Online courses provide the opportunity for furloughed charity staff to equip themselves with valuable new digital skills
Almost nine million people have been furloughed due to the virus pandemic, and employees in the charity sector have been severely affected. As far back as April, may high profile charities including Barnado’s, Alzheimer’s Society, Cancer Research UK and National Trust announced that thousands of their staff would be furloughed on the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
For furloughed charity staff and the organizations that they work for, the pandemic has been a disaster. But if there is anything positive that can be salvaged from the situation it might be this: for charity staff who are furloughed at home, it does present an opportunity to learn new digital skills through online training.
The simple answer to this question is that harnessing the power of digital in every aspect of a charity’s activities – from fundraising to service delivery – is key if these organisations are to thrive and succeed in the future. Yet three quarters of all charities report that they have access to very few people with the digital skills they need, according to the results of the Charity Digital Code Quick Assessment Tool. So unless new digital skills are acquired, there is likely to be an acute shortage of staff with the digital skills which will be in demand in the long term.
In the short to medium term, digital skills may be even more vital for charities while traditional face-to-face activities are either restricted or impossible. That’s because initiatives such as digital fundraising events, online sales, and digital service delivery may be the only ways that charities can continue to operate.
So here is the problem in a nutshell: most charities are planning to make increasing use of digital in the future, and thanks to the effects of the pandemic, many of these plans are being brought forward. But in order to carry out those plans, many of those charities need staff to acquire new digital skills.
The next few weeks and months provide a unique opportunity for charities and their furloughed workers. If those on furlough use just some of their time at home to equip themselves with the right new digital skills, then their charities will be able to sidestep any digital skills shortages and find themselves very well positioned for the future.
Over half of all charities do not yet have any digital strategy at all, according to the Charity Digital Skills Report. That means that many charities have yet to begin or are only at a very early stage in exploring the possibilities of digital. It is not clear whether they are in this early stage because they have few staff with digital skills to call upon, or whether they have until now not needed staff with digital skills.
Whichever is the case, these charities are likely to benefit from an infusion of essential digital skills such the ability to setup and maintain a simple spreadsheet or database, using applications like Microsoft Outlook, or basic cyber security skills to help ensure that that they are aware of the hazards of the digital world and how to stay safe online.
For charities that do have a clear digital strategy, the four most popular digital activities that they say they intend to focus on in the future are:
Each of these is likely to require a combination of different digital skills.
Using digital to increase impact digital skills required include: digital marketing, social media, web design, search engine optimisation
Using data more effectively digital skills required include: data analytics, spreadsheet and database skills, constituent relationship management (CRM)
Using digital to improve service delivery digital skills required include: web site design, teleconferencing, social media
Increasing income through digital fundraising digital skills required include: digital fundraising, use of eCommerce technology, web site design
As charities increase their use of digital, it is inevitable that they will become more vulnerable to attacks by cyber criminals unless they take appropriate cyber security measures. For that reason, staff with cyber security skills are likely to be sought after and valued highly.
Charity specific digital skills:
Some organisations including charities offer more charity-specific digital skills courses. These include:
CAST "Design Hop" workshops: CAST’s free online workshops for charities offer guidance and help for charity staff whose organisations are about to start their digital journey or have already started but are struggling to move forwards.
The Institute of Fundraising’s Certificate in Fundraising course: The Institute of Fundraising offers an online course leading to its Certificate in Fundraising, providing fundraisers with the theory and principles behind successful fundraising. It promises that graduates will be able to make an immediate impact on their organisation’s fundraising results and become more confident fundraisers. The course costs £1625 for IoF Individual Members (£1786 for non-individual members) and takes 400 hours to complete.
Charity Digital webinars: Here at Charity Digital we offer a range of free webinars on demand to help charity workers gain digital skills including using social media to raise more funds, getting started with the Google Ad Grant, and how to build a digital content strategy for a charity from scratch.
Charity Digital TechSoup courses These paid-for courses are specifically designed for staff at nonprofit organisations and are made with subject matter experts who have deep experience with nonprofits. Some of the most popular courses include Google AdWords for Nonprofits, Email Marketing for Nonprofits, and Fundraising for Nonprofits. Most sessions last 1-2 hours and cost about £25.
General digital skills:
There are a huge range of remote learning courses offering digital skills that are available online to furloughed staff. Organisations offering these courses include:
The good news is that many of these courses are available free of charge, making them accessible to anyone interested in enrolling in them.
E-commerce skills are likely to be in particularly high demand in the near term as charities look to online sales to make up for likely reduced revenues from charity shops which must now operate under tight restrictions. eBay aims to help address this with a new free training program called Charity Connect. This consists of a series of free weekly webinars for new and existing charity sellers on how to make the most of the eBay for Charity platform.
The government has also launched an initiative called The Skills Toolkit which offers a range of free digital skills courses aimed at all levels. This includes Introductory and Intermediate level course offering digital skills such as creating an online presence, creating inline content and social media skills for business, while the Advanced courses teach a number of the specific skills mentioned earlier such as digital marketing, coding for data analysis, and cyber security.
There are also many free online cyber security courses and other resources offered online from organisations such as:
Took a course that we should include on this list? Let us know in the comments below.