Vicky Browning: We must let digital spread its wings and fly

The digital function at charities is at a crossroads, writes our columnist

Vicky Browning
Vicky Browning

When my son Bobby moved from primary to secondary school this year, he declared he now wanted to be called Robert. It's part of his growing independence - his need to stand on his own two feet.

It feels like the digital function in charities is at a similar crossroads. A new report published by the not-for-profit IT firm Eduserv and CharityComms suggests it's time for digital to come of age. The message of digital transformation - the need for a fundamental shift in the way charities work - is simply not being heard or understood.

In the past, digital has mainly been part of communications and marketing in charities. But the report, Business Transformation and the Role of Heads of Digital, says digital departments need to make new friends in HR, finance and operations. People and processes need to be considered before the technology required to enable change. Digital leads need to focus on strategy and consultancy, handing day-to-day delivery to other functions across the organisation.

And as with my son, it might also be time for a name change. Instead of digital transformation, the report says, charities should be talking about business transformation: business leaders' perception of the term "digital" is simply too narrow. Charities as diverse as Asthma UK, the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Send a Cow and the RSPB have all recognised the need to focus on delivering the tools and culture required to help an organisation rethink how it works.

Comms has always recognised the value of digital. Now it's time we let it spread its wings and fly.

The report is free to download from the CharityComms website

Vicky Browning is director of CharityComms

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