Checking in on the digital checkup – what trends did we spot? Part 1

By John Fitzgerald on 3rd May 2019

What we’ve learned from a year of digital checkups 

At SCVO we’ve been running an online digital health check and follow-up for support for over a year. About 200 charities have taken the self-assessment, and over 60 of these have had follow-up support via a one-to-one phone call. What have we learned from talking to charities across Scotland about their digital capability? Here are seven key trends we spotted. 

Smaller charities are often weaker in some areas 

  • Smaller charities tend to have less technical capability, and are using a smaller range of digital tools and equipment. This is not surprising since they have smaller budgets and lack dedicated digital teams. 
  • Smaller organisations completing the checkup often scored better for leadership and culture than larger organisations. This is probably because smaller organisations are able to embrace change quickly as a whole team rather than cascading new ways of working across a larger organisation. Smaller organisations may be less invested in legacy IT systems, too. 
  • Smaller organisations were often much less cyber resilient,lacking the tools and expertise to protect themselves against cyber risks. This insight helped us plan and develop our Cyber Essentials grants programme in partnership with the Scottish Government. 

What makes charities evolve digitally? 

  1. People are key: organisations which are progressing well on digital evolution either have highly skilled key staff, engaged CEOs, or both. Conversely, many organisations that are ‘stuck’ are being held back by a lack of expertise. A new staff member starting can often provide extra impetus for digital change. Related to this, having the right suppliers makes a big difference. Charities who have good IT suppliers are likely to be more digitally mature. The reverse can also be true – a number of ‘stuck’ charities are held back by legacy contracts.  
  2. Growth and organisational changeis often a key driver: for a number of small organisations, anticipating a period of growth is a key moment to try to move digital capability to a higher level. Larger organisations often tackle major digital change projects during or following a merger. 
  3. A combination of scalable, flexible tech (eg cloud-based systems) and a positive change culture can be a winning combination in driving change forward 

Digital evolution is a long-term project 

  1. An ad hoc approach to digital change can lead to two kinds of problem: 
  • Small and firefighting: many ‘small and stuck’ charities are stuck in firefighting mode – they’re aware that lots of things need to be improved, but finding it hard to prioritise and shift to longer-term planning and investment. 
  • Unfocused dabbling: Some charities are stuck at the ‘dabbling’ stage – trying out a wide range of tools without committing to any strategic changes. This means digital remains a ‘nice to do’ rather than a core part of the way these organisations are run. 

In response to these trends, we have 

  • Continued to run our successful Senior Leaders Programme 
  • Worked with the Scottish Government to roll out a cyber grants programme to help charities obtain Cyber Essentials accreditation 
  • Added more resources and links to our checkup results page 
  • Begun to develop a Digital Supplier Finder to help charities discover good suppliers 

You can take the checkup at https://scvo.org.uk/digital/evolution/check-up