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Digital Skills

This year we asked about digital skills across three broad areas: internal operations, engaging with audiences and delivering services. Looking across these areas, we can see clear skills strengths and gaps. These are consistent for small and large charities.

  • The top 5 skills (over 80% rated themselves as ‘excellent’ or ‘fair’)
    • Basic digital skills (such as email, video calling)
    • Using digital for remote working and communication (e.g. instant messaging, online meetings)
    • GDPR compliance
    • Social media
    • Understanding of digital and how to apply it.

 

  • The top skills gaps (over 40% rated themselves as ‘poor’)
    • Digital fundraising
    • Analysing data to plan services (e.g. statistics, predictive modelling)
    • Learning about our users from website and analytics data
    • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and ads
    • Undertaking user research.

Overall, the digital stage selected correlates with the ratings of each skill area given. For every skill, those at the curious stage score themselves lower than those who are starting out, who in turn score themselves lower than those who are advancing, whilst those who are at an advanced stage score themselves highest. 



4. How would you rate your organisation’s skills in the following areas internally?

More than half of charities (52%) rate themselves as excellent at using digital for communications and remote working, indicating growing confidence. Yet there are significant knowledge gaps in cybersecurity, using data and keeping up to speed with digital trends. Charities need support to develop these skills.




Analysis

  • There has been a small increase in the number of charities with excellent basic digital skills, rising from 56% in 2021 to 58% this year. Last year, the number of charities in this category doubled from 2020, suggesting that growth has now plateaued. 

  • Charities are becoming more confident about using digital for communications and remote working, with more than half (52%) rating themselves as excellent compared to 41% last year. However, 44% say they are fair at this, similar to 46% last year. This shows that charities are still learning about how to use digital effectively for communications when working remotely. 

  • The number of charities rating themselves as excellent at cybersecurity has fallen from 25% last year to 18%. The same number of respondents who see themselves as fair at this has risen from 50% last year to 57%. 

  • Having a shared definition of digital and how to apply it is still an area that charities are struggling with. 68% say they are fair at this, similar to 69% last year and 65% in 2020. Creating an understanding of key digital concepts and how to implement them effectively is an area that is often overlooked in tech adoption. 

  • Charities are still struggling with developing the skills to use, manage and analyse data. 58% are fair at this and almost 1 in 3 (29%) are poor. This is a concern as the numbers in both these categories have not changed much since 2020, despite increased use of digital during the pandemic. 

  • Similarly, there is also a knowledge gap around advanced use of data to plan services, with responses majoring on fair and poor skills (both at 44%). This has barely changed from responses in the same categories last year. 

  • More charities need support with keeping up to date with digital trends. More than half (53%) say they are fair at this and 38% say they are poor, compared to 47% and 39% respectively last year. 


5. How would you rate your organisation’s skills in the following areas when engaging with your audiences and the people you support?

Whilst charities continue to feel confident about their use of social media, with close to 1 in 4 rating themselves as excellent, many reported skills gaps in digital fundraising, email marketing and understanding their users.

  • Charities continue to be confident about their social media skills, with 24% rating themselves as excellent. However, this is less than the 31% who saw their skills as excellent last year. Almost two thirds of organisations (62%) rate themselves as fair, compared to 55% last year.

  • Digital marketing is still a skills gap. More than half of organisations rate themselves as fair at email marketing (56%) and making the most of their website (55%). 1 in 4 (25%) think they are poor at email marketing and 29% put themselves in the same category for making the most of their website. 40% think they are fair and 42% poor at Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and ads, an increase on 36% and 39% respectively last year.

  • Charities need more support to learn about their users from website and analytics data. 42% rate themselves as poor at this and 40% as fair. 

  • Meanwhile, almost two thirds (62%) rate themselves as fair and 1 in 5 (21%) as poor  at understanding how their audience uses digital. This continues to be a skills gap, as 57% saw themselves as fair and 26% as poor in 2021. 

  • Half of small charities rate themselves as poor at digital fundraising, learning about users from website analytics data and SEO. In comparison, large charities are more confident in these areas (around a third rate themselves as poor).

  • Charities lack confidence with digital fundraising, despite online giving doubling during the pandemic. Almost half (49%) believe they are poor at this and a third (32%) that they are fair. These proportions have barely changed since 2020, demonstrating that charities need help with these skills.

  • For the first time, we asked charities about their online trading skills, which will be of particular interest to those with online retail operations. Just under a third (31%) rate themselves as poor at this. 


6. How would you rate your organisation’s skills in the following areas of service design and delivery?

Almost 40% of charities think they are excellent at GDPR compliance in digital service delivery. However, they are less confident with safeguarding, accessibility, user research and the use of digital in service delivery.



  • Charities are feeling confident about GDPR compliance, with 38% identifying themselves as excellent.

  • Charities are more cautious about their digital safeguarding skills, with over half (52%) stating that they are fair at this and 23% poor, both of which are very similar to last year. This is a concern in itself given the sector’s increase in digital service delivery during the pandemic. 

  • Organisations need support with undertaking user research, with 41% seeing themselves as poor and 45% as fair. The former has barely changed since last year.  The skills gap in this area is likely to be linked to the lack of confidence in using digital in service delivery, with more than half (56%) seeing themselves as fair and 26% as poor, comparable to last year. 

  • Charities need support with digital accessibility skills for services, with more than half (57%) stating that they are fair and 22% that they are poor at it. 

  • Charities of all sizes agree on their strengths and skills gaps.


7. Do you have the following in place and if so, do they meet your needs?

More than half of charities (51%) are looking to review their websites, whilst others need to review their CRMs and fundraising databases.




  • We’re aware that many charities are reviewing which tools they use, so we decided to gather data on sector trends about whether these platforms are fit for purpose.

  • More than half of charities (51%) are looking to review their website, whilst 42% want to review their CRM and 35% to do the same for their fundraising database; 42% their online data collection tools (e.g. surveys); website analytics (44%); and data visualisation software (25%).

  • However, over 50% of charities found that the following tools were working effectively for them: online emails and files (71%); their social media presence (60%), including organisational Facebook page (55%); internal communications and messaging tools (54%); and online accounting packages (52%).

  • The results are largely similar for all sizes of charities. However, only 53% of small charities feel their social media presence is effective, compared to 74% of large charities.


8. What are the key things your organisation could do if it increased its digital skills? 

Improving brand and profile, getting more from their data and growing their reach are the top 3 priorities that charities have when developing their digital skills.



  • The number one aim for charities in improving digital skills is to improve their brand and profile, with almost half (47%) citing this as their goal. This has risen significantly from eighth place last year and may indicate the competitive nature of the current fundraising environment. On a similar note, attracting more funding has risen from the ninth to the fourth highest priority.

  • Getting more from data is the second priority, although at 46% is similar to last year’s rating of 47%.

  • The same number of charities as last year (38%) want to grow their reach by developing their digital skills.

  • A third of charities want to grow their digital skills to develop their relationships with their community, such as supporting more people (34%), attracting more donations (33%) and delivering better services (31%).

  • Given some of the challenges currently facing the sector and where digital can help with increasing efficiencies, recruitment and meaningful relationships with key stakeholders, it’s perhaps surprising that the following were not rated as higher priorities by respondents: spending less time on administration (31%); influencing policy makers and the media (25%); engaging and supporting volunteers effectively (22%); and developing staff and retaining talent (21%).

Top 3 skills aims for small charities:

  1. Improve our brand and raise our profile.
  2. Get more from our data.
  3. Attract more funding.


Top 3 skills aims for large charities:

  1. Get more from our data.
  2. Improve our brand and raise our profile.
  3. Deliver our strategy more effectively.


Charities also told us that increasing their skills would help them with the following:


“Understand our impact.”

“Better communication between staff, better comprehensive systems.”



9. How important is it to you to work for an organisation that is actively developing its digital capabilities and skills?

Almost 9 out of 10 respondents (88%) want to work for an organisation that is actively developing its digital skills.




  • 88% of respondents say it’s either very important or important for them to work for organisations who are taking active steps to grow their employees’ digital skills.

  • Just 10% were neutral about this and only 2% said this wasn’t important.

  • These proportions are broadly similar to last year, showing that working for a charity committed to growing digital skills and capabilities remains important to our sector’s workforce. 

  • When looking at size, 73% of those working for a large organisation say it’s very important (and 22% say it’s important) to work for an organisation that is actively developing its digital capabilities and skills. For those in small charities the figures are lower, with 45% saying it is very important and 38% saying it’s important.