Doing digital in the third sector.

A coral reef

Doing digital in the third sector.

Hi! I’m Michaela Hodges, Director of Fancy Guppy. Since this is Fancy Guppy’s very first blog, I thought we’d start off with some introductions…

I’ve been working and volunteering in the charity sector for 7 years, and I love it. There are fewer places where you meet such hardworking, good people. And, they’re doing amazing work; helping vulnerable people, highlighting injustice, changing our world for the better, and quite literally saving lives.

If I had just one tiny negative thing to say about the sector it’s that we’ve not really kept up with the digital age that well.

For example, the 2015 Lloyds UK Digital Index found that 58% of charities lack basic digital skills, as compared to only 23% of SMEs. To add insult to injury this percentage has increased from the year before when 55% of charities lacked basic digital skills, meaning that not only do we lack digital knowhow, we’re actually getting worse! Equimedia’s review of websites of not-for-profits supports this, concluding that “Many charities have failed to keep pace with technology advances, the huge growth in our dependency on online resources and the public’s digital expectations of every organisation”.

The report suggest that charities are potentially missing out on millions of pounds of donations because potential supporters are being frustrated by charities’ websites and digital presence. Increasing digital capability in the sector could have a huge impact, for example, the Technology Trust states that if charities and SMEs were fully digital they would increase their revenue by £18.8 billion.

More than a quarter of donations to charity are now made online – this proportion has increased year on year, and is estimated to reach almost half by 2020. And, 75% of donors use online resources to research charities before giving a donation. But almost 50% of charities still receive less than one fifth of all their donations online. Worse, 47% of charities don’t even have a website, and 58% of charities don’t believe that having a website would help increase their fundraising.

According to a report by Virgin Money Giving and Third Sector Insight, only 2% of charities feel they are maximising online fundraising as a donation channel, and almost 10% do no online fundraising at all. But fundraising isn’t the only area that digital can support the work that charities do. A recent report from Claranet about spending on digital in not-for-profits says it best “[Digital technology has] made it easier than ever for charities to engage with their donors, campaigners and fundraisers in ways not previously possible. Used properly, technology can transform relations with activists and donors, allowing charities to provide regular streams of news and information, video footage and forum updates from networks of campaigners direct to the devices of the increasingly tech-savvy support base”.

Digital can help charities raise awareness and educate the public about their issue, for example the NSPCC created an app called Net Aware, which educates parents about how to keep their children safe online, although this kind of information is available in other places, the app has been incredibly popular in no small part because it’s on people’s phones – it’s easy to access and always on hand.

Digital can help charities engage with their supporters more, for example Juilia Urwin of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation was selected as one of the top 30 charity CEOs on Twitter, she said she uses social media because it allows her to connect with people she wouldn’t otherwise be able to meet, she said “I love the fact that someone experiencing poverty who heard me on the radio can get directly in touch”.

And, digital can help charities take steps to solve the problems they exist to solve, for example the Vodafone Foundation created a mobile handset that allows victims of domestic abuse to connect with emergency services with the touch of one button. The handset then provides the emergency services with their location and history, and it records the call for evidence. It’s called TecSoS, and it’s now being used in 17 police forces across the UK. By way of demonstration of its effectiveness – users were asked to give a score of one to ten to reflect their fear level before they received the device, the average score was 7.8, after having a handset for just a few weeks the average score dropped to 3. And this is just one example, there’s also Cancer Research UK’s Reverse the Odds and Play to Cure, Amnesty International’s Panic Button, Care International UK’s Lend with Care, RNIB’s Smart Glasses, to name but a few.

Realistically then, we can’t ignore the power of digital. We need to harness digital for our benefit. We need to start giving digital more attention. Now. The digital world changes so quickly that if we don’t be more proactive we won’t just stagnate, we’ll fall behind.

The gains to be made from embracing digital are pretty clear. A report by Eduserv and Charity Comms found that 73% of charity staff surveyed thought their organisation would raise less money if they didn’t embrace digital, and 70% thought their organisation’s reputation would suffer. So why aren’t more charities getting online? Well, in 2014 the Government’s Digital Inclusion Delivery Board looked at the barriers preventing small businesses and charities from getting the most out of the internet. The Board identified a lack of awareness, motivation, and availability of digital skills training1. The findings of a number of reports in this area back this up, finding that lack of time and knowledge are the main barriers to progress.

That’s why I wanted to set up Fancy Guppy; an organisation to work just with the not-for-profit sector to help use digital to save time and money. If you get the right tools it doesn’t need to be expensive – in fact there’s a lot you can do for free if you know where to go. I want to help not-for-profits make sure they’ve got the tools they need, and that they’re not paying for anything they don’t need. But I don’t want to just tell organisations what to do, I’m very much of the ‘teach a person to fish’ school of thought. I want to show how and why digital can help.

This is the way I see it. Digital, the internet, and technology is like this vast ocean. When you’re above the water, standing on the beach and looking out over it, it looks vast, bleak and insurmountable. Where do you start in uncovering this mysterious thing? But, if you put on some flippers and a snorkel you can go in the water, and then you’ll see this amazing coral reef teaming with life and colour. That is the metaphor that Fancy Guppy is based on – I want to help you embrace digital, get in the water and see the creativity and opportunity that digital presents when you’ve got the equipment and knowledge you need to dive in.

So, care to take a swim with me?

p.s  If you want to learn even more about Fancy Guppy: there’s more about what we do on the ‘About us’ section of the website; you can read about our Director, Michaela, in this blog; and, if you’re wondering about our logo you might enjoy this ‘Yes, our logo isn’t actually a fancy guppy’.

Lloyds (March 2015) UK Business Digital Index

Equimedia (February 2016) Charities Missing Out On £Millions

Technology Trust (May 2015) Digital Uptake in the Charity Sector

Susannah Birkwood, Third Sector (21st April 2016) Fundraising Week: ‘Almost half of donations will be made online by 2020’

Virgin Money Giving and Third Sector Insight (2015) Digital Fundraising Report: Are you innovating with online fundraising?

Amnesty’s former Global Digital Communications Director, now Director of Therein, Owen Pringle (September 2015) speaking at the Odgers Berndtson, Odgers Interim, and Berwick Partners Annual Not-for-profit Sector Reception

Claranet (April 2015) Charities need to embrace new technology to avoid losing out on donations

Charlie Lyons, Third Sector (7th April 2016) How mobile is helping charities to boost engagement

Julia Unwin, quoted in Guardian (25th April 204) How charity chief executives can use social media to help their organisation


Nominet Trust (4th December 2014) Changing the world through tech: NT100 list

Eduserv and Charity Comms (March 2014) Delivering Digital Transformation

Nesta Impact Investments (October 2014) Going Digital

Open laptop displaying Fancy Guppy's January 2018 social media calendar.
  • Ivy
    Posted at 10:39h, 01 August Reply

    Excellent idea. Will be very interested in knowing o what you are up to

    • Michaela
      Posted at 09:03h, 09 August Reply

      Thanks :D!! The best way to keep up with what we’re up to would be to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or sign up to the newsletter (although if I remember correctly you’re already on the mailing list). Hope you’re well 🙂

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