Jul 20 - 4min readDelivering Digital Transformation: The New ‘Normal’ For the Charity SectorBy Jennifer Green
Many people have dismissed digital service delivery as a passing fad, charities should embrace digital service delivery as part of their long-term strategy for the COVID-19 pandemic and into the future. Times of crisis and turmoil have always been catalysts for innovation. Suddenly and without warning, organisations and businesses have been forced to reinvent how they operate to survive, and for many, this has meant diving headfirst into digital service delivery and the unexplored waters of Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts and more.
For a lot of charities, going digital was only ever meant to be a temporary solution to a temporary problem. But three months after the start of the UK lockdown, with the light beginning to show at the end of the tunnel, the time has come for honest reflection. The pandemic has exposed the many ways that we want ourselves, our societies and our organisations to change for good. Should the way charities deliver services be one of them?
It’s easy to focus on the losses and the setbacks. But for every charity that has suffered a closure of its services, many more are able to ask ’What have we learnt? What can our service users gain?’
Many charities are learning that by embracing digital they can engage more people in hard to reach groups, meet unexpected demand, stand out from the pack by going the extra mile for the people they support and save money while doing so.
Here are a few examples of charities that are embracing tech in their future strategies:
Dingley’s Promise, a charity which supports under 5s with additional needs and disabilities, has been forced to quickly shift to digital, remote support and information sharing. As a result, they’ve found that they can reach more people and increase their impact like never, and say they’re likely to continue several their online activities after lockdown.
Once they had taken the plunge, CEO of Dingley’s Promise Catherine McLeod stated that the myths surrounding digital working and taking activities online have been broken and has become a core part of their community because decision-makers are now more comfortable with what benefits this approach can offer.
In a previous blog post, we discussed the measures that the Scouts as a charity have taken on the path of digital transformation. The Scouts have long been synonymous with ’the great outdoors’. But when this became off-limits during lockdown, they were compelled to re-examine how they could keep their core values alive through digital.
It’s been a massive shift, but the charity has been able to repurpose resources from hundreds of scouting activities already at their disposal to keep its young service users learning and engaged remotely. Chief Digital Officer Lara Burns says she was blown away and truly inspired by the rapid digital transformation that is happening in the charity sector.
Many charities have discovered demand for their services online that they never knew existed in the offline world. Soundabout, a charity which helps people with severe learning disabilities using music, is one of them.
Before the pandemic, the charity was seeing groups of eight people, plus their careers, in face-to-face sessions. However, its newly introduced live broadcasted Facebook sessions reach a community of over twelve thousand people. For this small charity, such a massive expansion in its reach means a permanent and profound change.
Auditory Verbal UK
Auditory Verbal UK’s shift to digital service delivery was driven by the need to carry on consistently delivering auditory and verbal therapy sessions for the deaf children it serves, ensuring that the lockdown wouldn’t have the knock-on effect of delaying their progress.
By moving quickly to digital, not only were they able to do this, but they increased their reach significantly beyond their geographical limitation. Based in London, the charity is now able to serve many people beyond the capital who might not afford the time and cost of travelling to access its services. Many organisations will not go back to the way things were as there is no new ‘normal’ Charities will continue to use remote and digital services to assist them.
Scunthorpe and District Mind
These are stressful times, and mental health charity Scunthorpe and District Mind have discovered that using remote video support for people in crisis lets them meet the increased demand for its services during lockdown. Not only can they reach many new service users suffering because of dramatic changes to their lives, but they can also now support people in remote rural areas through tech.
By evidencing that they can continue to deliver services safely and effectively through digital charities have been able to secure the vital funding they need to run now and in the future.