Digital code requires further work, sector leaders warn

Responses to a consultation on the Charity Digital Code of Practice cover a number of key themes

Sector leaders have cautioned that further work is required to the proposed Charity Digital Code of Practice as organisations adapt to the changing digital landscape.

The code, which will be voluntary and free to access for all charities, is funded by the Lloyds Banking Group and the Co-op Foundation and has been drawn up to help charities improve their digital skills and increase their take-up of digital activity.

The consultation period ran from July to September and there were 171 responses from organisations in the sector.

Key themes from the responses included the challenges facing charities relating to increasing digital skills funding, risk management and the need to get buy-in from boards about digital transformation as well as improved backing from senior leadership teams.

A quarter of respondents said they did not know what to prioritise, suggesting the challenges facing some organisations were broad and potentially limiting to their missions.

The themes are explored in more detail by the digital expert Zoe Amar, who chairs the steering group of representatives from across the sector that manages the code. Writing in an article for Third Sector, The Charity Digital Code of Practice – what next for the sector?, Amar reacts to the generally positive feedback to the consultation.

"It is encouraging to see these responses, but there is still much to do," she writes.

"Respondents told us that, although they liked the ambition of the code, it could take time to implement it. As well as resources, they requested opportunities to learn from peers and assessment tools."

Rhodri Davies, head of policy at the Charities Aid Foundation, told the consultation that, although the code showed many charities recognised that technological and digital transformation was no longer something they could ignore, the question facing them was how. He also warned of a potential loss of talent from the sector.

"We need to recognise that a lot of charities will face barriers, in particular when it comes to attracting and retaining staff with the required level of digital skills," he said. "As global competition for tech skills intensifies, charities will have to think creatively about how they respond.

"If charities do not adapt, there is a real risk that we will see a 'tech brain drain' from the sector and a huge opportunity will have been missed."

Sarah Atkinson, director of policy and communications at the Charity Commission, pointed to the ways in which digital had altered public behaviour and the need for the sector to adapt to the changes.

"For charities to stay relevant, increase the difference they can make and protect their charity from risks, understanding and engaging with the digital world is vital," she said.

"The enthusiasm with which the charity sector has responded, and the willingness to use the code and increase digital skills indicated in the responses, is very positive. As regulator, we want to ensure charities have the information and tools they need to succeed, and that’s why we are pleased to continue supporting the development of the code."

The Charity Digital Code of Practice will be launched on 15 November.

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