New Tech Trust CEO sees opportunities from GDPR
Tech Trust CEO Jonathan Chevallier talks charity innovation and the transformative effects of GDPR.
We spoke with new Tech Trust CEO Jonathan Chevallier about how charities can maximise the benefits of IT and the innovation that could result from GDPR.
CDN: What brings you to Tech Trust?
JC: I’ve had a 30-year career of senior positions running businesses ranging from technology consultancy companies to outsourcing organisations, to SaaS (Software as a Service) companies. So I’ve had a broad exposure to different types of technology organisations, working out how they should best face the markets they serve and grow.
But just after I reached my 50th birthday, I was working closely with a senior client who sadly died. It really put life into perspective and made me question a lot more deeply what I wanted to be involved with and contribute my time to.
I’ve since worked with charities looking at partnership strategies to help them grow. I’ve dipped into quite a few areas and consultancy engagements that have given me more immersion in the charity sector, and it’s given me more confirmation that this is the right area for me.
CDN: Can you share a bit about your plans for the charity and what you see as its role going forward?
JC: Tech Trust is all about getting charities cheaper technology and helping them to use tech in ways that enable them to deliver their services more efficiently, and provide people services in ways they want to consume them. Delivering services face to face is still right in some contexts, but many people want to get the support they need digitally, increasingly young people who are used to interacting with the digital world.
It’s early days for me but the general direction in which Tech Trust has been headed for a number of years will be to move to a much stronger role of partnering with charities and advocating best practices in terms of using technology in ways that really drive them forward. Charity Digital News will evolve and deepen that support, taking that content to the next level.
CDN: What do you see as the biggest challenges for charities right now?
JC: It really comes down to funding and demand. We’re still facing a challenging funding environment where budgets have been cut on many levels, while consumer fundraising legislation and GDPR are making it harder for charities to raise funds from their individual donors than they did in the past. We are also seeing continual need for services to support the vulnerable, such as an increasing number of elderly people, many of whom will be in need of services.
So it’s a challenging environment of tight funding and potentially increasing demand – how do you match the two? To me, technology has a key role to play in that. Tech Trust both makes tech cheaper, which means more money for those charities to then spend on their beneficiaries, and tech lets them deliver services more cost effectively so more people can receive services as well.
CDN: What are some of the biggest opportunities for charities when it comes to technology?
JC: There are huge opportunities for charities. One that’s not particularly exciting but very impactful, is moving more IT services to the cloud. There are obvious benefits – once you start using the cloud you spend a lot less time as an organisation having to manage software or the hardware it runs on. You then spend lot less time thinking about running those IT services and more time thinking about how you provide services to service users.
If we look further out, one tech that will make a big impact is the area of AI. Right now around 50% of calls on charities information lines are very simple and transactional. So there is a great opportunity for AI to enable charities to provide the value-add services through human contact and deliver the mundane stuff 24-7 by the tech. There is one chatbot for young people leaving accommodation. I’m passionate about this because I want charities to be able to deliver the broadest services possible.
CDN: Who do you most admire in the charity sector, and why?
JC: I respect the great work many charities are doing with innovation and technology. Design charity Shift, for instance, aren’t very big but I love the work they do, the fact that they start with the problem and design a solution to solve that, whether delivered by an existing charity, a start-up organisation or resulting in a new product being launched.
I really like that model which is very end-driven and doesn’t start with preconceptions but brings in really strong opportunities for the use of technology, pulling the technology from the issue being addressed rather than pushing it out.
CDN: Lastly, time for the inevitable GDPR question. GDPR- good or bad for charities?
JC: It’s going to cause some short term pain, but long term I think it will be good. It will lead to a mature relationship between charities and the public, and I think new models will emerge, and be in many cases heavily digitised. I’m a fan of more accurate and cost-effective targeted digital advertising, which is going to have a big role to play.
There will probably be a bigger role for PR as well, because charities will be relying a lot less on emailing people to ask them to do things- they will have to grab their attention in other ways. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) for instance and their Project 84, are a prime example of a powerful idea that grabs the imagination without breaking the bank. It brings to attention the issue of high suicide rates among men by putting 84 sculptures on the roof of a television studio to represent one of 84 real men who take their lives in the UK each week.
CALM aren’t that big a charity, with only around a million income. But as the campaign was incredibly visual it was soon all over Facebook and Instagram, and you start to develop a viral social media campaign. So actually, this stuff doesn’t have to cost enormous amounts of money, it just requires the creativity to think of the idea and mobilise the network of supporters, online tools being ideal for this.