For charities to have a digital strategy is essential. So here are 7 reasons charities need a digital strategy. In 2017 the online fundraising news site UKfundraising stated the the charity digital skills report showed that 50% of charities did not have a digital strategy. Last year in a report from charity Finance Group and Eduserv, charity Times reported 80% of charity leaders needed to revisit their IT and digital strategy.
The charity times article said “charity finance group chief executive, Caron Bradshaw said it is becoming increasingly noticeable that finance professionals are “leading on digital and IT because nearly every change a charity faces will have an impact on their risk profile, the business model and sustainability”.
Why is it because most charities worry about finance that finance professionals are leading on everything. Finance professionals need to lead and exemplify finance, not strategic planning, not digital, not marketing.
Its 2019, but little seems to have changed. Finance people may get involved, but as IT races ahead of our understanding, without an IT or digital expert who really understands IT and can demythologise and communicate solutions, progress is slow. Which small to medium charity has the office manager or the fundraiser running the website, the finance manager ordering the equipment, and has a level of security where passwords are written in someones notebook and kept in a draw.
I still come across web sites that say they are gdpr ready, but have no privacy statement. If you have a contact form you are taking and using someones data, what happens to the data from that contact form? Legally you have to say what you are doing with it, even if you are deleting it straight away. This would need to be in a ‘privacy statement’ on your website and a ‘terms of reference’ also on your website.
I also come across charity email signatures that don’t clearly state the charity name, registration number, exempt status or any company registration and address. Why is that? Most likely because there is no IT/digital strategy and no one to understand the reasons why as a charity or not profit you should have a legal email signature.
Reason 1 : The Law.
Data is king they say, but in reality data is the law. The gdpr process, that many charities went through, often relying on others to do gdpr for them without a full charity wide understanding are often poorly implemented. Fines on the big companies for gdpr breaches have just started, they are a source of revenue for government, eventually no gdpr stone will be left unturned. The previous laws that demanded management of data and transparency (thats where the email signature came in) have not gone away with the advent of gdpr. charities need to discuss this, need to set out a path and a plan, it needs clarity and a written strategy.
Reason 2. Efficiency.
Your IT strategy is needed so you can support smart and flexible working. How you use ‘the cloud’ and cloud based solutions can be essential to allowing that flexibility. The Cloud, amazing IT products and Office365 won’t automatically make you more efficient. However your IT strategy can look at how you can use the digital world to manage and improve efficiency and effectiveness.
Reason 3. fundraising
Trust me or my friends over at 5to1 that whether you use ‘blackbaud’ or ‘charitycheckout’, your IT strategy will need to support the marketing of your charity, the profile building and of course the fundraising. Your core donor and supporter database and what you do with it must be a building block of your IT strategy, if not sitting in its own fundraising or marketing strategy. This is also where Finance mangers come in.
Reason 4. Support.
What was once the magic of the internet is now a business ‘must have’. For many IT is the backbone of their organisation. But IT works in dog years, a year in IT is like 7 years of normal life, it just races ahead and we struggle to keep up to date. To ensure you continue to progress you need the right support. This may be external, but in my opinion you always need someone on the inside, who you can trust and help you demythologise the Digtal companies IT language. You may buy the hardware and the software but who supports this and how it is supported is integral to your strategy. Finance will budget for the assets, but your strategy needs to highlight finance for the support of these assets.
Reason 5. HR
Staff are your biggest asset and they need investment, as does HR. How are you storing HR records, managing supervision and annual leave? Does your IT strategy account for cloud based products that can support whole departments.
You may have staff working on desktop PCs and Macs but the majority of web access now utilities mobile platforms like phones and tablets. Your staff may be more conversant with their phone than they are with your Computer system. So whether it is bang up to date set of amazing macs or archaic running windows 7, your staff need help, training, guidance and support. They need it to use progressive IT systems that can improve efficiency and communication. Perhaps you may need to change to bring in more tablet working, or ensure all staff have secure email on their phone, Outlook for the lays iPhones has password protection …this is something your IT and digital strategy will tell you.
6. Social Media
Social media is not just a marketing tool, or that thing your children or grandchildren are obsessed by, its also about communication. Your strategy may outline how managers are allowed to use social media, having a team that takes over senior managements social media accounts so they can be used to promote your charity is a path to consider. People often relate more to the personal than the corporate and many charity CEOs have an audience via twitter or instagram that can be communicated with about your good work. This would all be defined and outlined in your digital strategy and Social Media Policy.
Small charities often fear the finance and can take knee jerk reactions encouraged by finance managers or finance trustees who see decisions made by others being laid at their door. It can create low risk appetite that leaves a charity more vulnerable in the long term. So you may think you ought to buy a new minibus or a visible aspect of your charities work, however, without direction for your IT backbone, with investment in thought and strategy, it is the minibus that can become a challenge.
What software should finance be using? Is it cloud based, does it communicate anything to the non accountant? What of budgets for hardware, software, technology in general.
Finance managers need in depth IT training and experience if they are to take responsibility for digital, a lack of knowledge about digital and IT in your finance team means they will not understand the risks or the advantages of a digital strategy.
So you’ve read 7 reasons charities need a digital strategy. Get in touch on the Q&A forums (its free) if you’d like to talk about your charity, your strategy, whether its a digital strategy or the its a business strategy for the next 5 years.