What charities have learnt from using the Digital Maturity Matrix

We heard first-hand why the NCVO launched the latest addition to the charity digital toolbox, the Digital Maturity Matrix 2.0, and how real charities are using it to drive change.

Chloe Green | 13th Jun 19
Image of charity guests at the latest Charity Digital News event

[Update] We previously said that the NCVO carried out research into the many digital assessment and benchmarking tools out there. The piece has been corrected to reflect the fact that the research was carried out by CAST and led by Nissa Ramsey of ThinkSocialTech and Helen Lang of Innovation Unboxed, who will be speaking about the findings at the next NetSquared event for charities in London on the 18th June.


Last month voluntary sector membership and advice body NCVO released an updated version of its Digital Maturity Matrix – a benchmarking tool that lets charities assess their capabilities and set goals in different areas of digital strategy.

We wanted to know more, so we caught up with NCVO’s digital team Megan Griffith and Eleanor Dean and charity guests at an exclusive Charity Digital News lunch event last Friday to find out more about the context around the tool, what’s new with this version, how charities are approaching its use and what’s next.

First of all, what exactly is it and why does it exist? The Matrix was first developed two years ago by third sector digital champion Jo Kerr at Breast Cancer Care and functions as an interactive checklist that anyone from any charity can go through and score their organisation against, looking at both how well they’re currently taking advantage of digital and where they plan to be, helping charities more accurately identify their gaps and weaknesses.

NCVO has since taken up the mantle and revised it to include new sections on leadership, capacity and expertise, as well as to improve its use for a broader range of charities.

Megan Griffith said: “We wanted to make sure our tools support large charities but also the many thousands of smaller charity members we have. This is so important for a flourishing charity sector and to ensure nobody is left behind. So in version 2.0 we included things like a glossary of terms and ensured that we were as jargon-free and beneficial as possible.”

“The other thing we’ve found is that many charities don’t want to be tested – they want to be guided, so it was important that we geared the tool towards being not just a health check but a tool for planning.”

Catherine Fraher, who heads digital strategy at AgeUK said: “We’re working with a network of 130 of smaller independent Age UK charities, who have far fewer resources, and perhaps they don’t have anyone on their trustee boards really prioritising digital. The tool is helping to make them think about the questions to be asking.”


Breaking down barriers

While the Digital Maturity Matrix is a useful diagnostic tool for digital teams, some charities expressed a concern that it could lack wider impact with those who don’t consider theirs a core digital team.

Ed Holloway, Executive Director of Services and Support at MS Society said: “Outside of our digital team there is a lot of scepticism. When they see we’ve scored whatever on the matrix, they say: but what does it mean? What actions do we need to take? And what impact will it have?

But as Cancer Research UK’s Connie Vanzanten argued: “I started in what was the digital team in CRUK and now I’m not in a tech team, I’m part of the team whose job it is to create and drive our cancer research strategy. so what I would like to use tool to have conversation with people who aren’t digital, as a tool to have that conversation and so we can get closer to building that shared understanding. It’s a way of legitimising it, saying this is a thing that’s been created by a well-known brand, I’m not just making this is up, this is a thing that’s out there.”

The next iteration of the Digital Maturity Matrix will feature the ability to fill it in tool collaboratively and more easily share results internally.

“One of the things I’ve come up against is everyone is talking about the same thing but in a different language,” agreed Rob Sharpe, digital transformation head at Outward Bound Trust. “This tool is really helpful to unify the language across the trusts and actually help them to understand what digital means and what that means to them in the different teams. There is quite a lot of resistance in certain areas. Using tools like these can help us to get conversations like this going and remove some of the barriers.”


A whole new toolbox

Developed in conjunction with the Charity Digital Code of Practice, the Digital Maturity Matrix should not be considered in isolation, rather just one of a new ecosystem of tools out there for getting to grips with digital strategy.

But the explosion in information and resources can be overwhelming – the team at CAST has identified over 60 different digital maturity guidelines, frameworks and models, and are mapping them for charities to get a clearer view of sector resources available and make sense of the bigger picture.

The research was led by Nissa Ramsey of ThinkSocialTech and Helen Lang of Innovation Unboxed, who will be speaking about the findings at the next NetSquared meeting in London – a free event for charities on the 18th June.

When asked how she sees these different tools converging with the Digital Maturity Matrix, Charity Digital Code of Practice Chair Zoe Amar said: “Cross-sector it’s an incredibly exciting time, with the Code, CAST’s Design Principles, and more all coming out in a short space of time. A really good collaboration movement is forming, with organisations coming together to bring different tools and ideas.”

“Digital is starting to become a bit of an ‘all you can eat buffet’ across the sector, with so many different tools, possibilities, products and services and content, so I’m really keen as part of our work on year two of the Code to make sure we’re starting to synchronise. There will be some work later in the year will see how these different tools can be integrated effectively. The next iteration of the Matrix will have the ability to link out to sources of advice.”



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