We look at the digital skills that charities of the future will need and the skills that charity workers may want to develop
According to the new WorkSkillsUK report, Disconnected, less than half (48%) of employers in the UK believe that young people are leaving full-time education with the required level of advanced digital skills.
The UK has a skills gap impacting most, if not all, organisations across the country, including charities. The 2020 Digital skills report for the charity sector found that 51% of charities don’t have a digital strategy and 66% of charities rate their board’s digital skills as low.
Even when charities do have a clear vision on how they will use digital technologies, it can be difficult to find the funding for training and equipment. In fact, 50% of charities state that a lack of funding is the biggest barrier to digital progress.
Most worryingly, the skills gap is having an impact on the services charities offer and the lives of those who use them. 27% of charities have cancelled services because staff or users don’t have the necessary digital skills or equipment.
But how do you begin to tackle a digital skills gap? You can start by breaking down broad areas like digital fundraising or service delivery into individual digital skills and disciplines. Once you have a list of the skills required, conduct a skills audit to assess your skills gap in detail.
Most charities say that digital fundraising is a weak area for them. The definition of digital fundraising may differ from charity to charity, but it could cover activities and campaigns across Individual Giving, Events, and Community Teams, for example.
A grounding in fundraising theory is essential for any form of fundraising, but you will likely have these core fundraising skills in-house already.
In addition to the basic theory, specific training in various digital tools and their application will support an effective digital fundraising programme. Skill areas might include digital project management, social media management, community management, email marketing, Facebook Ads, Facebook fundraising tools, copywriting for social media and the web, UX (user experience), web design, and web development.
83% of charities say they are fair to poor at digital service delivery, although this figure may have shifted over the past year as digital transformation of services has become critical through the pandemic.
As with fundraising, the core expertise for service delivery will likely already exist within your charity. The skills gap is often around the development and management of the technologies or projects that will power the digital transformation of your services.
Digital services might involve the development of an app to help people manage a health condition, for example. A project like this would need skills in app development, coding, user experience (UX) and digital marketing.
It can be easy to get carried away with digital and think that services must be totally digital to be effective, but it is important to stay human-centered in your approach. Sometimes, using a helpful tool to streamline a time-consuming aspect of your services, like volunteer management, is all that is needed. The tool you invest in may offer free online training to help upskill your staff.
Digitising services can also mean entering partnerships with existing digital providers to reach the people your charity supports in a different way. For example, a number of charities have partnered with Amazon Alexa to develop health information services. In this case, the skills needed would be partnership working and digital project management.
Using digital methodologies to enhance existing research capabilities can help to deepen your research insights. To include analysis of big datasets in your research, you will need skills in data science and experience of using big data tools. These skills can be some of the most difficult to find, but there are organisations that can help, such as Datakind.
When you have broken down your digital fundraising and digital service delivery skills gaps into individual skills, you can conduct a skills audit. The audit will identify which digital skills your charity is missing. The results can be used to calculate the likely cost of filling the gap through training, investment in new staff, freelancers, agencies or digital tools.
Zoe Amar, Co-Author of the Digital Skills Report, says: “We encourage charities to reflect on what they’ve learned from how they’ve used digital over the last year by completing the survey to build The Charity Digital Skills Report for 2021.” The survey closes on 31 May 2021.