Report reveals extent of digital skills gap within charities

Lack of digital skills highlighted in analysis of 150 charities that have benchmarked themselves against the sector’s first digital code of practice.

Joe Lepper | 29th Jan 19
Image shows computer screen with stats and data visualisations on it

The charity sector has ‘some way to go’ to ensure it is embracing digital innovation, according to analysis of the tech capabilities of 150 charities.

Analysis of submissions from charities to a benchmarking tool, created to accompany the sector’s first digital code of practice, found that three quarters (75%) have ‘very few digitally skilled people around’.

The analysis also reveals that nearly two thirds (63%) of charities do not have a digital strategy.

Despite research showing a link between strong diversity and increased digital capability, only 7% of charities reported that they had a strategic intent to build diverse teams and were achieving this.

However, there were more positive findings, with 77% of charities reporting that there is guidance and leadership from their board on digital at a tactical or strategic level.

Additionally, 62% of charities are carrying out meaningful research and development or collaboration across the sector to improve their work through digital transformation.

Charity Digital Code of Practice standards

The Charity Digital Code Quick Assessment Tool was created to help charities quickly find out where they stand on standards set out in the Charity Digital Code of Practice, which launched last November.

Areas covered in the charity digital code of practice include leadership and involving stakeholders in digital innovation.

The tool has been created by Digital Collective, a group of digital specialists within the charity World Vision UK, as well as digital fundraising organisation Hubbub.

“The results show that there is some way to go with digital in the sector, which is a concern,” said Zoe Amar, Chair of the charity digital code of practice.

“The best practice set out in the code is designed to be ambitious in order to raise standards and we encourage charities to work towards it, as this will help them increase impact, improve sustainability and develop skills.”

Martin Campbell, Digital Collective Chair and Chief Information Officer at World Vision UK, said: “It’s no surprise that we’re behind the curve on digital, and we know that we need to do more, but what’s so valuable about this report – and the code itself – is that, by focussing on the culture and practice of digital, rather than the technology, it shows us where we need to concentrate our effort in order to kickstart improvements overall.”

Recruitment and training opportunities

Jonathan Chevallier, Tech Trust Chief Executive agrees that it is unsurprising that charities are some way off best practice in digital innovation, just two months after the launch of the code.

He hopes that the Tech Trust’s third sector jobs platform Charity Digital Jobs helps improve digital recruitment among charities.

“To avoid zero sum gain situations where too many charities are chasing too small a pool of skilled digital resources we would encourage charities to invest more in training and retaining staff and look at other recruitment strategies such as apprenticeships,” he said.

“These can be a cost effective method of bringing on board raw but high potential talent often from more disadvantaged communities.”