Zoe Amar: The Charity Digital Code of Practice - what next for the sector?

Early analysis of the consultation results suggests momentum for digital change is growing

Zoe Amar
Zoe Amar

Over the past three months the draft Charity Digital Code of Practice has been out to consultation. Today we publish the results.

The purpose of the code is to help charities use digital to increase impact, develop skills and improve sustainability. We want to help organisations develop their skills, make charities more accessible for beneficiaries, provide new opportunities for funders to engage with digital and enhance collaboration across the sector.

The key findings from the consultation are:

  • Charities are facing multiple challenges in digital. We asked them to tell us about what they see as the key issues: 60 per cent said they wanted to increase their digital skills, with 49 per cent stating that they were using digital effectively but wanted take things to the next level; 39 per cent said they needed funding to progress with digital and 36 per cent wanted to know how to manage risk. The breadth of these issues shows the complexity of the problem the code is trying to solve.
  • It’s encouraging to see that 79 per cent of respondents said they would definitely or probably use the code. A variety of charities, from the NSPCC to Age UK, Clic Sargent, World Vision UK, YHA (England and Wales), Knowsley CVS and the Innovate Trust said they were planning to use it or were already doing so. The principles, especially those on leadership, users and skills, were singled out by respondents as being especially relevant. This shows how appetite for digital is building across the sector.
  • Charities are hungry for resources. Many respondents asked for resources to help them with implementation, including how-to guides and case studies. This indicates how the code could signpost to existing tools as well as create more content, so we will begin building out the resources section in time for the launch.
  • Many respondents were positive about the relevance of the code, which we owe to the 40-odd charities across the UK, at all stages of digital maturity, who user-tested the draft and generously shared the real-life challenges they were facing. As with any product, the answers are to be found from the people who will use it.

It is encouraging to see these responses, but there is still much to do. 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: we are keen to collaborate with existing providers of the latter and look at where we can help with the former.

Charities gave very useful, constructive criticism of the principles and highlighted other barriers to adopting the code, such as the risk-averse nature of some boards.

Respondents also spoke of the lack of funding available for digital projects. Jamie Ward-Smith, chair of the Co-op Foundation and co-funder of the Charity Digital Code of Practice, said: "It is clear from our consultation that more funding and resources are needed to ensure charities of all sizes can fully benefit from the code. I would strongly encourage funders to come together so that we can work cooperatively and help charities thrive in the digital age."

As a steering group we have already begun and will continue to work with organisations that support trustees as well as funders to encourage them to engage with the code.

We’ve summarised all the key feedback from the consultation in our report, and the steering group is currently reviewing and will factor this into updating the code in time for the launch on 15 November.

Ultimately, what all of the feedback shows is that momentum for digital change is growing across the sector. We want to work alongside them to help the code deliver this.

Zoe Amar is the founder of the digital and marketing consultancy Zoe Amar Digital @zoeamar 

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