5 ways to boost your use of digital this summer

  • No matter what level of digital implementation your charity has, the summer months are a good time for a reassessment
  • Start by tackling internal attitudes and skills. Then get the basics in place using a digital strategy to focus your activity
  • Guest contributor, digital expert Zoe Amar, shares her tips

Guest blogger, digital expert Zoe Amar, looks at how to work with your colleagues and senior managers to boost your use of digital.

One thing I’ve always loved about summer is the space it gives you to think. Quieter trains, more time between meetings and fewer people in the office, all mean there is time to step back and ask yourself big questions. ‘Where is your charity really going?’ ‘What’s working well at the moment (or not working)?’

It’s a chance to reassess everything and make changes before the hurly burly of the autumn.

Getting the most out of digital is high on the wishlist for many charities, but it can be difficult to know where to start.

I’ve had my head down for the last few months working on The Charity Digital Skills Report and The Charity Digital Toolkit. Based on what I’ve learned, here are five things I wish every charity could do over the summer to help them get to the next level with digital.

1. Digital skills audit

I speak to so many charities who are worried about the level of their staff’s digital skills. But generally they have no data, other than anecdotal feedback, to back their concerns up. Until you have a baseline, it’s difficult to decide how to help staff improve.

Carry out a digital skills audit of your staff, volunteers and trustees to find out where the gaps are. Take a look at NCVO’s digital skills toolkit for some helpful resources.

Tip: as well as assessing your workforce’s skills, this is a perfect opportunity to find out how your colleagues really feel about digital. Knowing how good they are at using social media or coding is one thing, but understanding what excites or makes them nervous about digital is the key to changing their behaviour.

2. Talk digital with your senior team

Have that conversation with your leadership team. Finding the next date when everyone on your senior management team is available can be a nightmare, but they may have a bit more breathing space over the summer. So, why not turn up with ice cream and broach the subject of digital?

From getting them to use Twitter more effectively, to teaching them about the intricacies of digital fundraising or discussing your digital strategy, this could well be the right time for them to listen.

3. Make friends with your IT team (and vice versa)

I’m seeing a lot of turf wars between digital and IT departments and the fact is, both often want the same thing.

They want their charities to have good infrastructure and systems, as well as skilled-up staff, great content and good digital service delivery. But it’s easy to lose sight of this when haggling over budgets and project plans.

Try to get some time offsite with your counterparts in IT this summer. Start with the common ground and aim to agree new ways of collaborating.

Small charities who rely on IT volunteers can be living from hand-to-mouth with no time to deal with bigger questions. Improving your IT infrastructure can be a big mountain to climb. In this case, it can be useful to look for external help. Take a look at the Technology Trust.

4. Get the basics in place

You wouldn’t dream of going on a beach holiday without packing your sandals, a swimsuit, a good book and suncream. It’s equally essential to get key elements in place to help your digital presence fly. These are:

  • Defining what digital means to your charity
  • Developing a good digital strategy
  • Benchmarking yourself against competitors
  • Reviewing your current performance

You can find out how to do many of these things in our digital toolkit with Skills Platform.

5. Think big about digital

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Having a good social media presence, a nice website and useful CRM is a great place to be. However, unless you are using all of these things to help your organisation get ahead of the curve then it is a huge missed opportunity.

So, check the data you have about your supporters and ask yourself what it is really telling you. Think about what your charity needs to achieve with digital in two years’ time and plan what you need to start working on now.

And have a frank discussion about anything that could go wrong and what you should do to mitigate it.