So says Dr Simon Davey, consultant at the Cass Centre for Charity Effectiveness.
His warning comes after the latest Tech Trust Digital Charity Survey, which revealed that over half of charities (58%) don’t have a digital strategy, with just over a third saying that the lack of money is the biggest barrier. Other barriers cited were the lack of time (32.71%), lack of understanding (15.94%) and no perceived benefit (9.40%).
Dr Davey says: “Charities without a digital strategy risk being left behind when it comes to raising awareness of their organisation, communicating with potential donors and stakeholders and interacting with beneficiaries.”
He adds, “While a few years ago some charities may have thought it was just younger people that were prolific users of digital technology, many more people use now use technology in their daily lives. Soon we will have generations that have never lived without smart phones or access to Facebook and Twitter.
“Charities can no longer hope they will survive doing things the way they have always done. Technology is at the heart of business and charity communications and interactions and charities need to invest time and money in developing a digital strategy to future-proof their organisation.”
Some starting points:
What’s the why: What’s the point really? Why do you want to do this? Efficiency, growth, innovation? What will make that happen? A new website for educating an audience about your subject area or better direct interaction, a database for managing engagement and relationships and tracking outcomes or equipment and tools to make you more productive? Be very clear about the goal and reasons for doing it.
Know what you need: Start from the user perspective: Talk to them about what they need and want, create user journeys (how people act and interact), imagine what could be (not just what is and always has been). Digital platforms offer great potential but its always best change your processes first than fit shiny new tyres to a clapped out old car. Choose your technology and suppliers carefully. Cultural fit matters but do not exchange competence for ‘ those who are nice to work with’.
Make a plan: Technology can be unforgiving (and expensive to reverse) so always trial and test it. Have a destination, staging points and outline timetable, a means to evaluate success or failure and a group of people to assess whether it has worked.
Appreciate change: Be aware of the ‘Change Curve’ and its implications. However well you prepare and plan, you need to take people through the phases, through the disbelief, the frustration of the new, the bit when things cannot get any worse, the experimentation when they get better and finally acceptance and commitment. Lead the change and ride the curve. Use your plan to help show you and others where you should be.
Drive through better: Your ‘why’ and ‘plan’ define the map. Keep your destination clear and focused, know what success looks like and keep going. Make sure someone is driving the project and always constantly review and develop.