Badge it how you will ‘digital transformation’ is, at its core, simply business change. It is therefore reliant on the core dynamics of your people and your budgets. This presents the charitable sector, in particular, with a big challenge but also a big advantage. Whilst budgets remain tighter than ever across pretty much every organisation and business, it is a truism that staff in the third sector, by and large, are more supportive of change as long as they can see the inherent benefits for their service users. In simple terms then - sell them what’s in it for them and they should get on board more passionately with your agenda.
Given that the impact of the effective and strategic application of digital can be far-reaching and have real significance to the end service users you would assume that all charities would be investing in a fully formed digital strategy. A strategy that clearly addresses why they should be more ‘digital’, where digital is purely an enabler but not the whole solution, and how they can better deliver against their vision. However, the recent Tech Trust research shows that 58% of charities don’t have a digital strategy in place at all and only 27% are investing in any sort of digital training in 2018. Concerning figures indeed.
“Charities can’t afford to be digitally defiant.”
- Dr Simon Davey, consultant at Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness (Cass CCE)
I couldn’t agree more with the above quote from Dr Simon Davey. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say they can’t be digitally negligent. The reality of today's world is that digital sits at the heart of virtually every interaction and transaction that takes place form the cash transaction at a till to a Dr’s appointment to a social security claim to a Twitter thread. Joining these disparate data points, delivering better efficiencies and ultimately providing a more seamless and intuitive service to your customers of whatever flavour has to be an overarching goal for any charity.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with a number of future-focused charities over the last few years looking into digital transformation and how it can drive more efficient and better service delivery to their variety of users. One commonality is that the budgetary considerations have been great and difficult to navigate. Equally though, their staff have always been warmly receptive to the changes needed when framed around how these changes allow them to do their jobs better, more efficiently and with greater emphasis on their service users.
As a result, AD diligently focuses on three key areas:
- How can we deliver more effective service user interactions for the same or less money?
- How can we use digital means to free up staff to spend more time interacting with service users?
- How can we focus digital on supporting fundraising, sponsorship and new revenue streams?
This focus ensures that we always place the charitable vision at the heart of any digital transformation programme and centres our workshops, questions and outcomes on delivering the charities vision whilst providing even better experiences for the end user.
One key issue for all charities is the need for digital knowledge at board/trustee level. Governance of the organisation is their key focus but governance now stretches to many areas that are either partially or entirely supported by digital as an enabler. Not to have the knowledge on the board of trustees is to invite knowledge gaps that can lead to poorly informed decisions being made, or worse, decision paralysis because the knowledge is not at the table. This will be one of the discussion areas I'm sure at Governance Now next week. Governance now is a national conference for arts and culture sector professionals in engaging with good governance. If you want to find out more, book tickets and come along to the session we are charing, you can head along to their website!
We’re also wholly cognisant that digital is not the perfect solution for each and every case. For example, there are often instances of service users being unable to access or use digital technologies. This is where the second point in my above list is particularly pertinent. So, whilst digital is not servicing that user, it is creating efficiencies amongst internal stakeholders enabling your people to be more productive.
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