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 The interest in digital transformation shows no sign in abating this year. Big changes in the political and economic climate are forcing organisations to look at different ways of doing business. The pace of change in digital is accelerating. There are 3.4 billion internet users across the globe. Close to 5 billion people have mobile phones, and two thirds of UK consumers are willing to use robots for banking.  The honest truth is that if your charity isn’t seriously considering how it can use digital it will get left behind. 

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Zoe Amar

If your charity wants to get maximum results from digital, then it first needs to establish a shared understanding of what digital actually is. To some it means technology, whilst to others it’s about the experience you offer supporters online, or doing more digital service delivery. If you consider the full spectrum of everything your charity does, from how you help beneficiaries to communications to fundraising to back office functions it’s hard to think of an area where digital isn’t involved. Digital is part of everyone’s job and, like it or not, it’s changing the way your charity works, how your audience behaves and what they want from you.


 2. Are your leaders up for it? 

Digital transformation is just that: transformative. If it doesn’t feel like it’s changing the way your charity works, and for the better, you are doing it wrong. Jacqui Taylor, CEO of Scottish charity Lifelink, writes for SCVO about how digital has changed the game for charity leaders, and how it’s a test of their ability to lead as much as technical knowledge.  It’s impossible to deliver digital transformation without the support of your leadership team and board. I recommend having a very frank conversation with your CEO about the scale of potential change involved, and what they need to do to lead it. Ultimately, they and the board need to own the process. 

3. Check what skills you have inhouse

Bluntly, is your charity capable of delivering the transformation you need? To be sure you should measure the digital skills of staff at all levels using a digital skills audit, so you can understand where you are at and then work out how to develop this. See Jo Wolfe of Beast Cancer Care’s chapter on digital skills for tips . Hand holding is vital in taking strides towards digital transformation, so you should also have conversations with staff to find out if managers are able to support their teams in making the jump.


  • Don’t be intimidated by charities who’ve been there, done that. If they were successful it is likely to have been the result of years of hard graft. Why not get in touch with them and see if you can pick their brain about what they have learned? 
  • Be bold. Too many organisations are still taking a very cautious approach to digital. As a wise man once said to me, if your charity takes no risks at all it won’t be sustainable. Be ambitious about what you want to do, and be imaginative about what you need to do to get there.
  • Be prepared to ask tough questions. If you don’t think you have the right people to deliver digital transformation, you need to ask if they can change. Offer support, training and mentoring. Anyone can get to grips with digital if they are willing to try.


4. Taking your time to get the right building blocks in place
I recently spoke to an organisation that is looking for suppliers to lead its digital transformation process and recruiting for a digital director, all at breakneck speed. They haven’t stepped back and thought about what they want and what they are trying to do. Our chapter 
from Diabetes UK and their methodical, rigorous approach to digital service delivery shows that defining the problem you’re trying to solve, and knowing how digital will help you get there, will achieve far better results than going hell for leather before you are ready.

Zoe Amar
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What is digital image

Here are 7 key things every charity should consider before starting on digital transformation.

1 Define what it means to you 

If you Google digital transformation you will get 9.7 million results. And yet it’s a struggle to find a clear definition. So I wrote my own. In my view it means “Integrating digital across our organisation to deliver our vision, create value, give our audience great experience and services and develop our competitive advantage.” You can use this as a starting point to create a definition of what transformation will look like for your charity. 

5. Culture, culture, culture

For a successful digital transformation you need to work as hard on changing your culture as you do on delivering your strategy. In this blog for Justgiving Parkinson’s UK reveal how communication and leadership are key. In particular, keeping in close contact with staff and discussing how they are feeling about the change, and what else they need to support them is  a good way to get buy-in. 

6. Imagine your charity’s future

Imagine that your organisation has flown through digital transformation and, a year from now, you’re a fly on the wall in your office. How are people behaving differently? How are they working together? What is their attitude like? That’s where you need to get to. As the saying goes, culture eats strategy for breakfast. Focus on this as much as developing a great digital strategy and set out practical steps for change and milestones. You’ll want to work closely with influential staff (who does everyone gravitate towards in the work kitchen?) and encourage them to champion digital.

7. Tell a great story

If you don’t work in digital then the language of tech, with its emphasis on jargon and process, can feel alienating. People are the ingredient X of digital transformation, not technology. Work closely with your internal comms teams to craft the right messages to help get staff excited, keep them motivated when the going gets tough and to celebrate achievements. 

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