The Cause4 Team comment on The Charity Digital Skills Report 2020

16 July 2020 | By Poppy Facer

 

Now in its fourth year, the Charity Digital Skills Report 2020 was this week published by Zoe Amar in partnership with the Skills Platform. This report builds on data collected from 429 charity professionals about how they are using digital.

2020 has been an unprecedented year in many ways – but the Covid-19 lockdown has revealed the need for digital expertise in the charity sector, for both digital fundraising and online service delivery. Some of the team at Cause4 have reflected on these findings and what it means for the sector at this time: 

 

Naomi Chapman, Development Fellow

“It’s fascinating to see in the report that 15% of charities have cancelled services during the Covid-19 lockdown because their users don’t have the necessary technical skills or equipment. So often, digital work is embraced as automatically accessible, but significant work needs to be done to ensure services and impact can reach the digitally excluded, and those for whom additional accessibility needs to be built in to digital services. Worryingly, 39% of charities surveyed rated themselves as having a poor understanding of how their audiences use digital – this is a knowledge gap that needs to be addressed in order to confidently reach beneficiaries and remain accessible.

It’s good to see that 47% of charities surveyed are interested in how to help their users access services online, and that 46% want guidance on what works with digitising face-to-face services. Considered thinking needs to happen throughout charities as to how the breakdown of their beneficiaries is changing under digital delivery, and whether they’re still fulfilling their strategic objectives. 

Though Covid-19 has led to some charities pivoting to digital, the lack of digital strategies highlighted in past reports is now showing the stark reality: 48% of respondents identified staff skills as the biggest barrier to using digital tools, a factor that could have been mitigated against if digital had been a focus for charities as part of previous business plans."

 

Niloufar Abhari, Development Intern

“Despite the fact that two-thirds (66%) of all UK charities are successfully delivering all their work remotely, over half (51%) still do not have any type of digital strategy. Most charities (66%) rate their board’s digital skills as low or having room for improvement – and it is alarming that this is only 2% less than the previous year. This lack of digital skills and strategy has forced 27% of UK charities to cancel their services during the pandemic as either the charity or their beneficiaries do not have the necessary technical skills to do so. 

This report highlights a serious lack of technical skills amongst charity staff and boards, something we try to address at Cause4 through the Trustee Leadership Programme – an initiative dedicated to training capable and knowledgeable Trustees from a variety of backgrounds and experiences; and through encouraging open Trustee recruitment  practices, which are crucial in addressing existing skill gaps on charity boards. Covid-19 has highlighted how crucial digital expertise is, and if boards are lacking confidence in this area, then one way to mitigate this is to recruit digitally able  Trustees to Boards that can help oversee the development of strategy."

 

Nye Greenfield, Development Associate

“The Charity Digital Skills Report 2020 has highlighted a number of interesting insights and findings with reference to charities’ approach to digital skills and their perceived importance. Reading the findings of the report, it is immediately clear that charities, in general, understand the pertinence of a digitally skilled workforce and Board, yet are severely lacking in this regard. Furthermore, the report also conveys the full effects and fallout from the current Covid-19 pandemic upon the ways in which charities operate, with two-thirds (66%) of charities delivering all work remotely. In this sense, the current situation has very much forced organisations to adapt their services, and adapt them fast, and very much laid bare the misgivings and shortcomings in charities’ digital strategies.

Additionally, one of the key takeaways from the report is the complete lack of coordination with other members of the sector in sharing best practice between organisations (with only 11% doing this), yet a substantial recognition (68%) that digital upskilling would increase their organisational reach. Statistics such as these reinforce a message that is continually repeated about the sector, that charities must work with one another in order to increase their capacity to support their beneficiaries.

 

Annie Jarvis, Head of Development

“As the report points out, Covid-19 has meant that charities have had to adapt to ‘remote working, digital fundraising and online delivery,’ This changing landscape, which has seen 66% of charities working remotely, has forced the sector to respond quickly, transform their operations and pick up new skills in a very short space of time. 

Whilst as a sector we have made some progress in adapting to digital, we are still not doing enough. The coronavirus pandemic has shown us just how much we need to adjust to a new way of working and upskill ALL members of staff in digital delivery so we do not fall behind. Yet I can only reiterate the concerns of my colleagues when I see that 27% of charities have cancelled services because of a lack of digital-know-how. For too long, organisations have relied on a few key members of staff to take responsibility for certain areas of operation, yet when we are faced with challenges like furlough or staff sickness we find ourselves suddenly missing those key skills. 

We have learnt many lessons from this pandemic, and one of the biggest takeaways should be the need to invest in an organisation-wide approach to digital education.”

 

You can read the full report here.

 

How have the ways you use digital changed at your organisation? What support do you need from funders and policy makers to strengthen your digital practice? Start a conversation that matters on Twitter at @OfficialCause4

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