Charities need to be more strategic in digital thinking, says NPC

The think tank urges change among organisations if the sector is to succeed in a changing world

Charity boards need to think more strategically about the opportunities that digital technology can bring to their organisations, according to a new report.

This is one of three recommendations on digital in the think tank NPC's publication, Charities Taking Charge: Transforming to Face a Changing World. NPC questioned 400 sector chief executives and trustees on to what extent and how their organisations were transforming to deliver greater impact. The data was drawn from in-depth interviews, round-table discussions and a survey of 300 charity leaders.

It found that 77 per cent of boards had discussed how they could use data to inform their activities, and 73 per cent had discussed in the past year making greater use of digital technology.

Researchers found that 61 per cent of respondents rated digital technology as an important resource. But when respondents were asked about its importance as as a resource, digital was ranked only 11th out of 12.

When charities were asked where digital strategy sat in their organisations, the leading answer (57 per cent) was that the main oversight of digital strategy was at a senior level. The second-highest group of respondents (27 per cent) admitted to having no digital strategy at all.

The NPC report pointed to ‘limited understanding’ among charities of what digital and data could achieve, which was matched by an overconfidence in how advanced charities were in their use of digital.

The authors found that in a number of cases the more confident a leader was that their organisation was making the most of digital, the less well they seemed to understand the nature of digital and its benefits.

It also found that some organisations were taking advantage of the opportunities that new technology offered in order to support collaboration but the potential of the digital revolution was yet to be tapped by the sector.

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As well as the need to think more strategically, NPC recommended that charities recognise that digital is about a culture of experimentation and collaboration and that they should start with small steps to make changes.

It also recommended access to the skills required to make the most of digital as well as ensuring there was knowledge around the impending data protection regulations.

Patrick Murray, head of policy and external affairs, at NPC, said: "We found some charities thriving through focusing on activities that deliver the greatest impact, collaborating with new and existing partners, embracing diversity and a new attitude to risk, and harnessing new resources, from digital technology to beneficiaries and communities themselves.

"But the research identified many others struggling. If the sector is to step up to the challenge, leaders will need to think very differently about how to deliver impact in this changing world."

Click here to download the report.

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