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Is it time to fire your digital consultant?

Given the digital progression of many other industries in 2017, the state of digital skills in the UK charity sector is currently pretty dire.

50% of charities report ‘not having a digital strategy’, and a further 73% say there is “no alignment between their digital strategy and the rest of the organisational strategy”.

This skills gap means that many small-to-medium sized charities outsource much of their ‘digital’ work to a third-party, spending more time and money than they really need to get basic jobs done.

This is why there is such a diverse market of digital consultants and agencies. They know how it works.

Digital is here to stay

Given that ‘digital fundraising’ is fairly new in the history of modern fundraising, people are still reticent to shake up their long-held standard of doing things and give it a full digital overhaul, and instead opting to change things only in bits and pieces, when they feel like they ‘must’.

Another factor that could also be driving the sore lack of nonprofit digital strategy is that online fundraising only accounted for 7.2% of all giving in 2016 in the UK.

However, online giving grew by 2.2% overall last year, and trends do suggest it will continue to rise each year for the foreseeable future.

This is where the problem lies: charities don’t want to spend the money to bring more digitally savvy people in-house as online giving doesn’t seem account for that much.

Online giving is only going to continue to grow, and the necessity of managing all of that data properly will present a growing problem for teams, especially with the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) - and the corresponding UK laws to come.

The solution?

Is it time to fire your digital consultant?

“Wait, what? Fire our digital consultant?” That might sound a bit dramatic, but bear with us.

Yes, there are certainly some fantastic digital consultants for the charity sector out there, but they’re bridging a gap that will naturally reduce in time (although it won’t disappear entirely) as the next generation of fundraisers with their in-built digital knowledge come through.

A lesson from history

Way back before people typed out their own letters or emails, offices had teams of typists who were solely focused on one thing. You’d take your hand-written draft to the “typing pool” who would type it out, ask you to sign it, and send it out.

As times changed, the word processor was invented and people learned to type (sometimes very slowly) their own stuff. Then they’d print it out themselves, sign it, find a stamp and they’d done it - all on their own! In other words, the acquisition of word-processing skills eventually made the typing pool a thing of the past.

‘Digital’ is moving in much the same direction. Today’s new fundraisers are already digitally savvy. They can create their own landing pages. They have the tools to initiate and monitor social campaigns. They know how to use a modern CRM, and if they don’t they can probably guess.

It all comes down to improving the donor experience

The number one reason to bring digital natives in-house is not just for your own sake, it’s for your donors’. A fundraiser with his or her own digital skills can get the right message out to the right people in a very short time, without the risk of the agency not understanding it. If your digital strategy is disjointed, it will reflect in your donor communications.

Bringing digital-first people in-house should help you:

  • Regularly upskill all departments on best use of digital

  • Get everyone using the same tools and sharing data with one central CRM

  • Avoid overloading donors with multiple, disjointed contact points

  • Figure out how to measure success across multiple channels

  • Direct people to the right parts of your website

  • Ensure everyone understands the digital strategy

  • Give regular digital training to showcase how different departments are using digital

  • Create ‘digital representatives’ on each team

  • Integrate different fundraising tools with the main CRM

  • Improve social media activity

Integrate and communicate

For many charities, their support has traditionally come from older people. So there’s the constant concern about how to reach the “younger generation”. It’s probably in ways that the people asking those questions can’t imagine!

So, pick the brain of your youngest team members. They’ll likely be using all the latest social media platforms. They’ll intuitively understand how to use things like email marketing tools and online CRM systems.

Hiring digital-natives can help you to have a big-picture view on everything your charity does, rather than continuing to operate your teams in walled-off silos.

We’re all digital now

So this is how digital could be integrated into your organisation. Digital is a part of everything you do. So being comfortable in a digital world is a part of everyone’s job. The days of passing digital tasks to “the office whizz-kid” while you joke that you’re a technophobe have gone. Yes, there are always going to be specialist, deeper skills that only an expert or a consultant can provide, but having digital skills will soon be as commonplace as knowing how to use a phone.

Work with each other, not against each other

As adoption of digital tools and a digital-first mindset spreads across your organisation, it should help your teams to work with each other, not against each other.

Having a cloud-based and easy-to-use modern CRM at the core of everything you do is one of the key elements of this shift in teamwork style. Donor data from events, door-to-door fundraising, online fundraising, grant applications, and even PR-related data can all be kept securely in one searchable, well-organised database.

Do you have questions about using a CRM as your charity’s digital data hub? Get in touch and book a one-to-one demo with us so we can talk you through it.