What challenges is the charity sector facing in its digital transformation? – Charity Digital Skills Report 2023

The Charity Digital Skills Report assesses the UK charity sector's digital landscape. This year's report highlights a number of challenges in the sector.
person using a tablet with a graph displayed

What challenges is the charity sector facing in its digital transformation? – Charity Digital Skills Report 2023

The Charity Digital Skills Report assesses the UK charity sector’s digital landscape. This year’s report highlights a number of challenges in the sector.

The Charity Digital Skills Report assesses the UK charity sector’s digital landscape. This year’s report highlights a number of challenges in the sector.

The report header image

Challenges in digital transformation

1. Firstly, while charities demonstrate a strong interest in digital technologies, such as AI, there is a pressing need for improved readiness, agility, design and skills to fully harness their transformative potential.

Zoe Amar, founder of Zoe Amar Digital, comments: “The adoption curve of AI will change how donors and supporters interact with charities, and what they expect from its products and services. Charities will miss out on opportunities to meet these needs  if they do not have the right people and the right skills to manage the challenges and embrace the opportunities. Charities need leaders who can really think holistically and not view AI as a commoditised product that you drop into your organisation. You will need to  look at risk management; your data policy and processes and governance, as well as making sure teams receive the training and skills to keep pace. Many charities were caught on the backfoot when the pandemic hit, so to ensure this doesn’t happen again, they need to keep pace with emerging technology. “

2. Secondly, funding and time constraints significantly hinder digital adoption in services and across operations. There is still a need for charity leaders to define and communicate a clear strategy for digital adoption as well as have the expertise needed on the board.

Jo Morfee, Producer, Catalyst, adds: “There is a clear call out to funders to continue to support core digital costs and projects, and there’s evidence to suggest that more of the funded work should be made open and reusable, to benefit a wider range of organisations… Another interesting data point is the sector’s adoption of emerging technologies. It seems that funding, skills and capacity are once again the main blockers to adoption of new technologies. As tech continues to evolve rapidly, it’s clear that there’s never been more of a case to work together across the sector more openly, support one another to evolve, share knowledge and resources and reuse tech wherever possible.” 

Sharon Jones, Head of Digital Communications and Content, Genomics England, comments: “What’s exciting is that digital is more of a priority for many charities, however the lack of digital strategy is still an area of concern. Couple that with the challenge of funding, upskilling teams and the impact of AI makes for a bumpy road ahead, which will need prioritised decision making and innovation for organisations to get through the next few years.”

3. Lastly, addressing data skills gaps, getting advice on choosing the right technologies and prioritising diversity and inclusion is vital for charities to maximise the benefits of digital transformation and effectively meet user needs.

Nissa Ramsay, founder of Think Social Tech, adds: “This year we have dedicated insights about digital skills for small charities, Wales, Scotland and those led by or supporting specific marginalised groups. We can now see some important differences in digital skills and priorities. For example, we can see that black led charities are ambitious in their digital plans and committed to providing digital inclusion support. Yet higher proportions face challenges linked to the cost of living crisis and are struggling to find funds to invest in digital infrastructure. We hope the report encourages those providing funding and support to reflect on how this might be more equitable and inclusive, by focusing on digital needs.”

A few key stats

There is so much packed into this report. When reading through, here are a few points which stood out:

  • 48% of charities consider using data to inform strategy and decision making as their biggest challenge.
  • 4 out of 10 charities lack the time to focus on data, and operational challenges include collecting and analyzing the right data (39% each).
  • Small charities struggle to find funding for devices, software, and infrastructure (54%).
  • Only 48% of charities have a strategic approach to digital, lower than the previous year’s 56%.
  • 47% of charities excel at safeguarding users digitally, a notable improvement from 18% in the previous year.
  • 46% of charities currently deliver services in-house or via third-party platforms, a significant decrease from 73% in the previous year.

The importance of having clear objectives of what charities want to achieve by investing in digital skills is reflected in this report. There is also a need for advice and guidance in both training and upskilling on existing digital infrastructure as well as making the right choices for service users and in the context of your vision and mission.

Reading the Charity Digital Skills Report 2023

This report comes with its own 10 action points for the charity sector which you can read for yourself here. You can download the whole report on their website.

Steven Hopkins

Steven is the Editor of the Charities Network monthly magazine and newsletter, and Head of Marketing at Access Insurance Services.

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