The New Charity Digital Code highlights seven principles to be considered by charities as they develop their digital activity. While the code is aimed at Charities operating in England, Wales and Scotland and is entirely voluntary code, it nonetheless provides a good reference framework for charities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
In our work with charities across the island of Ireland and the UK, we observe some examples of great practice in the areas of digital technology. We also come across some real challenges. The Charity Digital Code provides welcome practical advice for charities on incorporating technology into their work.
“Digital is changing the way the public behaves. For charities to stay relevant, increase the difference they can make, and protect their charity from risks, understanding and engaging with the digital world is vital,” Charity Commission director of policy, planning and communications, Sarah Atkinson.
The code was launched on 15 November 2018 and follows a consultation period, with input from 171 charities on a wide range of issues around wider adoption, funding and risk.
The code is a response to the Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index 2017, which highlighted that only 48% of charities had full digital skills and that 50% of charity leaders lacked confidence in the introduction of Digital change. This is alarming when we consider the extent and impact of digital technology on the Charity Sector.
Organisations that were represented on the code’s steering group included the chief executives body ACEVO the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, the Small Charities Coalition the local infrastructure body NAVCA and the Charity Commission
The Code, a first in the Charity Sector, has been funded by the Lloyds Banking Group and the Co-op Foundation and is managed by a steering group of representatives from across the sector.
While the code is voluntary, it is nonetheless very welcome and is free to access for all charities.
Charity Digital Code Principles
The Code highlights seven principles to be considered by charities as they develop their digital activity, usefully it also sets out some measures of success in making these changes.
A version of the code has now been produced for small charities with constrained budgets and capacity and should assist help them to understand where they can make improvements.
The steering group said, “this aspect of the code has been a particular priority following the revelation in the 2018 Charity Digital Skills report that 58 per cent of charities see funding as their biggest obstacle to digital progress”.
The 7 principle are:
Charity leaders must lead on digital as a way of helping their charities be relevant and sustainable. Digital isn’t just about channels. It’s a strategic and governance issue and charity leaders need to know how digital could help realise their vision for their charity. Equally, digital raises questions about traditional ways of leading, offering opportunities for leaders to build networks and collaborate further.
2. User led
Charities should make the needs and behaviors of beneficiaries and other stakeholders the starting point for everything they do digitally.
Charities’ values, behaviors and ways of working should create the right environment for digital success.
Charities’ strategies should be ambitious about how they can use digital to achieve their vision and mission. This doesn’t always mean investing money, but it does mean thinking creatively about how digital can increase impact and sustainability.
Charities should aim for digital skills to be represented at all levels of the organisation. Digital success is very dependent on the confidence, motivation and attitude of the people who run, work and volunteer for charities. Technical and soft skills, such as questioning, persuading and influencing, are equally important.
6. Managing risk and ethics
Charities need to determine and manage any risks involved in digital. Charities will also need to consider how some digital issues fit with organisational values and ethics. The latter is a broad area that may include anything from partnerships to the use of data by social networks to content.
Charities will need to adapt to survive and thrive as digital changes how everyone lives and works.
The full text of the code together with resources can be accessed by clicking here Join the conversation about the Code by using the hashtag #CharityDigitalCode
Lowry Grant l Charity Director