Sector could be left behind on digital skills, says Big Lottery Fund chief

Dawn Austwick tells Third Sector's Fundraising Conference that the sector has been 'quite late to the party' and should get more skilled

Dawn Austwick
Dawn Austwick

The voluntary sector risks being left behind if it does not improve its digital and data skills, according to Dawn Austwick, chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund.

Speaking at Third Sector’s Fundraising Conference in central London yesterday, Austwick said charities and community groups needed to take advantage of the opportunities offered by digital technology and data across the board.

She said this was also true of the BLF itself, although it had made progress in recent years by bringing some of its application processes online and simplifying them.

"We are quite late to this party as an organisation compared with others in other sectors, and I think the charity sector is too," she said.

"We have to get further upstream and we have to get more skilled."

She acknowledged that there were a few people and charities in the sector that were at the forefront of digital innovation.

But she said that collectively the sector risked "being left behind" if it did not develop digital and data skills at the core of what they did.

Austwick said it was about more than improving an organisation’s digital skills and capability in fundraising and marketing, but also about improving service provision and the overall running of the organisation.

She said the BLF was hoping to support the development of digital skills within the sector through its funding decisions.

Her organisation also aimed to promote "generous leadership" through funding partnerships, she said, in order to encourage organisations to think not just about how they could win a bid or secure a grant, but also whether another organisation was best placed to do the work and how they could be supported.

"Our view is that we want to encourage the charity and community sector to share, and to think about what is the place of your organisation in the ecology you operate in – whether that’s in place, sector or both," she said.

"It’s about what you bring to that party and what other people bring to that party."

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