Charity Digital News caught up with Richard Craig, chief executive of the Technology Trust to talk common IT problems, the light-speed changes in social media and invaluable advice for charities.
What are the greatest IT challenges small charities face?
I think the ever-increasing rate of change in technology is the biggest. For example, looking at digital marketing techniques, we think the lifespan of the latest trends is about six weeks now.
So if you’re not on top of the latest trends in ad words, analytics, SEO, or Facebook rules – to name but a few – you’ll find yourself behind.
The flipside of that is ubiquitous choice. There are so many options for you to choose from now, how do you make a decision about which is the most appropriate one for you?
Do you think charities appreciate how rapid the rate of change is?
I don’t think the general public is actually aware of how rapidly things are changing. If we struggle with the rate of change when we’ve got a group of people who spend their entire time looking at it, how are regular charities supposed to cope with that process. I think a lot of them aren’t aware of just how quickly things are changing, what opportunities there are and what they should be doing.
How can they keep on top of things?
Employ young people because they tend to bring the latest trends with them. If you look around our office and ask who’s using Facebook, anybody who’s under the age of 30 is not anymore. They’re all on Instagram and without a shadow of a doubt there will be another Instagram to come in and replace that soon.
I think we found a lot of benefit in having a younger core of people in the office who are a bit closer to the new trends coming through. Also, we get a lot of our insight from blog articles and content providers. We spend about 10 minutes reading every morning to give us an idea of what’s happening.
What are the most important issues for charities to stay on top of?
I think data security issues have become particularly prevalent in this climate. People are very concerned about the security of their data and how it might be shared and used.
But I think the biggest thing charities aren’t tackling at the moment is the transition to mobile and there’s two parts to that. One is offering your products and services in a mobile way but it’s also
What common IT misconceptions do you come across in charities?
The one we come across the most is still this problem with the cloud. A lot of charities still think that it’s not secure and that you should stick to the traditional mechanisms such as using a server stored in your office.
While the UK has enjoyed a huge uptake of the cloud – possibly on of the biggest in the world – there’s still a big split between people like us who think it’s the best thing ever, and those who are scared to touch it because they think they will lose control.
If you’re a small charity we can’t imagine any other way to run it other than to put the whole thing up in the cloud.
Can you tell me about the Charities IT Association (CITA) and its purpose?
Pro bono support has been done before and there are some organisations doing specifically IT, one of which is IT Communities, but we wanted to test doing something more scalable. IT for Communities do some really deep valid projects so we wanted something that was slightly lighter touch but with more scale to it.
The idea is that it’s pro/low bono support for charities and we want to help a lot more charities than previous models might have allowed.
If you could offer charities one piece of advice, what would it be?
Charities don’t think that that digital and IT form part of strategy and operating objectives. IT is still seen as a fringe activity and quite often seen as a cost rather than an asset. It should be at the heart of what they do.
We still see a lot of charities splitting digital marketing from regular marketing but we just consider it as another tool. Increasingly for many charities, that digital element will become the most important part of their outreach engagement.
I think it’s not necessarily a technical issue it’s that digital needs to be embedded in their strategy and not just sitting on the fringes of it. It’s not a bolt on or an extra, it’s core to the activities of the charity.
The minute you start thinking that way, you can start to have different ideas about what you want the technology to do for you. Technology is just an enabler. If you think about using digital and IT more effectively it will improve your outcomes.
Technology Trust is one of a group of charities that founded the Charities IT Association offering free support to charities. Would you be interested to work with them. If so, click here.
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