Charity digital code of practice launches

The code includes seven guiding principles such as ensuring charity leaders are committed to improving digital capabilities and that service users and stakeholders are involved.

Joe Lepper | 15th Nov 18

The UK’s first digital code of practice for charities has launched to provide practical advice on improving their digital capabilities.

The Charity Digital Code of Practice has been funded by Lloyds Banking Group and the Co-op Foundation and has been developed by a sector-wide group, led by independent digital expert, Zoe Amar.

The code has also been shaped through a consultation that included a survey of 171 charity representatives. This found that 60% want to increase their digital skills and just under half (49%) are already building their digital capability but want to take this work further.

Two versions of the code have been produced, for larger charities and smaller organisations that are operating on tighter budgets and have less capacity to improve their digital functions.

Seven principles for digital success

The Code includes seven principles to be considered by charities wanting to develop their digital activity.

These include the importance of strong leadership, which is committed to using digital to ensure their charity is relevant and sustainable.

Digital activity should also be user-led and based around the needs and behaviours of beneficiaries and stakeholders.

A digital culture is important across the organisation and the code also urges charities to produce ambitious digital strategies, which think creatively about how digital can increase impact in ways that do not necessarily need large financial investment.

The principles also call for charities to improve the digital skills of their workforce and volunteers, ensure they manage risks and are also adaptable to the digital changes in society.

Why is a code needed?

The need for a Charity Digital Code of Practice was highlighted in a 2017 report by Lloyds Bank, which showed that only around a half of charities (48%) have the full range of ‘basic digital skills’. Half of charity leaders lack confidence in introducing digital changes, added the report.

The Charity Commission’s Director of Policy, Planning and Communications, Sarah Atkinson, welcomed the code’s launch.

She said: “Digital is changing the way the public behaves. For charities to stay relevant, increase the difference they can make, and protect their charity from risks, understanding and engaging with the digital world is vital.

“The enthusiasm with which the charity sector has responded, and the willingness to use the Code and increase digital skills indicated in the responses, is very positive.

“As regulator, we want to ensure charities have the information and tools they need to succeed and that’s why we are pleased to continue supporting the development of the Code.”

Ambitions for the Code

“The new Charity Digital Code of Practice will help charities connect with their online audiences better than ever before, putting them in a stronger position to serve their communities and secure their own futures,” said Jamie Ward-Smith, Chair of the Co-op Foundation.

”The Code will support smaller charities, in particular, to create a digital-first culture where they can raise funds, awareness and connections online for the greatest impact.”

Nick Williams, Managing Director, Commercial and Business Banking Transformation at Lloyds Banking Group added: “We must do all we can to support the continued growth of digital understanding, skills and confidence to ensure more charities, and their beneficiaries, are set up for success.”

Championing the Code

The code has been developed by a wide consortium of charities and membership organisations serving the charity sector. Tech Trust, NCVO, the Small Charities Coalition, the Charity Commission, SCVO and others have all been involved in developing the code.

Matt Moorut, Head of Digital and Marketing at Tech Trust, explains why they have been involved.

“From the outset, all of the organisations that have come together to develop this Code have done so because we want to make it easier for charities to find the information they need. The goal has always been to create something useful for as many charities as possible.”

“It might not solve all of the issues that charities have in digital uptake but it is definitely a step in the right direction.”

Charities are being urged to discuss the code via social media using the hashtag #CharityDigitalCode.