Pace of digital change in charities stalling, report finds

This year’s Charity Digital Skills Report shows that some charities are regressing or stalling in their integration of digital, with factors such as Brexit and a lack of access to funding potential barriers.

Chrissy Chiu | 14th Jun 19
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Launched yesterday, the third annual release of the Charity Digital Skills Report warns that charities are still behind the curve when it comes to digitisation, with the pace of digital adoption actually declining according to some measures.

While 87% of charities said that the Brexit was not holding them back, some levels of progression are at their lowest since the report first launched in 2017.

Over 50% of charities do not have a digital strategy, an increase on last year’s figure of 45%, while a lack of digital skills continues to a big challenge, second only to funding. The lack of digital skills means that the sector is not keeping up with new developments in tech, with just 35% of respondents saying that they are keeping up with how tech is influencing their workplace.

Digging deeper into the issue, charities trying to move forward with digital are showing tech as an integral part of their operational strategies – so it is worrying that many charities have made no progress or regressed in this area.

Less than a quarter (23%) of charities noted they had a clear strategy of how digital can help them reach their goals, down from 32% in 2018. Only 10% have been through and embedded digital transformation, down from 15% a year prior.

The Charity Digital Skills Survey and Report is carried out every year by charty sector digital guru Zoe Amar and charity training hub The Skills Platform. This year’s survey was answered by 450 charities from across the UK, with a mix of digital, communications, marketing, fundraising and leadership roles taking part.

The findings show a gap between where charities want to be with digital and the present reality, and that this is impacting their ability to grow. When asked what their priorities were for the upcoming year, top of the list was using digital to increase their impact 67%, while 59% wanted to use data more effectively.

“It is reassuring that charities seem to be aware of the issues and where the gaps are, however, the slow pace of change and decline of progress overall needs urgent attention,” said Zoe Amar, Founder and Director of Zoe Amar Digital, on this year’s findings. “Funders need to step up as the report shows the need is growing across the sector and funding has remained the biggest challenge every year. Perhaps charities could also benefit from more support to demonstrate social impact and the meaningful value digital brings otherwise the sector is at risk of being left behind.”

Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James, who wrote the foreword for this year’s report, commented: “Not only does this report provide useful insights into digital trends across the sector, but it also shines an important light on where the skills need to be boosted, and arms government with vital insight to create effective policies. Charities and social enterprises continue to amaze us with the inspirational work they carry out within their communities but boosting the digital skills capability of these organisations is increasingly necessary. Not only is this essential for the growth of our digital economy, but it also forms the foundation for growing the UK’s thriving ‘tech for good’ sector and we look forward to this great work continuing.”