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The Age of Digital Transformation: Can Charities Keep Up?


We live in an online world with ever increasing dependencies on digital capabilities and connectivity. The way we ingest content, interact with people, and live our daily lives is resulting in people spending on average more than 24 hours per week online, checking their smartphones every 12 minutes. This screen time usage increase within the 16-24 year olds Ofcom data suggests they spend more than 7 hours a day online.

With all this time spent online, it is not surprising that organisations are looking to increase digital marketing spend and make it a more central part of their overall marketing strategy. Salesforces “Nonprofit digital marketer report’, highlights that 42% of nonprofit survey responders planned to increase their digital marketing budget in 2019.  This report also highlighted how 61% of nonprofits viewed digital platforms and channels as key to adding value and vital for raising awareness, engaging their community and fundraise for their organisation.

These market trends show that it is unlikely that we will see online usage subside anytime soon, so how quickly and effectively are organisations transforming to meet the expectations of a digital world?

With more user-friendly technology and more accessible upskilling programmes, the door is open for charities of all sizes to engage in digital activities. But there is still a long way to go for the majority of organisations. A Tech Trust report in late 2017 highlighted that in 58% of charities did not have a defined digital strategy, despite knowing the potential benefits of digital there seemed to only be plans to spend on IT infrastructure, with 73% stating no plans to invest in digital training. On top of this, the Salesforce report revealed that 40% of the respondents’ organisations did not have a ‘dedicated digital marketing person or team’. Although views towards digital strategy may have changed since late 2017, without an integrated digital strategy with the correct tools, training, and people the effectiveness of their digital transformation could be limited.  Another article, “Ashley Freidlein’s marketing and digital trends for 2019” , suggests that organisations anticipated the transformation to happen over the course of 1 year but the reality is closer to 5 years, especially for larger organisations.

On a positive note, many third sector organisations are making positive steps and are seeing positive results from their digital activities. Of those with a digital strategy in place, 92% expect to increase their measurable impact (2018). Some noticeable activities have been publicised and indicate the effectiveness of digital. The Church of England and Battersea both saw donation increases following trials of digital donations, with 97% and 63% donation transaction increases respectively.  Beyond fundraising benefits, digital activities can build brand awareness and create communities. This helps unite people, offer more timely support and shows them that they are not alone. This may be attributed to the rise of social media and live video, making it easy for charities to engage their donors and showcase their activities and mission. This trend is supported with 65% of Salesforce survey respondents already using video in their content mix, and a further 30% plan to use in 2019.

Digital activities provide opportunities to make the experience with charities more personalised and relevant and could help to build stronger, and longer lasting relationships. At Donate The Change we understand the importance of digital and by making it free and open to all UK registered charities we hope that they can enter the digital world with confidence and protect their revenue and communication streams with donors for years to come.