a positive impact on improving lives.
Measuring social impact also helps charities be more transparent about how supporters’ money is being spent. It also helps secure funding from trusts, foundations, government and the public by offering proof of success.
Among impact reporting tools to help is Impactasuarus, which is designed for small and medium sized charities. This offers a range of questionnaires and analysis of results to help a charity gauge their impact.
In terms of financial impact reporting, Sage Intacct has a number of tools to make financial reporting simpler, including a built-in role-based dashboard that instantly captures financial and operational information from across your organisation.
Whether office-based or working remotely, charity leaders need to ensure their staff are working well, are happy and have access to training.
An online collaboration tool is invaluable to helping charities with their leadership and skills. It supports leaders to monitor workflow and efficiency as well as carry out training. There is a raft of tools to help achieve this including Microsoft Teams, which offers video conferencing and file sharing.
For senior leaders the virtual board management tool On Board offered by Passageways is a great help. This cuts down on administration time and allows charity leaders to access board materials swiftly as well as sign documents using this tool’s e-Signatures process.
Leaders can also use collaboration tools to host virtual away days, among international staff and home workers.
Artificial intelligence assisted tools can help ensure charity services are still be delivered in the face of shrinking funding streams.
Chatbots can provide an effective solution to signpost and offer advice. This means that staff can dedicate their time to more challenging issues and cases and let the chat bot deal with often simple, but nevertheless essential, questions.
Crucial to successfully deploying a chat bot is defining how it can best help a charity in its service delivery. This includes establishing who it will help, what support areas can benefit and the outcomes that can be achieved.
Deciding its location is also important. Chatbots can sit on a charity’s own website, or via social media messenger platforms, including Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp.
Giving a chat bot a personality is also important, as is taking time building the conversations a chatbot is likely to have.
Tech for Good developers are proving increasingly savvy at using technology to support the needs of beneficiaries and promote the work of a charity.
This is perhaps best seen with the rise of mobile phone apps by charities to maximise their impact, reach beneficiaries and new supporters too.
There are a number of expert organisations to support charities in creating an app, including Twilio.org, which connects social impact organisations and software developers.
Amongst the charities Twilio has supported in creating an app is Age UK, which created an app to automate its volunteer processes. This acts like an online dating platform, matching volunteers and older people, based on common interests.
All organisations need to ensure their services, recruitment and messaging is inclusive. Disability, ethnicity and gender should be not barriers to access. This is especially the case for charities in the way they handle their ethics.
Earlier this month the NCVO was among charity organisations to ask itself tough questions around inclusivity and look to ensure it is an equitable organisation.
Digital can help by providing charities with tools to ensure their websites and online messaging appeals to all abilities.
Among those offering accessibility tools is sight loss charity RNIB. It can review website designs to highlight and resolve accessibility issues.
Equalweb offers an accessibility widget on charity websites where users can adjust colour, font and cursor instructions as well as image descriptions and a text reader.
Charities finances can be complex, with many organisations involved in operations across a number of countries.
A finance software platform is an essential tool for voluntary sector organisations to ensure they can efficiently manage their budgeting, funding and expenditure.
Calxa is among firms to offer a specific voluntary sector finance tool, which also helps with board reporting for good governance.
Sage Foundation’s Sage Business Cloud for Nonprofits is another tool that offers a range of finance services including accounting, payroll, financial management as well as human resources.