In this article, Trillium’s Head of Strategy, David Spector, summarises The Charity Digital Code of Practice, with some straightforward, actionable advice, on a single (web) page. Scrolling required!
One of the most significant digital occasions for charities during 2018 (excluding GDPR – remember that?), was the release of the of The Charity Digital Code of Practice. Launched in November, this is an initiative developed by a steering group that includes, amongst others, Tech Trust, Co-op Foundation and Lloyds.
The necessity for the code of practice was identified as a result of the Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index 2017. The index illustrated that only 48% of charities surveyed had complete, basic digital fluency, along with a lack of confidence, at a leadership level, in introducing digital change. It is a key product of the government’s Digital Skills Partnership initiative.
Before describing the code’s purpose, it is worth considering how the term ‘digital’ is defined in this context. The code uses the Co-op’s definition of ‘digital’, summarised as ‘Applying the culture, practices, processes and technologies of the Internet era to respond to people’s raised expectations”. Whilst this is a broad remit, the Charity Digital Code of Practice provides a framework that allows organisations to benchmark their digital progress and inform related decision-making. It consists of 7 key principles: Leadership, Users, Culture, Strategy, Skills, Managing Risk & Ethics and Adaptability.
Extensive detail of the Charity Digital Code of Practice can be found on numerous websites, some of which are included in the Further Reading section later, but this article aims to condense that information into a single digest, with some actionable advice for each of the key areas.
Hopefully, following this advice will give you an indication of how well your charity is doing in comparison to the ideal. You will get some ideas for what short and longer-term measures you can put in place or start planning, to get closer to reaching your organisation’s goals through digital.
It sounds obvious, but leaders must lead the way. Change may be validated from any part of an organisation, but only leadership can enforce it as part of the organisation’s DNA. This goes beyond simple soundbites. It means digital should be an integral skillset for leaders, allowing them to understand how it can be leveraged to reflect the organisation’s vision and purpose, achieve its goals and improve sustainability.
Putting users first should be at the core of digital transformation for any organisation. This means taking the time to understand the needs and behaviours of all users, ranging from those who benefit from the charity, stakeholders and internal staff who have to use related systems. More than half the population in any age group uses the internet regularly, increasingly from mobile devices, multi-device user experience has to be at the forefront of digital initiatives.
One of the most common obstacles when it comes to digital transformation is existing culture, which can often be resistant to change for a number of reasons, including lack of confidence, perceived value and related budget. Again, the example needs to be set from above. Staff and supporters will be willing to embrace new ideas if presented with enthusiasm, belief and assurance.
Strategy defines vision for change. Without it, direction is frequently lost, budget poorly spent and enthusiasm wanes. Strategy provides clarity and direction with respect to using digital to achieve organisational goals and address stakeholder needs.
Digital fluency accelerates transformation progress. It is required at all organisational levels and everyone who interacts with a charity has a role. Being aware of how digitally skilled your workforce, stakeholders and beneficiaries are is essential. It directs training and resource requirements, as well as meeting external user needs.
A channel as expansive and devolved as digital brings with it a range of risks that need to be carefully managed, particularly in a sector where many of the users are vulnerable. Policies related to aspects from data security to ethical partnerships need to be in place and visible adhered to, in order to maintain trust and protect reputation.
In an increasingly competitive sector, with digital user behaviour constantly evolving, it’s important to have the ability to adapt. Though a thorough strategy should include a well-researched roadmap, changes in how digital is used can be hard to predict. Additionally, different audiences with different behaviours may be identified as targets in the future.
There is one overarching theme for The Charity Digital Code of Practice and that is people.There are two principles upon which all others stand – Leadership and Users. Enthusiasm, confidence and belief run downstream.
A thorough understanding of users experience defines the needs that must be supported to achieve the organisation’s goals.
All other principles stem from Leadership, as this is what is responsible for instilling the right culture, ensuring the necessary skills and sharing the vision, along with a clear strategy to achieve it.
So where do you start? Complying with the entire code is a sizeable task, even for well-equipped charities, so don’t be disheartened. As with any strategy, prioritisation is key.
Identify the principle components that are not only current pressing issues, but also ones that are relatively easy to achieve. Chipping away at the quick-wins all adds up, creating a sense of achievement that encourages continued effort.
As a final takeaway, use this article’s description of the principles as a simple checklist/agenda for the year’s digital progress. Taking small, achievable steps, you’ll be surprised at just how far you’ll have come!
If your interest has been suitably stirred (as it should be), you can learn more about The Charity Digital Code of Practice by following the links below:
For full immersion, The Charity Digital Code of Practice should be read along with the following other codes and best practice documents: