Charity Digital Skills Report 2020: Coronavirus, funding and skills gaps

Charity digital skills using digital devices: phone tablet and laptop
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Raw Pixel
14 July, 2020

 

The Charity Digital Skills Report 2020 has been released, exploring the state of digital skills across the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector, and tracking the impact of coronavirus on digital technology and service provision.

This report, the fourth in the annual series, was produced by Zoe Amar Digital and Skills Platform in partnership with Catalyst. Data was collected from 429 people in the VCSE sector from 3 March – 24 May 2020; 13% of respondents were from the South West. 

Looking at the size of organisations they belonged to, 4% were from micro organisations (income of £10,000 or below), 12% from small organisations (£10,001 - £100,000) and 34% from medium-sized organisations (£100,001 - £500,000). The rest were from large, major or super major VCSE organisations. 

Here are the main takeaways from the Charity Digital Skills Report 2020:

  • 66% of VCSE organisations are delivering all their work remotely. 
  • 27% have cancelled services because either they or their service users don’t have the technology or skills to run them remotely. 
  • 47% want to know how to help their service users get online access. 
  • 44% want to help their team adjust to the change of digital delivery during COVID-19.
  • 43% would like financial support to buy new technical hardware, software or tools (and if you’re looking for grants and funding opportunities, don’t forget to check the Voscur website). 

Looking at funding needs after COVID-19, and access to digital funding:

  • 50% of charities say that lack of funding is their biggest barrier to getting more from digital technology; 48% said lack of staff skills was also a barrier, followed by lack of confidence (47%).
  • Small and medium charities were least likely to have accessed digital funding, and overall an incredible 48% of respondents hadn’t accessed any digital funding. 
  • 45% of VCSE organisations want funders to include scope for digital in all funding applications.
  • 37% want the flexibility of existing funding to adapt activities, services and outcomes. 

At Voscur, we have definitely noticed funders move towards emergency COVID-19 service provision, and some funders have issued statements emphasising that their existing grant recipients can get in touch to report changing needs or services, but there needs to be tolerance and flexibility across the board. 

With staff and volunteer levels fluctuating, and face-to-face service provision often ruled out except for emergencies, local VCSE organisations have had to adapt quickly. Further localised or national lockdown measures and a second wave of COVID-19 will add even more pressure, especially if an organisation’s staff and service users can’t access reliable or affordable digital technology. 

Looking at the money and resources allocated to digital technology and services in their organisation:

  • 32% say their charity is ‘excellent’ at social media. 
  • 34% say their greatest digital challenge is their audience not being online (whether through lack of available technology, skills, or preference). This means some materials need to be produced for offline access. 
  • 37% of charities don’t have the income to invest in digital. 
  • 41% want to improve digital fundraising skills in their organisation.
  • 51% say they don’t have a digital strategy, either as a standalone document or as part of a larger organisational strategy. However, 37% of those organisations are just starting out.
  • 68% want to increase the number of people they reach through digital.
  • 76% rate their charity’s cybersecurity skills as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’.
  • 83% say they are ‘poor’ at digital service delivery.
  • 91% say their understanding of how their audience uses digital is ‘fair’ or ‘poor’; 62% do not regularly engage with users of their digital tools or services to work out what could be improved. 

If you’re looking to improve your digital presence in marketing and social media, our next Voscur course on marketing and campaigns will take place in October, via Zoom (exact date and time to be confirmed). All the techniques and software we cover will either be free or low-budget.
You can register your interest now by emailing training@voscur.org.  

Looking at how the board and management can get involved:

  • 66% are worried that their organisation will miss out on opportunities to help service users if their board and management don’t develop their digital skills, while 51% are worried that their brand and reputation could be negatively affected. 
  • 66% rate their board’s digital skills as ‘low’ or ‘room for improvement’, but 38% don’t know what is being done to improve this. 
  • 25% say there needs to be more diversity among staff with digital responsibilities (this should be tackled at board and management level). 
  • 24% say a lack of buy-in from trustees is a barrier to the organisation making the most of digital; 23% say a lack of organisational leadership is also a barrier.  

For those of you who haven’t really discussed digital skills with your board, now is the perfect time to start that conversation. Email them a link to this news story, which also helps them access the entire Charity Digital Skills Report 2020, and set the ball rolling: how would each board member rate their digital skills? Would they like to improve? Do they follow your organisation on social media channels, or subscribe to your newsletters? Have they tried using your digital services? 

The report shows there’s still a lot of work to be done in the sector to reduce the skills gap, to get digital funding, and to make sure people have access to technology. Face-to-face contact isn’t redundant, but the pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of those without the skills or equipment to engage online, and they should not be excluded. Funders, boards, staff and volunteers all have their part to play. 

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