How to maximise impact for your charity through digital products

Third Sector Promotion 3 Sided Cube

3 Sided Cube is an app development agency that specialises in tech for good and looks at how technology can have real impact. In its roundtable discussion at the Third Sector CEO Summit on 30 March it delved into what it takes to build an app, what to consider when starting this type of project and the strategy for success

Richard Strachan and Gabby Crouch
3 Sided Cube’s Richard Strachan (L) and Gabby Crouch (R)

When it comes to charities, every penny counts. Which is why, when investing in technology, charities need to consider what impact that investment will have. It’s all too easy to spend lots of money on digital without much impact or return on investment.

Chief executives were asked what digital products their charity was currently working on or had recently implemented. One CEO remarked that they were still trying to overcome historical bad implementation of digital products. They made a vital point that digital isn’t a solution if people don’t understand what the challenge is.

At their organisation, the challenge is more about people rather than technology. They said they are trying to get staff to first understand what the business process is that needs to be fixed, instead of just instantly looking for a digital solution. Technology won’t solve a problem if the process is broken. And expensive technology will not solve what is essentially a ‘people problem’.

Richard Strachan, managing director of 3 Sided Cube, then put to the table: “If you manage to solve the problem, are you asking what the return on investment is? And if you don't understand the problem, how will you explain it to your tech agency?”

“What do your users need and want?” is the question Gabby Crouch, head of commercial at 3 Sided Cube, asked the table. “They need to be considered in every tech decision. There’s no point in building an app if your audience will never use it. So how often are you asking this question and considering your users when it comes to digital technology?”

One chief executive pondered whether we're a product of our own capacity to problem-solve. They gave an example of how AI can help problem-solve because of its capacity to process vast amounts of data and information, beyond what humans can process. Another charity leader remarked that charities are actually solving last century’s problems. They asked whether CEOs should consider having regular ‘blue-sky thinking’ days. Otherwise, people can become trapped in their own thinking.

Richard Strachan pointed out that the charity sector is often cited as being behind other sectors when it comes to technology. Instead of seeing this as a disadvantage, it should be viewed as an advantage. Companies spend lots of money building and testing digital products, which can become expensive solutions that other organisations can purchase. Charities have the benefit of learning from those companies’ failings as well as their successes. And that tech, which was an innovative product a couple of years ago, is now affordable and can be bought off the shelf.

The discussion ended with talk about more collaboration between charities in terms of pooling data and technology. For charities working in the same sector, they have to report on similar metrics but are all doing it in different ways. It would be more cost-effective and impactful to work together. Suppliers and tech companies should also work together to make it easier, as well as offer a better experience for the user.

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