What action can charities take to not only survive in these difficult times, but thrive?
Technology has undoubtedly driven demand from donors to be able to engage with charities online, from any device and at any time. Can it also be the route to deliver success for charities who manage to reimagine the way they respond to these threats? The COVID-19 pandemic has compelled the Scouts into shifting their approach on its future and responding to answers that draw on super-practical and creative thinking, so in short “Be Prepared” for uncertainty.
With face-to-face meetings currently suspended, the charity has had to accelerate its use of tech to provide different wats of providing operations that are rapidly transforming, delivering meetings and providing experiences. Responding to the COVID-19 lockdown, the Scouts revealed their campaign #TheGreatIndoors, a new online platform of activities and ideas to provide entertainment to children. Also, Scouts internal systems, already being readied for digital change, have accelerated towards progressive ways of working through tech.
Response to The Challenge
The chief digital officer for Scouts Lara Burns pulls no punches when explaining the challenge.
“We can’t do what we are here to do,” she says. “Deliver scouting to hundreds of thousands for young people across the country and help them develop skills for life. Our finances are stretched, which will potentially affect our ability to deliver scouting in the long term.
“Staff are working remotely. Board meetings have gone all-digital, and will not go back to earlier ways of working any time soon.” Burns says their rapid move to digital service delivery came from the “grassroots” rather than the centre. With most Scouts sites closed, the movement led the shift to ‘Scouting by Zoom, with volunteers delivering weekly online meetings locally. “At a national level, we used Zoom – and we’ve been able to repurpose content and launch amazing social action and fundraising campaigns” says Burns.
Operations for internal Scouts operations have also seen accelerated change. The charity was early to commit to trailing remote working in the very early days of the pandemic – so operations like payroll are running remotely for the first time which has allowed for employees to be away from the office for longer than 10 weeks. Another example of incorporating tech, a Scouts Zoom Leadership Team briefing offered a live Q&A for no less than 14,000 Scout volunteers that was set up in 2 days. The organisation set out the digital platform options available to local volunteers wanting to offer services remotely, as well as all-important guidance on online safety.
Microsoft Teams was rolled out securely to the entire Scouts organisation in just 2 weeks, as opposed to the four months that were originally set aside, which allowed collaborations and meetings to continue organisation-wide. In their digital team, Scouts has been able to on-board five new starters virtually, who had all joined after lockdown had been initiated. An example of a project created through Teams was Hike to the Moon, a major fundraising effort from Scouts to virtually ‘hike’ 240,000 miles to the moon, which raised an amazing £688,000 for those affected by the pandemic. “
Regardless of the sector, digital transformation is underway in many organisations, as companies exploit the opportunities presented by digital technology to build their brand, connect with customers, and enhance sales models.
Digital transformation certainly has the potential to transform the way the charity sector works, enabling it to do more with less. While this requires charities to be open to rethinking the way they operate, the benefits are clear – improved productivity, a recharging of intelligence across the organisation and a charity ready to be reshaped for future change with an ecosystem of innovation and integrated technology.
Charities often have complex workforces. As well as their own employees, many have hundreds, if not thousands, of disparate volunteers working remotely so data fragmentation can be a real threat. Charities can reassess possible disjointed processes across the fundraising journey and unlock silos of information that act as blocks to the way they work. The benefits that charities would be implementing are compliance and productivity gains.
Thriving, Not Just Surviving
In this age of disruption and uncertainty, charities are under more pressure than ever before. It is therefore vital that they have the space to think differently and look afresh at their systems and working practices. However, while most UK charities understand the role that data and digital plays in the future fundraising landscape, most still need to rethink their current digital strategy. Because it is those charities that embrace digital transformation as an enabler of change – boosting productivity, opening new channels for engagement, improving agility and increasing fundraising – that will prosper and thrive.