charities going backwards in digital maturity – should we blame the donors

This week Lloyds and Go On UK released their 2015 digital maturity report with the headline insight that charities are behind SMEs and going backwards when it comes to digital.

There’s some fascinating stats such as the % of digital skills across four broad skill areas (communicate, find things, provide information, transact). The study shows that charities come out worst in transact skills areas and, to be honest, I’m not that surprised.

Lloyds digital maturity report - graphWhile it’s easy to get into debates about the methodology used in the study, what’s harder to deny the fact that as a whole the charity sector has been slower to take up more digitally enabled transaction methods.

You can logic that this is due to appropriate audience focus; with older audiences being more likely donors and where average giving amounts are typically higher. To my knowledge the persistence of the printed cheque is specifically tied to charities lobbying for it to continue precisely due to this fact (happy to be corrected here if you know different!).

So should we blame the donors for charities being behind in digital?

Before I say anything else, the answer to this is clearly No. There’s a complex set of factors at play beyond audience fit; limited resources, expertise and affordable technology.

Being a long time digital specialist in the sector I’ve seen the trials and tribulations of forward focused individuals (including many non-specialists). Individuals who’ve tried to use digital but been left feeling disempowered and receiving warnings that this would risk their long-time supporter engagement. Where you have limited resources and the technology isn’t easily available you do often have to make a choice, and do it quickly based on assumptions.

Things have changed but they need to change more

With SMS giving increased in the last few years I’ve definitely seen a shift in charities thinking more about younger people. As ‘older donors’ become even more technically savvy this too has increased the impetus in the sector.

Instead of the first assumption being ‘they don’t do digital’ a few more decisions now come from the assumption ‘everyone is using digital and if we’re not there they’ll go to someone else’. However, having worked in some of the largest charities and now working with more different sized charities I can see there’s a lack of equality across the sector. Not every charity has the resources, expertise and technology to have shifted.

I’m excited to be working on something that should help to change this, let me know if you want to know more.

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