2018 in review: charity digital stats not to miss

The changing donor landscape and the battle to do more with less are driving charities to find new routes to efficiency.

Chloe Green | 5th Dec 18
Image shows staff around a table looking at statistics

This article is sponsored by Workplace by Facebook – a free cloud-based platform for non-profit organisations to connect and collaborate.


As we approach the end of 2018, here are some facts and figures every charity should know.

Demands on charities are increasing…

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)’s Social Landscape Report shows that demands for services increased for four out of five organisations last year, and there is no sign of any let-up on the squeeze on charities’ time.

This trend is expected to continue with 85% of charities saying they expect demand for services to increase in the next 12 months.

Worryingly, just one in seven CEOs feel completely confident that they will be able to manage the increase.

Further research from CAF  shows that, although there has been a drop in the proportion of people using charities, those who do use charities are using them more often, and using more types of services. 90% of households have used charitable services at some point in the last year.

 

… While charities have fewer resources…

While people are giving more to charities than ever, income generation and financial sustainability is the biggest obstacle for over half of organisations, according to CAF figures. When charity CEO were asked what their most pressing challenges are, funding and income were the most highlighted.

Over half (54%) of CEOs say that they have used or will need to use reserve funds to cover income shortfalls.

Alarmingly, one in four of the smallest organisations said that their charity is ‘struggling to survive.’

And now, as we emerge from a decade of recession, the charity sector faces an uncertain financial climate under Brexit: research from the Directory of Social Change suggested a possible 250 million pounds worth of funding could potentially be lost to the sector.

 

… And donors are becoming less predictable.

There is evidence that donors are using more channels than ever before, with giving patterns distributed across more channels than ever. The report from non-profit software company Blackbaud suggests that this could be leading to ‘choice anxiety,’ making it harder for charities to capture and keep the attention of potential donors.

Users now have a ‘bewildering and fast-changing array of channels,’ causing donors confusion and uncertainty, and making them a moving target for charities.

As Blackbaud advises, shifts in the supporter landscape make sourcing donors and volunteers a challenge: “Charities need to better understand who their supporter groups are and which channels they prefer to engage in… this is key to building relationships with them and building a strong fundraising strategy.”

But despite all this, charities are not making the most of their data. A new report on charities’ use and analysis of data by Salesforce shows that less than half of charities are able to effectively analyse the data they collect on donors, volunteers and service users, in order to better understand how to reach and serve their changing audiences.

 

But charities are sitting on a wealth of opportunities from technology…

The good news is that the movement towards low-cost cloud technology is opening up many opportunities for charities to innovate and adapt.

Charities that are more digitally-capable say that they are confident in their organisation’s future, according to the Lloyds Charity Digital Index.

And Tech Trust’s 2018 Charity Digital Survey showed that 92% of charities with a digital strategy in place say that they expect to increase their measurable impact in 2018 as a result.

This doesn’t mean introducing technology for technology’s sake, or needing any specialist technical knowledge, but being able to quickly identify opportunities to apply the digital solutions available to them to key business challenges.

As Matthew Moorut, Head of Digital and Marketing at Tech Trust explains: “There are more platforms available to help charities raise funds, deliver services and communicate than ever before, and many of them are free – at least for smaller charities.”

“A lot of charities have stuck to the mindset that 3% of their budget should be spent on IT, but that doesn’t make sense now,” he says. “Most charities should be using cloud-based platforms instead of buying and maintaining servers, and that radically changes the cost structure. It should make it cheaper, freeing up budget to spend more on other areas.”

“The challenge then becomes finding the time to work out which technology can best support your cause, and how to get the most from it.”

 

… And the opportunities are potentially transformative.

In the last few years, the variety of options for internal communications has improved more than it has for almost any other type of business tool.

“For charities that are happy to move off emails, most of the new options are free,” says Moorut. “Workplace by Facebook is free and scales up to organisations the size of UNICEF, and Slack is free for up to 250 members and gives 85% discounts after. Even just using WhatsApp gives a low-tech option for charities to message large numbers of volunteers.”

“The benefit there is that you’re taking a chunk out of the cost base for communications, and also should be improving productivity if you’re using the tools well.”

How charities use technology depends on whether it falls under IT or fundraising – in other words whether it’s seen as a risk or an opportunity – with data systems in particular, it can easily fall under either bracket.

But whatever technology you’re looking at, he advises that the starting point should be to map the needs and behaviours of your users, and then find the solution that makes the most sense from that.

“The opportunities of today’s tech are potentially transformative,” says Moorut, “as are the risks of not using them properly. So it’s worth ringfencing some regular time – maybe just one afternoon per month – to investigate what’s out there and how to use it best.”

 

To find out more about how your charity could transform the way staff, volunteers and partners collaborate and share insights, all for free from the cloud, visit the Workplace for Good website.