How charities can find the time to digitise – Report

A new report explores how charities can make time and resource for digital in their organisations.

Chloe Green | 18th Jun 19
Image shows person with watch on at a computer, representing time

A new report released by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR) and Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology (CAST) shows that time is the main factor behind charities not embracing digital.

The report cites that 54% of small voluntary organisations identified ‘lack of time’ as the top reason for slow digital uptake. This was despite over 82% of respondents seeing that technology could support their organisation to become more accessible (86%), relevant (82%) and efficient (93%).

‘Start somewhere: An exploratory study into making technology imaginable and usable for small voluntary organisations,’ examined the extend to which SVOs were able to, or willing to consider how technology could play a positive role in their organisation. Of the 72 SVOs surveyed, more than half, 54% said they did not have time to properly research and test difference approaches to technology. Over a third, 34%, noted that they did not have the time to implement and maintain them.

The report also highlighted some advice for SVOs to other SVOS on overcoming the barriers to implementing technology and inclusion.

CAST Director Dan Sutch said: “We found high levels of willingness and enthusiasm to engage, however for a small voluntary organisation barriers prevail, the most significant appearing to be lack of time to learn how to practically implement and use technology. As part of Small Charity Week we are saying start somewhere and don’t do too much at once, as this gives a low-risk way to test and develop new ways of working – test, review, repeat.”

IVAR and CAST are now calling for funders to think of how they can support infrastructure, training and experimentation costs associated with ‘digital transformation’ in SVOs, and to accept learning and change as part of the process to developing services in a digital context.

Ben Cairns, Director of IVAR said: “Funders have the power to give small voluntary organisations the time they need to develop a digital culture that is right for them. We would like to see more trusts and foundations offering long-term core funding to create space for experimentation, so charities can work out what ‘tech’ means to them.”

From the report, the top five tips from SVOs from the research findings include:

  1. Start somewhere and don’t be disheartened if it goes wrong
  2. Focus on the problem you’re trying to solve
  3. Time-bound tests of the technology and then review
  4. Don’t reinvent the wheel
  5. Embed learning into the day-to-day

The report also includes tips on not fearing technology, beign strategic in its use, managing its introduction and allocating adequate resources.