SCVO’s digital checkup – helping charities find the way forward on their digital journey
03 Mar 2020by CharityDigital Editorial
SCVO’s digital checkup helps charities to identify and address their level of digital maturity. How have charities responded so far?
Guest contributor John Fitzgerald joins us from SCVO to discuss the organisation’s digital checkup.
SCVO have been running a digital health check and one-to-one support service for almost two years. Over 200 charities of all sizes have completed it, and we’ve spoken in detail to over 60 charities who wanted further support. The digital health check and support calls are a bit like an annual visit to your doctor – a simple and non-scary way to start some conversations about digital challenges your organisation might be facing, and a chance to explore next steps.
What have we learned from talking to charities across Scotland about their digital capability? Here are seven key trends we spotted.
Smaller charities are often weaker in some areas
- Smaller charities tend to have less technical capability, and are using a smaller range of digital tools and equipment. This is not surprising since they have smaller budgets and lack dedicated digital teams. It’s worth remembering that the vast majority of the charity sector is made up of small organisations, often with one or no employees.
- Smaller organisations completing the checkup often scored better for leadership and culture than larger organisations. This is probably because smaller organisations can embrace change quickly as a whole team rather than needing to cascade new ways of working. Smaller organisations may be less invested in legacy IT systems, too.
- Smaller organisations were often much less cyber resilient, lacking the tools and expertise to protect themselves against cyber risks. This insight helped us plan and develop our Cyber Essentials grants programme in partnership with the Scottish Government.
What makes charities evolve digitally?
- People are key: organisations progressing well on digital evolution either have highly-skilled key staff, engaged CEOs, or both. Conversely, many organisations that are ‘stuck’ are being held back by a lack of expertise, a lack of confidence, or the ability to be curious and ask whether things can be improved somehow. A new staff member starting can often provide extra impetus for digital change. Related to this, having the right suppliers makes a big difference. Charities who have good IT suppliers are likely to be more digitally mature.
- Growth and organisational change is often a key driver: for a number of small organisations, planning for a period of growth is a key moment to try to move digital capability to a higher level. Larger organisations often tackle major digital change projects during or following a merger.
- A combination of scalable, flexible tech (e.g. cloud-based systems) and a positive change culture can be a winning combination in driving change forward.
Digital evolution is a long-term project
- An ad hoc approach to digital change can lead to two kinds of problem:
- Small and firefighting: many ‘small and stuck’ charities are stuck in firefighting mode – they’re aware that lots of things need to be improved but find it hard to prioritise and shift to longer-term planning and investment.
- Unfocused dabbling: Some charities are stuck at the ‘dabbling’ stage – trying out a wide range of tools without committing to any strategic changes. This means digital remains a ‘nice to do’ rather than a core part of the way these organisations are run.
Having picked out some top trends, what have we learned about how we developed this service?
Self assessments don’t tell the whole story – but they are a great conversation starter
When we set up our digital checkup, we guessed that a self-assessment might not give perfectly consistent results. That’s why we added the follow-up calls to provide more support, and to help us gain more insight. In practice we found that some CEOs and Directors were optimistic about their current level of digital capability, while staff closer to the day-to-day work were often a bit more critical. A few organisations got several members of their staff team to complete the digital checkup, then compared their results and had a discussion.
Keeping the survey brief and accessible added value
Another key goal we had in mind when planning the digital checkup was to ensure it was accessible and easy to complete for non-specialists. This is because small and medium-sized charities don’t usually have dedicated digital or technology teams. And while CEOs and Directors might be digitally curious, we didn’t want to put them off with unfamiliar terminology.
Small refinements based on user needs made a big difference
While we haven’t changed the core content of the survey very much, we have made a few tweaks in response to user needs. We’ve been able to do this in an agile way because our support calls allowed us to talk to live users and gain insights quickly.
After a few months of running the checkup, we made a big improvement for users who were asking ‘I want to book a support call now’. We added an automated call booking system (a Calend.ly embed) which let users choose and book their own time for a phone call. This increased the number of people arranging call and kept it easy for us to manage.
Another common user question was ‘What does my organisation’s score mean in comparison to others?’ In November, we started displaying the checkup results as a radar plot. This helped people quickly see which areas they were weak on and helped them set their result in the context of similarly-sized organisations.
What are we planning to do next?
- We’ve been sharing anonymised data and insights from our checkup with Nissa Ramsay at Think Social Tech – she’s working on a wider review of digital maturity models in use right across the UK.
- We’re looking at which parts of Scotland are well-represented amongst checkup respondents, and what areas of work they do. This will help us reach out to areas and sectors which have low awareness of the potential of digital.
- We’ll be continuing to use insights from the checkup to help us plan the tailored digital support we offer to charities.
- We’ve just launched a ‘compare results’ feature. This means you can complete the checkup and then get other team members from your organisation to complete it and see your results plotted together. This feature also allows organisations to compare an old result with a new result.
- Once charities start using the ‘compare results’ feature, we’ll be supporting them through internal conversations around different results. We’ve already had anecdotal experience of charities using the checkup in this way, and it can lead to some very interesting conversations!
- We’re about to launch a custom version of the checkup for Housing Associations, developed in partnership with the Scottish Federation of Housing Association’s Innovation Programme.
- We’re talking to other Catalyst members about releasing versions of the checkup for other parts of the UK, with custom support journeys depending on what is available in different regions.