Consultation opens today on the sector’s first Charity Digital Code, which it is hoped will put charities "in a stronger position to serve their communities and secure their own futures", according to the consultation document.
The code, which was announced in March and is due to be launched in November, will be voluntary and free to access, with the primary aim of helping organisations improve their digital skills and increase their take-up of digital activity. It is being funded by the Lloyds Banking Group and the Co-op Foundation.
An initial draft of the code has been created after user research and testing with more than 30 organisations of varying size throughout the country.
The code's steering group has also identified seven principles for charities on which to base the code and which will form the core of the consultation. These include leadership, user-led behaviour, culture, strategy, skills, managing risk and ethics, and adaptability. The steering group identified these principles because "they show how digital touches much of what your charity does and how it will need to be considered accordingly".
The steering group said it wanted to ensure that opinions from all kinds of charity were heard. The final code is expected to include best-practice guidelines plus practical tips and advice to improve confidence in activities such as fundraising and engaging with stakeholders.
Work by the Co-op Foundation and Lloyds Bank has found a lack of digital expertise within the sector.
The Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index 2017 showed that only 48 per cent of charities had full basic digitals skills and more digitally mature charities were twice as likely to have experienced an increase in donations.
A recent report from the Co-op, called Causes and Effects, said that one in four local charities and community groups feared for their future, while a third of them believed they would benefit from a better online presence.
The digital expert Zoe Amar is chairing the steering group, which includes representatives from the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, the Small Charities Coalition, the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, the Charity Finance Group, the Office for Civil Society, the Charity Commission and the Tech Trust.
Speaking about the consultation, Jim Cooke, head of the Co-op Foundation, said: "There is an opportunity for charities to make better use of digital media, not only in service provision, but also to raise awareness and to help with fundraising. We’re excited about the impact this new code could have.
"By being able to connect better with online audiences, charities will be in a stronger position to serve their communities and secure their own futures. We look forward to hearing the views of the sector to help us create the ‘go-to’ guide for charity digital support."
The consultation runs until 25 September and charities wishing to take part can visit the Charity Digital Code site.