Small charities don't have time to make more use of technology, says report

Published by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research and the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology, it says small voluntary organisations are willing but constrained by time and funding

Technology: funding and time problems for small bodies
Technology: funding and time problems for small bodies

Most small voluntary organisations want to make greater use of technology but do not have the time to do so, according to a report released today.

Start Somewhere: An Exploratory Study into Making Technology Imaginable and Usable for Small Voluntary Organisations has been published by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research and the Centre for Acceleration of Social Technology.

It says that 93 per cent of organisations with annual incomes of less than £500,000 think technology can make them more efficient.

But 54 per cent say lack of time to research and test different approaches prevents them from doing so.

"The challenge of tech use in small voluntary organisations is not so much due to organisations' lack of tech enthusiasm or willingness, but rather the lack of time and funding to invest in tech so that it can be meaningfully and purposefully embedded," the report says.

It urges funders to "think seriously about how you might support the infrastructure, training and experimentation costs associated with 'digital transformation' in small organisations".

Ben Cairns, director of Ivar, whose research focuses on small charities, said: "We would like to see more trusts and foundations offering long-term core funding to create space for experimentation so that charities can work out what ‘tech’ means to them."

Publication of the report was timed to coincide with this week's Small Charity Week and Digital Leaders Week.

Dan Sutch, director of Cast, which helps people use digital for social good, said: "As part of Small Charity Week we are saying start somewhere and don’t do too much at once, because this gives a low-risk way to test and develop new ways of working – test, review, repeat."

Seventy-two organisations took part in the project, which cost £30,000.

Ivar provided seed funding. Other funding was provided by the five steering group members for the project, which were: Comic Relief, the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Lloyds Bank Foundation for England and Wales and the Tudor Trust.

A follow-up study will consider ways in which funders can do more to tackle the problem.

The report can be downloaded here.

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