Published: 14 June 2019

How digital skills are changing across the charity sector

We’re thrilled to share with you the latest Charity Digital Skills Report which we launched yesterday with our partner Skills Platform.

It’s the third time we’ve run this annual barometer of where charities are at with digital, and shows how attitudes and behaviours are changing across the sector. So what does it tell us about where organisations are pulling ahead or falling behind, and where the sector is overall? Here are the highlights from the 2019 report.

Charities are struggling with strategy

52% of charities do not have a digital strategy, an increase on last year’s figure of 45% and 50% in 2017. Less than a quarter (23%) have a clear strategy for how digital can help achieve their charity’s goals, dropping from 32% last year and 27% in 2017.

What this means for you

Whether you’re going for a standalone digital strategy, or incorporating digital into your organisational strategy, now is the time to plan where your charity is going with digital, how you’re going to get there and what you need to do it. Eastside Primetimers have produced a guide to get you thinking about how to develop a strategy.

Thinking big about digital

Charities are feeling ambitious about what they want to achieve from digital. We asked charities to tell us where they saw their digital priorities for the next year. 67% want to use digital to boost their impact, whilst 59% want to use data more effectively, and almost half (48%) want to use digital to further service delivery, with 42% keen to use digital to grow income.

Charity Digital Skills report 2019

When asked what your charity could do if it increased its digital skills, you told us that 81% of you are keen to get more from your data, whilst 72% of you think upskilling would help save money and time.

What this means for you

Ask yourself (and your senior management team!) whether you have similar priorities to the ones above. If you feel that actually, your priorities are different, why is this the case? Linking your digital priorities back to your charity’s goals will help your leadership team see the value digital could provide.

It’s exciting to see the appetite that charities have for what they can do with digital, and I’d encourage organisations to think big about the possibilities. What could you achieve if you looked to improve things by 10 times, rather than 10%? Google use this technique, called 10x thinking, to unlock innovative ideas. You can try it out yourself for free.

Are leaders raising their game?

Charity Digital Skills report 2019

There were interesting changes to the skills which charities want their leadership teams to develop. 57% told us they’d like their leaders to understand trends and how they affect charities, down from 63% last year. 45% want their senior team to have some experience or understanding of digital tools, down from 53% last year. 41% said they want their leadership teams to be more agile and adapt to change, compared to 47% last year.

What this means for you

This suggests that charity leaders are getting stuck into digital, which is brilliant news. The other reading of these figures is that charities have lowered their expectations. Ask yourself how your leadership team compares, and whether their behaviour has shifted over the last year. If there are gaps in their skills you could offer to coach them.

Are we adapting fast enough?

Artificial intelligence and other tech innovations stories are rising up the news agenda, yet only 12% are planning for how this could change their charity, less than the 14% last year. Over half of you (58%) told us you are aware of the ethical challenges posed by digital innovation (e.g. social media platforms’ use of data, how to make all users feel included, and algorithm bias) but aren’t planning for them as yet.

Charity Digital Skills report 2019

We need to make sure we have a range of perspectives and experiences on our digital teams if the charity sector is to have a role in the tech products of tomorrow. 41% of you said that your charities are not currently taking active steps towards improving diversity on their digital teams but are aware that they need to make improvements, whilst 1 in 4 don’t know what their charity is doing about this issue.

What this means for you

Keep an eye on the latest stories about emerging tech and ask yourselves what, if any, the implications are for your charity. Doteveryone also have a good range of tech ethics resources here .

What does all this mean for the future?

Generally, the report reveals some improvements but with much still to achieve. Think of the opportunities that charities are missing out on as a result, whether it’s fundraising, getting your message in front of the media, or reaching more of the people your charity was set up to help.

Once again, charities told us that funding was the biggest barrier to progress. Funders need to look at how they can respond to this growing need across the sector. The area where we can all make the biggest difference is to keep championing the needs of our users, and through that, ask the tough questions which will help shape our charity’s strategy.

Read the 2019 Charity Digital Skills Report


Zoe Amar, director, Zoe Amar Digital

Zoe Amar is founder and director of Zoe Amar Digital, a charity marketing and digital communications consultancy who've worked with Action Aid, CAF, Crimestoppers and many other great charities. She also blogs for The Guardian. Zoe shares charity marketing resources over at www.zoeamar.com and @zoeamar