52% of charities don’t have a digital strategy, with many lacking investment in the tools and training needed to implement it - but a digital strategy could help charities to increase impact.
When it comes to impact, the power of digital for charities is enormous. A full 92% of charities that are digitally-focused expect that digital technology will increase their measurable impact, as well as donations, productivity and efficiency. Yet it’s still the case that the majority of charities in the UK have yet to take advantage of the power of digital: according to the Charity Digital Skills Report 2019, 52% of charities don’t have a digital strategy, with many lacking investment in the tools and training needed to implement it. But the truth is that digital technology doesn’t always cost the earth. Here are some ways that small charity teams can use digital to amplify their efforts and make a big impact.
Digital changes the economics of making an impact, because there is little or no marginal cost involved in reaching a larger audience through digital channels such as email marketing or running a website. Put more simply, a digital fundraising drive that involves emailing a million households costs no more than emailing a thousand, and letting a million people get information from your website costs little or no more than letting a thousand. An automated chatbot works in the same way: once you have one up and running it can offer information to tens, hundreds or thousands of people at no extra cost, leaving humans free to make more impact in other activities. Things are not so clear cut with pay per click (PPC) digital marketing campaigns, which by definition have an incremental cost for each person delivered to your website. But PPC campaigns can still offer huge impact by driving large numbers of potential supporters to your website for a very reasonable cost - especially when this cost is wholly or partially covered by a Google Ads charity grant.
On every social media platform, there are influencers with hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers, and any message they post supporting your charity will reach a huge audience of potential supporters. The catch is that in order to be effective, the support has to be authentic so that the message is trusted. But if you can find an influencer who is genuinely interested in, or has been touched by, your charity’s work, then a post about your charity and a link to your website or a digital fundraising event hosted by a celebrity video game streamer, could have enormous digital impact.
Making your charity data-driven means using the digital data you collect as the basis for all kinds of decision making. Data analysis can help you discern objectively which of your initiatives are working. It can also allow you to carry our "A/B‚" testing by trying alternatives to the way you do things and measuring whether they lead to improvements in efficacy. 59% of charities want to make more effective use of data, according to the 2019 Charity Digital Skills Report, and the reasons are clear: putting data to work can help small-budget campaigns become more successful, it can be used to make a strong case to funders for new services and initiatives, and it can ensure that even the smallest charity team’s projects have more impact.
Getting a mobile app is no longer a costly undertaking, and Age UK’s "Steps‚Äù app provides a good example of the digital impact that an app can provide. Steps is designed for charity support staff to use when in conversation with older people. The app lets staff take notes, offers up topics for conversation, and speeds up and simplifies administrative tasks. By digitally enabling each step of the charity’s befriending service it has allowed the charity to scale up the service to help more people and increase the service’s impact.
The cloud is a great equalizer when it comes to digital technology, and that’s because it gives smaller organizations access to the same digital resources as much larger ones while paying only for what they use on a per user per month basis. For example, CRM systems are complex pieces of software which offer powerful benefits to charities, but when accessed from the cloud as a service they can be used by even the smallest charities without the need for an IT department to maintain them. Using cloud-based software also allows smaller charities to be more agile because it can be accessed from anywhere, including from a mobile device while on the move.