Categories
Announcements Digital

Is your charity as digital as you think?

With the Charity Digital Code, charities now have a sector-wide standard showing how they can better fulfil their charitable purpose in a digital age.  The code has been developed following an extensive collaboration between the Charity Commission, the Co-Op foundation, Lloyds digital inclusion team, and the Office for Civil Society, plus an extensive group of over 150 charities who provided input and feedback.

The result is a refreshingly simple code which allows the charity sector as a whole to take stock of where it is today, and where it needs to go tomorrow.

At the Digital Collective, we think the Charity Digital Code is fantastic, we’ve been really pleased to have been able to feed in our own experiences to contribute to its development, and we’d encourage every charity to take a look at the code and see where digital offers the biggest opportunity to take its own cause forward.

Our Charity Digital Code Quick Assessment Tool is currently offline, and we’ll return soon with an updated version drawing together the results and feedback that the code has already generated and ready to help you get digital in your team.

Categories
Announcements

It’s Official, the Digital Collective is GO.

Last week, the digital collective became a thing here at World Vision.

Here’s the official announcement…

International development charity World Vision has appointed award-winning digital entrepreneur Martin Francis Campbell as CIO to lead the new approach, which aims to bring the principles and practices of fast-growing digital startups to the charity’s online fundraising efforts.

“We’ve invested significantly in digital technology, analytics and in the decision to recruit a top level CIO” said Tim Pilkington, Chief Executive, “but as we face the challenges ahead, our ability to do digital really well is going to be crucial to us in rising to meet the increased expectations of our donors and our beneficiaries”.

This week, World Vision launched the initiative to its UK staff, who will be undertaking training in entrepreneurial agile development as well as working with fast-growing UK startups to learn first-hand how the charity can benefit from agile methods.  The charity is launching a new cross-functional team The Digital Collective which will work across the organisation’s existing structures – gaining the flexibility and speed that modern startups experience in the gig-economy.

“One of the biggest challenges,” says Campbell, “is that technology has moved relentlessly forward over the last decade, and charities are struggling to keep up.” A long-term professional in the charity fundraising space, Campbell took time out from the sector over the last few years in order to reconnect with the start of the art and build a new big-data startup in the fin-tech space.  “What I learned from building another startup,” he says, “was that an organisation that’s prepared to use inexpensive, digital tools can move far, far faster than was possible even five years ago.  I was able to build a new team and a new digital product in an entirely new market and achieve an eight-figure valuation within eighteen months of incorporating the company.  That’s the kind of growth that would transform any charity’s fundraising and service delivery, but the skills and experience to do it largely aren’t present in the sector.”

As well as bringing the skills and methodology from the world of digital startups, Campbell is embracing open learning in his approach to leading the Digital Collective.  “When I started working in the charity sector twenty years ago, folks were complaining that charities are too siloed.  The only way out of that is to work in the open, share data, share performance measures openly, and share decision making.  We’re adopting that within the collective at World Vision, which is open to all, and we’re also sharing the progress that we make with the rest of the sector, both through our participation with initiatives like the charity digital code the nonprofit common data model, and also through sharing our own progress, warts and all with the sector at digitalcollective.org.uk.”

Asked why he thinks this approach is necessary, Campbell responds: “if we’re going to remain relevant and able to do our essential work, the charity sector needs to adopt not just the technology, but also the practices, culture and business models of the internet era.  So I hope that World Vision’s contribution to the conversation will help us all to achieve that.”

Categories
Regulator

“Charities need to step up,” says the regulator. Here’s how…

Last week the news was scattered with a sprinkling of grumbling at charities for not being as good as we hope they should be.  Who was behind the story?  The mail and the express?  Not this time.  The Charity Commission took some time to have a public dig about charities in general and their response to the expectations of the public in particular.

At first, this might seem a little strange but delve a little deeper and we find a charity commission which is reinventing itself to deal with the new reality – a reality where our expectations on charities, and their importance in our nation’s life, are higher than ever.  Whilst last week’s generalised doom and gloom might be rather unusual, driving it was the charity commission’s newly sharpened priorities for the next five years.  With that in mind, your correspondent suggests the practical steps which could bring about the change that Baroness Stowell is looking for.

When Baroness Stowell said on the BBC’s Today programme that “The sector has to face up to a big challenge” she hit the nail on the head.  Despite a rise in overall funding to charities, the rapid changes in regulation, constant increased demand for services, and the increased scrutiny that charities are receiving from the popular press are leaving many charity workers feeling worse-off than ever.

It’s not just development charities who have faced a big backlash this year.  Following Oxfam’s scandal over the alleged abuse by some of its workers in Haiti, the regulatory spotlight has turned onto charities practices for safeguarding as well as other essential controls right across the charity sector.  Interestingly, it was this scandal that really brought home to me the gap that Baroness Stowell was talking about when she said:

“Charities aren’t always meeting the public’s expectations. What I’m calling on charities to do is to recognise their collective responsibility to respond to public expectations, because if they don’t, they aren’t going to provide the benefit the public wants” . Baroness Stowell, The Charity Commission

Whilst Oxfam’s actions, for which it has since apologised, fell well short of the standards one might reasonably expect, I also saw charities with excellent practices, whose officials had acted impeccably tarred with the same brush in the newspapers, and it was then that I realised, we can’t expect our charities to be perfect, but we do.

In other words, we have unrealistic expectations about what charities can do for us as donors and as a society.  And part of the problem is that those of us working in charities contribute to that illusion of perfection whenever we can.  With all the talk of volunteering and low overheads, we gloss over the necessity of paying a living wage to dedicated professionals who do the work that volunteers can’t or won’t do.  With all the talk of sending the maximum pence in the pound possible to the field, we gloss over the necessity of taking some time to plan and manage that money so that it’s spent effectively, rather than wasted.

So the Charity Commission has five priorities it wants to address, can we address the real problems in the sector and build the kind of society that we all want to see?

Strategic Objective 1: Holding charities to account

If we’re truly to hold charities to account, then we must have a method for accounting for a charity’s impact.  It is no use to measure what percentage of funds were used on administration because that will – and should – vary significantly between equally effective charities in different circumstances.  Instead, the commission should facilitate and support the development of impact accounting which allows charities to account for their actions and expenditure according to their charitable objectives.

Strategic Objective 2: Dealing with wrongdoing and harm

The Charity Commission has stepped up its efforts in this area already, but in doing so it has demonstrated that it’s under-resourced for the job.  It will need funding – from the government or from charities themselves – to get the job done right.  The Commission also needs to foster an atmosphere of openness in which the lessons learned by one organisation can be shared, and not repeated, at another.

Strategic Objective 3: Informing public choice

There are too many charities, over 160,000 in the UK, many with tightly overlapping objectives and operations.  In the commercial world, many would have been merged or taken over, leaving stronger, fitter organisations, but in the charity world, this is almost unheard of.  The public can never have a good choice when that choice is between hundreds of organisations all essentially doing the same thing, so as well as drawing together proper information about charity performance on key measures, the commission must also help the sector to make it easier for charities to merge and to shut up shop.

Strategic Objective 4: Giving charities the understanding and tools they need to succeed

The charity sector is way behind in tech, way behind in digital, and it’s rightly held off from investing vast sums in new technological tools and services.  But this has gotten to the stage where it’s now holding charities back.  By supporting digital operations (for example by continuing to develop its own digital services) the commission can help charities through this transition, and make them better as a result.

Strategic Objective 5: Keeping charity relevant for today’s world

Criticism is never easy to hear, and many in the sector will feel offended by last week’s comments, but sometimes the truth must be told, and it takes a trusted friend to do that for us.  So thanks for the wake-up call, and keep on administering that tough love when you need to, but above all, keep the sector honest by ensuring that the charities who you’re criticising, in particular, know about it and know what they can do to improve.

That way we can genuinely work together to make the world a better place.

Categories
Analytics

What is digital, 4: Analytics

Wrapping up this week’s question.  That took longer than I thought!

Categories
Social Networks

What is digital, 3: Social Networks

It’s the biggie, folks.  Social Networks and your digital strategy…

‘Till next time…