A "lack of brave leadership" from chief executives and trustees is holding the sector back from exploiting digital technologies, according to the author of a report published today.
The New Reality, which is published today and is based on interviews with more than 50 charity leaders and digital, looks at how digital technology could deliver a “step change in social impact”.
But it says charities face being left behind if trustees and chief executives do change how they operate.
The report says charity leaders must be prepared to change their internal process to capitalise on how technology can support their cause. It says charities must stop having a separate digital strategy and make technology part of their central strategy. And it says charities must bring new skills into the sector and be prepared to pay for them.
Launching it this morning Julie Dodd, author of the study, said: “Every area of our business can be improved by technology but first we have got to change the processes.”
Dodd said there were many examples of how digital technology is being used for good, such as 3D printing prosthetic limbs and using drones to deliver prescriptions to patients in San Francisco. But she said that “few of them come from established not-for-profits”.
One of the barriers for charities is a “lack of brave leadership”, she said, and that chief executives and trustees need be more involved and stop delegating digital to middle management.
She suggested “ditching the digital strategy” and instead incorporating it into all areas of the overall strategy. She also said that working human resources teams was important to embedding digital across the organisation.
Dodd said that she was hoping to work with Acevo and NCVO to build digital skills into their programmes.
The report warns that: “The speed of technology change has created a gap between the digital skills that organisations have and additional ones that they need.”
Dodd added that charities need to accept that to fill those gaps they may need to look outside of the sector for new talent or consider seconding people.
“It is not going to be cheap,” she said, “But it will be worth it for the skills you build.”
Charities need to get better at communicating the need for funding for digital projects and funders need to be able to understand, according to Dodd.
“Too many projects that are technology based are going for funding bids without understanding what they want to do,” she said.
And at the same time “funders are missing out on opportunities because they don’t understand the potential”.
Kay Boycott, chief executive at Asthma UK, added that there is a perception that “no-one funds tech” but the real problem is that “fundraisers haven’t gone out and sold that because they don’t know how to do that”.