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What digital skills do charities need?

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Use this series of pages to take control of the digital skills within your organisation. This page covers the range of digital skills, when they are useful, and how to check for basic and essential skills.

Everyone has a digital skills gap

The pandemic has increased the need for digital tools and services. But you need the right skills to use them.

A digital skills gap can lead to the following problems.

  • Problems with productivity, efficiency and achieving the outcomes you want for the people you support.
  • It can lead to cancelled services (when staff or volunteers don't have the required skills or technology).
  • Issues around decision-making by trustees and management committees that doesn’t value digital potential.

Not having the required digital skills in your organisation is common.

88% of organisations have a digital skills shortage (Open University, 2019) which has hit their productivity, efficiency and competitiveness.

27% of respondents to Charity Digital Skills Survey (Charity Digital Skills Report, 2020) had cancelled services because either their charity or the people they support didn’t have the necessary skills or technology.

Three key types of digital skills

Digital, data and technology are three key types of digital skills. They do overlap but it can be a helpful way to group them while you develop your thinking.

Digital

Focuses on the design, communication and delivery of services.

Digital skills include:

  • understanding digital options and how best to use them
  • configuring and developing digital tools
  • delivering services and fundraising online
  • using social media and email marketing
  • using SEO and Google Ads
  • adapting your business and culture so that digital services flourish.

Digital helps you to stay relevant and increase your impact, efficiency and sustainability. People who have worked hard to increase digital skills in their charity produced a code. It'll help you think about how to drive change. Try the Charity Digital Code.

Data

Data is all about making information useful. Use facts or figures to inform your charity's digital decisions.

Data skills include:

  • using Facebook Insights to see how users respond to your posts
  • checking how many donations you get from an email campaign
  • interviewing users to see how digital can help them
  • tracking your website analytics
  • using AI and machine learning
  • creating visualisations and statistical charts from data.

Technology

Looks at the platforms, software and hardware your charity needs to operate.

Technology skills include:

  • sharing documents and files
  • having an understanding of cybersecurity
  • using technology to solve a problem
  • keeping computers, tablets and phones running smoothly.

What level of digital skill does your team already have?

Entry-level skills on how to use digital can be as simple as how to switch on a device. Or change a password and connect to the wifi.

SCVO has a checklist of digital life and workplace skills. You and your colleagues can find out how well you have the basics covered. Use the workplace section of this online checking tool.

The SCVO checklist draws on the government’s own checklist. You can find the full lists of examples and look for the workplace skills in the Essential digital skills framework.

The Charity Digital Skills Report maps digital skills across the sector. Look up the types of skills it features and gain additional context on the report page.

Taking control of strategic, tactical and practical digital skills

Think about digital skills in your organisation. How they help with HR, back-office functions, or meeting user needs.

It's helpful to think about the following skills.

  • Practical skills – used every day to keep the organisation running.
  • Tactical skills – used to solve immediate problems. They soon become everyday skills.
  • Strategic skills – used for looking ahead to the future. They help you achieve your vision and mission in the longer-term.

Which skills do different roles need?

Everyone within your organisation requires digital skills, from trustees to volunteers.

Leaders and trustees particularly need a good foundation of skills. They also need to focus on strategic skills where possible.

Check they can:

  • take part in virtual board meetings
  • keep data safe through cybersecurity
  • oversee staff and volunteer use of digital
  • make informed decisions based on facts and figures
  • consider how to use digital to stay relevant and reach long-term aims.

Test your options and make the right decisions about digital. Use the Charity Digital Code of Practice, which has a covid-19 trustees checklist.

You can also use volunteers to address the skills gap in your organisation.

Find out about some of the national schemes that provide charities and other organisations with volunteer support. Using volunteers to build your digital and technology skills and capacity.

Or get links for guides to volunteer or job roles to help you think more about skills you might need.

Find out more

Staff, trustees and volunteers can all contribute to digital.

You can:

  • recruit new roles
  • recruit existing roles differently
  • prepare training plans.

First you will need to prioritise which skills you need. Read our next article in this series.

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021

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