The impact of digital on various sectors, including the charity sector has been huge. Digital transformation has helped to increase fundraising efforts, improve service delivery, expand trust and transparency, enhancing your marketing and communications, and support the day-to-day operations of in-house charity teams.
Charities have embraced digital acceleration throughout 2020, adjusting to the demands of the movement, adapting to meet the ’new normal’ that emerged following the outbreak of the pandemic. In 2021, digital acceleration is going even further. This week at Borne, we discuss some of the steps charities have already taken and look at the most exciting digital prospects for the charity sector.
Firstly, what is digital transformation?
Digital transformation involves the integration of technology into an organisation, to replace manual processes with the aim of improving operations. It is an ever-evolving process, as new and more efficient technologies take over the less efficient.
Currently, charities have been adopting digital tools for decades, usually with the simplistic aim of improving the customer and employee experience. To make sure your charity is evolving, it’s essential to look at future trends, allowing you to stay ahead of the curve.
Creating transparency with Blockchain
Most people associate Blockchain with cryptocurrencies, but Blockchain is not a cryptocurrency. Blockchain is one type of distributed ledger technology. It is a decentralised ledger database that records transactions, offers vital forms of transparency and minimised the risk of fraud. Blockchain is a promising tech for the charity sector. One of the key challenges that face charities is the absence of transparency and fraud and Blockchain ensures that charities remain transparent with their data. It allows donors to monitor how charities use their donations, which provides an incentive for future donations, as donors are more likely to give if they trust the organisations and can visibly track how money is spent.
Digital financial platforms, like Alice, is an example of solving transparency issues by introducing Blockchain into the charity sector. Based on the Ethereum Blockchain Network, users can track payments made to a particular charity also set conditions around how that money may be spent and users can pull donations back if the charity does not meet the conditions. Blockchain empowers donors, allowing them to feel that their donation is spent in a way that makes them comfortable. This development has the potential to build trust between the charity, donors, and the recipients of the donation, which could lead to more consistent donations. Charity organisations, such as St Mungo’s, are using the Alice platform to improve their donation service. The homelessness charity used Alice for an appeal to raise £50,000 to help lift 15 people out of long-term rough sleeping by delivering intense personalised support. Alice worked to freeze donations until the charity provided evidence that money was spent to meet the defined goals. Donors were also able to track when the suggested goals were met.
Most charities have been quick to take up digital transformation in terms of donations. The cashless transition was well on the way before the pandemic and the charity sector remained ahead of the curve. Many charities have already switched to technologies that will enable cashless and contactless donations, though the tin bucket still remains a nostalgic favourite.
In 2019, for example, the Mayor of London partnered with TAP London, a company that provides cashless technology. The two parties worked together to create mediums for cashless donations for homeless people at different points in the city. Up to 35 donation centres were set up to serve at least 22 charities that support the homeless. Raising more than £7,000 in the first few weeks, the technology proved a successful and effective cashless venture.
Platforms like Beam are also helping with cashless donations. Beam ensures donations to charities are much more secure and convenient for donors. It provides an avenue where donors can monitor where their money has been donated and the services that the charity delivers.
Zoom, zoom, zoom
COVID-19 has consistently highlighted the importance of various tech, but perhaps the all to familiar videoconferencing has stood out above the rest. Teams and Zoom for example have become essential for charities throughout 2020 and going into 2021. The service helps with events, digital fundraising, effective service delivery and engagement with donors. One development that will last long after COVID-19 is remote service delivery. Videoconferencing has been vital in providing a support system to people in need. Organisations that provide one-to-one support programs through videoconferencing are able to increase their reach, provide steady help, and minimise the cost.
What are the main challenges of digital transformation for charities?
According to research by Charity Digital, 58% of UK charities reported that they had no defined digital strategy. A large number also said they needed a better understanding of technology, but 73% still claimed they had no plans to provide digital training.
Digital transformation depends on the will of the institution. Charities need to embrace digital transformation and take positive steps forward. They also need to confront challenges head-on – and there are plenty of challenges.
– Lack of funds
Embracing digital transformation requires will. But this also requires funds. Charities are often faced with a challenge of embracing digital on a shoestring budget. Many find it difficult to procure the necessary materials. Platforms, tools and training to have an effective transition.
– Knowledge gaps
A knowledge gap presents a challenge. Many charities believe that embracing digital requires expert knowledge and training – both of which are considered too costly, particularly among smaller charities.
– Digital divide
The digital divide is a big issue facing many charities. Some service users for charities do not have access to the technological materials that charities hope to use, which means that charities are forced to offer less efficient services, ensuring that everyone is supported.
“Charities may want to move towards a more efficient digital offering, but their impact would be undermined if they did not meet the demands of users.”
Overcoming the challenges
These challenges are not existential and charities can overcome them. Of course, not every charity can switch entirely to digital overnight – and some will always need to retain a physical presence.
However, many charities can take small, incremental steps that could increase fundraising efforts, support donor engagement, improve service delivery, and make day-to-day operations more efficient.
Digitisation only requires minimal expenditure, depending on your demands. It’s important that charities do their research and designate the right funding to the right project. Do not spend excessive on elements of digital that do not require the expense. Research different platforms and find the most cost-efficient ones that meet your needs – remember to keep a careful eye on customisation options.
– Train your team
Find cost-effective training options that meet demands. There are plenty of services available online that will help train staff on the relevant digital platforms. These platforms will often provide tutorials and some of the most efficient platforms will be simple to use, without requiring digital expertise.
– Service delivery
Charities can reach more people with simple and cost-efficient measures, such as providing necessary information on websites, utilising social media, and having effective resources accessible to everyone. But some charities need to ensure that face-to-face services are available to those who need it.
It is essential that charities decide on the right approach, especially if they want to address the digital divide. A hybrid offering – with digital services used to resolve simpler issues and face-to-face interaction for more complex issues – could be the best approach. For homelessness charities, for example, it could be helpful to provide information on your website, but still ensure you are active in the community.
Digital transformation is a necessity in the charity sector. It helps to raise greater funds in fundraising, provide better services, increase trust and transparency, and improve in-house efficiency. Charities need to put it in the forefront of their minds and start to develop a digital strategy and our team at Borne are here to help.
Get in touch with us to pivot your charity’s journey towards digital transformation!