Why digital's critical for charities

Digitally mature charities enjoying greater success, report finds

Digital has transformed, and continues to transform, businesses spanning all industries. But, compared with other sectors, charities have been slow to adopt new tools and adapt to modern ways of working, be it due to a lack of confidence, knowledge or in-house skills.

There’s no doubt about it: embracing digital is now key for survival, and this requires a fundamental shift in the way charities work and how certain practices – such as fundraising and raising awareness – are carried out.

Digitally focused charities forging forward

Each year, Lloyds bank publishes its Business Digital Index, which measures the digital capability of 2,000 charities and small businesses in the UK. Combining a survey with online behaviour analysis, it aims to explore attitudes towards digital technology.

And the overarching finding from this year’s report is crystal clear: the more digitally capable a charity, the more successful it is.

Reaping the benefits

So-called digitally mature charities are benefiting in a number of ways. First, they’re twice as likely to report a boost in donations, with social media proving to be a key factor. In fact, charities harnessing social channels reported a 51% increase on average – a sizeable percentage by anyone’s standards.

Any previous speculation that digital marketing costs more than traditional tactics has also been put to bed, with the report finding digitally capable charities are 10 times more likely to cut back costs by being online.

Making ground, still a way to go

What was promising to learn was the number of charities with the highest digital capability has increased to 21% from the 3% recorded in 2014, when the index was launched. Since then, there are five times more charities possessing advanced digital skills.

But the report also revealed some concerning findings. Among them, that a third of charities didn’t feel it was necessary to have an online presence. More surprising was that the number of charities possessing the five ‘basic digital skills’ – transacting, communicating, creating, managing information and problem solving – has dropped to 48% from 51% last year.

Driving digital transformation is understandably problematic for many charities, particularly when considering over half of their leaders don’t feel confident about spearheading the change in their businesses.

A growing divide

While the number of charities with the greatest digital capabilities has grown, so has the number with low capabilities. This is creating a significant divide in the sector; a gap that must be bridged for businesses to flourish.

While traditional activities, such as direct mail, still form a core part of a strategy, digital and social are scooping up a greater share of the market and will only become more pertinent in the years to come. For charities of all types and sizes, and especially the third that don’t think online is essential, a change of mindset is needed. Charities have to realise digital is not just a nice add-on or quirk, it’s crucial for succeeding and surviving both now and in the future.