The digital skills gap amongst UK charities
Editorial

The digital skills gap amongst UK charities

The Government signalled its intention for the UK to lead on technology in its digital strategy published earlier this month, committing to training up millions of people. Yet relatively little has been done to map the current state of charity digital skills.

The Skills Platform and Zoe Amar Communications wanted to help charities by building a picture of how the sector is using digital, and how this might affect sustainability.  We were also keen to understand how digital could help charities deal with the challenges it currently faces. To do this, we surveyed the sector and just under 500 charity professionals took part.

The results form The Charity Digital Skills Report which we are proud to launch today. It shockingly reveals that many UK charities are struggling to get to grips with digital transformation.

A shocking 50% of charities surveyed said they do not have a digital strategy and only 9% said they have been through digital transformation and embedded it. 57% cite skills and more than half (52%) lack of funding as the biggest barriers to getting more from digital. Almost three quarters (71%) of charities rate their board’s digital skills as low or having room for improvement.

In addition, half of charities say that other organisational challenges are being given more attention and digital is not seen as a priority. A better understanding of what digital is and how it can help charities must be developed and led across the sector to combat this, as there is a distinct irony in many seeing digital as a distraction rather than a potential solution to some of the problems they are facing.

75% of charities think growing their digital skills would help them increase fundraising, yet 61% rate their digital fundraising skills as fair to low. A further 80% of respondents said they want their leadership team to provide a clear vision of digital and what it could help them achieve, whilst 66% want a good digital strategy. This shows that both leadership teams and boards must own the development of their charity’s digital skills. If this doesn’t happen, more than half of the charities are concerned their organisations will become irrelevant, fall out of touch with their audience and lose ground to competitors.

Some charities are taking steps in the right direction, with 59% working to improve the culture so digital can flourish there, and 39% on top of how digital trends are affecting their charity’s work and have a plan in place for how to tackle this.

Martha Lane Fox CBE, executive chair of Doteveryone, said: “This survey's results are sobering. Charities across the UK do extraordinary, life-changing work – but unless they engage with digital, they'll struggle to fundraise, stay relevant and remain competitive. Building digital skills starts with leadership, and so I urge charity leaders to develop their own digital knowledge alongside their teams."

Dave Evans, product marketing manager at the Skills Platform, comments: “The Charity Digital Skills Report reveals the sector is much further behind in digital transformation than we would have predicted. However, charities must not be too disheartened. The purpose of our report is not to place further pressure on the sector, but rather to help charities benchmark their own organisations; measure where the skills gaps are, and see how digital could help them to seize the opportunities and better manage the challenges they face.”

Zoe Amar, founder and director of Zoe Amar Communications, adds: “The results are a real burning platform for the sector to engage with digital. We would urge charities to view this report as an opportunity to really join together and champion digital transformation within their organisations. Digital has the power to make charities more sustainable, efficient and relevant, and ultimately enable them to generate more income to help even more people. Charities simply cannot afford to not engage with digital, otherwise they seriously risk being left behind.”

For more information about Digital Skills Platform or the Charity Digital Skills Report 2017, please visit: www.skillsplatform.org/content/charity-digital-skills-report.

Zoe Amar Founder and Director Zoe Amar Communications
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