The Charity Digital Skills Report 2020
The Charity Digital Skills Report is an annual report on the charity sector’s use of digital technology. Produced by Skills Platform, Zoe Amar Digital and Catalyst, the report tracks the skills of those working and volunteering for the charity and non-profit sector. It is a good yardstick on the various stages of digital maturity within the sector, and helps to compare and contrast the different stages of digital transformation journeys many of the sorts of organisations Smartdesc support are undertaking.
James Field, Customer Strategy Director at charity IT specialist, Smartdesc, comments on the themes from this year’s report:
Transformation like never before
As the report states, the pandemic has triggered “the biggest cause of digital disruption in the sector in living memory’. It’s been positive for evangelists of change; charities that were dipping their toes into agile, flexible working are now old hats at doing it, and doing it well. The key is building on that momentum: What works well? What doesn’t? What training and policy can we update or implement to embed the new Digital First way of working, so we come out the other side with as many positives as possible? We’re happy to facilitate those sorts of conversations.
It is clear that funding is still the biggest barrier for charities, and a lack of investment in digital technology is still the main cause for lack of progress. The Charity Digital Skills report states that half of the respondents had never even tried to access any digital funding – mainly because it’s very well hidden. But there are funders out there. The Smartdesc team have worked with many charities on their transformation journey, and there are organisations that you can apply for funding for digital transformation projects to; below is a list we’ve compiled, I’m sure there are others too if you look hard enough:
There is a useful list of COVID-19 related funders here: https://www.cafonline.org/covid-19-support/help-for-charities#tab1
In addition, the following initiatives focus on training digital skills;
Amazingly, just over half of the respondents (51%) don’t have any strategy for digital. As a #CharityIT specialist, Smartdesc works with dozens of charities and non-profit organisations small and large who are at various stages of their #DigitalTransformation journeys. An IT / Digital Strategy doesn’t have to be War and Peace; often a simple technology roadmap setting out what you’re aiming for over the next 6 months is all that is required. We can help you create that plan, and you may find some of the tips in our NCVO Knowhow article about How to create an IT Strategy helpful too.
The report states that 47% of respondents cite organisational lack of confidence as a barrier to embracing more digital tech. This is, unsurprisingly, mostly down to lacking in-house expertise or budget to hire and drive digital forward. At Smartdesc, our Virtual IT Director Service bridges the gap between the business and technology, and translates between the two in plain English, to give direction and vision around digital within your organisation. This can be on a one-off, or ongoing part time basis – often as little as a day a month is all that is needed to keep momentum going. Only 9% of respondents stated that they are excellent at Horizon Scanning; it needn’t be that way. Our work with Missing People is a great case study on how a little support from an experienced “virtual” IT Director goes a long way.
With staff skills being the second largest barrier, at 48% of respondents, training is an extremely important area to consider when a charity is planning their Digital Transformation journey. 1 in 5 charities stated that they have poor skills across a range of areas of digital, including user needs, data, analytics, cybersecurity, digital service delivery and digital fundraising. One rather worrying finding is that only 52% rated themselves as fair and 18% poor in this area, highlighting a need for more digital training. We can help – last year we delivered over 1400 hours of on-the-job IT training to our customers, and our ethos is to share knowledge and best practice across the sector. We do a lot of on-site and webinar-style training, but there is also so much great content out there for free too – for example, Microsoft have built a fantastic library of resources like this one on Microsoft Teams.
There’s no mega surprises in the report this year, other than the odd pandemic or two – which if anything has dramatically helped push digital to the top of the agenda (every cloud…..!). Digital – and technology in general – is often seen as scary, complicated, risky and so on. With a little time and well spent investment, it’s actually quite straightforward to plot out your own journey and direction of travel. A strategy might just be a few bullet points long, but it gives you a starting point to build on. We are here to help you plant that first seed, and often just an hour long chat with us – free of charge – can be enough to start the ball rolling.
Read the full Digital Skills Report 2020 here.
Smartdesc brings extensive experience to the charity sector and shares best practice for Digital Transformation Journeys at any stage. Contact us via; firstname.lastname@example.org to book some complimentary time with one of our Virtual IT Directors who can help chat through whatever stage in the journey you are at.
Author; James Field, Smartdesc Customer Strategy Director