Digital transformation can seem like a luxury to small charities who are stretched both in terms of capacity and financial resources. However, the pressure is always on to make the best use of funds, and digital transformation plays an increasingly essential part in doing so. Charities are under more and more scrutiny and, quite rightly, constantly called upon to justify all admin costs. There’s also greater competition for fewer resources, and, if you’re successful at addressing an area of need, there’s the constant demand for more services. According to a ‘making tech imaginable’ report commissioned by the Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR), there are many places small charities can turn to when adopting new tech. With planning and funding, there is no reason why any charity, large or small, should be left behind.
Most charities recognise the organisational efficiencies brought about by new tech. In fact, according to the report, 64% saw tech as a priority. They understand that there is, as one respondent put it, ‘no gain without a little pain’, but many are hesitant. Perhaps they are risk-averse, some fear change, some have even experienced ‘tech burn’ where they’ve had bad experiences in adopting new tech.
For a small charity, these worries, along with capacity and finances can mean that digital transformations are often at the bottom of the ‘to do’ list.
However, if charities turn to funders and the wider sector for advice, connections and financial support, they can put themselves confidently in the position of adopting new technology, thereby investing in new efficiencies, and directing funds to the front line, rather than spending it on antiquated practices that take up time and money.
Funders are key in providing the money for new infrastructure, and in buying the time to undertake the proper research. They are also in a good position to leverage networks on behalf of your charity. They can connect you with others who are further down the line in the digital transformation journey, and recommend platforms and suppliers who are tried and tested within similar areas to your own.
There’s also the ‘gift of time’ that other charities can offer, signposting you in the right direction, sharing insights, processes and experiences that have been useful to them. One key finding from the report is that advice must be relatable. Hearing from others who face the same challenges is powerful, and will also give you the confidence to adopt new technology when you know that it has worked well for others in a similar position.
From this point of view, it’s important that tech developers create case studies to demonstrate how their tech has worked for others within their sector, as well as using language that is relatable and jargon-free.
Charities can also turn to the Charity Digital Code and Better Digital Services for trusted, impartial, sector-wide best practice.
Whilst all this might seem a daunting process, it’s important to remain open minded and focused on the end goal. With planning, determination and a little help from your friends in terms of staff, funders and fellow charities, digital transformation is well within your grasp and will change your organisation for the better.