10 things we learnt from the Charity Digital Tech Conference 2019

We share some of the highlights from our very first Charity Digital Tech Conference, from kick-starting more efficient collaboration to building the best website, managing data that gets results and protecting your brand.

Chloe Green | 22nd Mar 19
Image shows delegates participating in the Charity Digital Tech Conference 2019

Charity Digital News’ inagural Charity Digital Tech Conference in February delivered a jam-packed day of learning and discussion to charities of all shapes, sizes and digital skill levels.

We welcomed expert speakers from charity, tech and the wider tech for good community to explore how charity leaders can set about bringing digital to life, wherever they’re at in their journey.

Here are ten things we learnt, with session videos:


1  Charities are discovering completely new ways to collaborate

As the digital world is changing to become mobile-first, video-based and all about instant messaging, what can organisations do to move on from boring old email?

“Engagement at work is declining,” says Julien Lasaicherre from headline sponsor Workplace by Facebook in our keynote session kicking off the day. “That’s nuts – you have more tools, training and resources available for you and your people, yet despite all these things people are disengaged.”

He explained how the Workplace platform is allowing charities to communicate with staff, volunteers and partners through their own private Facebook, with lots of new ways to ensure they are involved, heard and empowered.

You can read more about how Plan International use Facebook’s Workplace platform on Charity Digital News.

Image of Julien Lasaicherre, Workplace by Facebook


2  Even historic, long-established charities can become digital

It’s never easy to introduce new technology into an organisation with set ways of working. But while there is no shortage of guidance out there, you can’t underestimate the value of learning from direct experience.

Vince Gratrick and David Bibby of Mencap shared their based on real-world experience bringing new tech and processes into a 73 year old charity, with lots of honest and advice and useful takeaways.

CFO Bibby asks Head of IT Gratrick: “That’s a huge challenge you were facing, Vince, and quite a daunting one as well, especially when you’re going out there talking to people and they’re sharing all their angst and grief with you. How did you keep going on that journey?”

Watch the video:


3  The right web design can really level the playing field for small charities

We heard from Harry Hurd of charity web design agency Clear Honest Design to discover how charities can really up their website game with a few simple design considerations.

He talked delegates through how knowing the basics of good website design levels the playing field for organisations of all sizes and budgets, with essential tips and tricks.

“Think outside of your bubble,” he says. “It’s really tempting if you’re working in this amazing space to think that everyone will instinctively want to come and support you and think like you do. But it’s not the case necessarily, because you’ve got loads of charities and companies and cat videos that you’re competing with.”

Watch the video:


4  Social is just part of a bigger – potentially income-driving – puzzle

Haydn Thomas and Jennifer Rose from social media platform Lightful explained how tech is breaking down barriers between campaign planning, web design and personalised supporter experiences.

They explained the methods, tools and insights that can help charities optimise every campaign’s cost per acquisition and return on investment.

Check our their recent webinar for Charity Digital News here, where they talked charities through the steps to successful online content strategy.

And if you enjoyed that, sign up for their second webinar next week (28th March) where you can learn best practice tips for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Image shows Jen and Haydn from Lightful


5  Charities can learn a lot from the start-up mindset

She’s not your average charity digital consultant. Jo Kerr believes that charities can break out of the charity mindset and replicate the innovation of the commercial sector, while staying true to their cause.

In her session, she shared insights from her work driving digital change in a wide range of organisations, and how charities can embrace flexibility, innovation, agility, responsiveness, and the ability to scale quickly.

“It’s about people,” she says. “It’s about how people are led, how people are skilled up, and how they are prepared to respond to this changing environment of the digital age.”

Watch the video:

6  Anyone can get to grips with effective cyber security

As part of their ongoing collaboration with Charity Digital News, we invited a charity expert from the NCSC (National Cyber Security Centre), a part of GCHQ, to catch up charity leaders on the latest vital information they need to know about keeping their organisations secure.

Cyber security can sound technical and confusing, but he explained how non-technical leaders can understand the risks they face and mitigate them effectively.

We can’t reveal any names or videos of speakers for obvious reasons! But you can listen to their webinar series on Charity Digital News.

In part one, we heard about the very real risks to charities of cyber attacks.

The second in the series went into more detail about the free and low-cost steps that all charities can take.


7  Charities can’t underestimate the importance of brand management

The word ‘brand’ might not be traditionally associated with the non-profit sector, but in the digital world it’s increasingly important for charities to create and manage a strong, consistent brand identity, especially if they fundraise online.

Marcel van de Boogard and Stuart Cripps-Schnoor from brand management platform Brand iQ explored the challenges faced by organisations such as Crisis, NCT and The Scout Association around implementing an effective brand in the digital age.

As van de Boogard emphasises: “This is not a quick win thing. This is a strategy where you have to get collaborative input from your partners, external and internal, so that everybody feels like there is an objective and a goal at the end.”


8  Charities can drive efficiencies with all their data in integrated system

Dynamics 365 is a cloud-based platform to enable you to seamlessly manage all of your marketing and fundraising activities, volunteers, financials, reporting and more. Microsoft Gold partner m-hance showcased some of this exciting functionality and demonstrated how its NfP 365 suite can help charities reach their goals.

“When we look at efficiency, a lot of organisations we speak to have siloes of data. People are still storing a lot of data on spreadsheets, emails and filing cabinets,” says Cassie. “But Dynamics gives you one centralised platform, reducing risk and improving efficiency.”

Read more about more of its benefits for charities here.

Image of Tory Cassie, m-hance


9   Charities need to get creative with Facebook if they wcnt to compete

Did you know we can read up to 500 words per minute if they appear in a video? Did you know the average person only needs to see an image for 13 milliseconds to take it in?

Cara Lewin, Global Program Manager for Facebook Blueprint – Facebook’s educational training arm – gave charities some fascinating insight into what kind of content does and doesn’t work when it comes to getting noticed on Facebook and Instagram, with a sneak peek at the trends shaping the platforms.

“You’re not just competing with other non-profits around you,” Lewin reminds us. “You’re competing with everything else in a feed, those friends and family pictures, those food pictures… you want to be creating content that’s really going to cut through all of that competition.”

Watch the video:

10  Adapt, adapt, adapt!

“The thing about humans is, we hate change but we’re actually very adaptable and our brains like adaptation even if we resist change,” says Fiona Dawe, chair of our panel discussion. “So actually, just do something, any first step will do!”

The panel session ‘the keys to introducing impactful digital change’ represented a great spread of experience and knowledge areas with Paul Swift, Age UK; Duncan Brown, Shift Design; and Audree Fletcher, whose career has spanned charity digital service design, change management, research and insight and much more.

They discussed the importance of communication and storytelling when it comes to change management in an organisation, and getting past the fear and pain points into successful execution.

Watch the video: