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Digital in a people-focused charity

Written by Lisa Hallett, Head of Development at The Matthew Project

Earlier this year I left the world of digital services to join a local charity. It was a big step and a steep learning curve but I was keen to make a difference in Norfolk where I live.

The Matthew Project is a charity providing education, counselling and support to young people, adults and families affected by substance misuse issues. Our workers really help to change people’s lives. Like all charities our services have to operate as efficiently and effectively as possible to make every £1 of income make a difference to someone’s life.

The Charity Commission recently published guidance on 12 areas for charity trustees to consider to help maximise the benefits of digital, from governance to resources. Having the right technology to deliver, monitor and evaluate our services is vital. As a people-focused charity with a strong ethos and values, using digital to connect our workers and the people we support is also a priority. From recruitment and internal communications to fundraising, we’re looking at our challenges and how digital solutions can help.

We operate in a very rural geography, with dispersed populations which means that many of our workers are spread out across different locations, some home-based with lots of travel to meet with service users. It’s very rare that they are all together in one place. Using digital tools such as Skype and Yammer have proved to be effective in keeping workers connecting and enabling everyone to share updates, insights, questions and learnings so they feel more like one team.

Our experienced people are our greatest resource and recruiting new staff members has to be efficient. Using online tools to advertise opportunities, recruit and shortlist means that we can fill vacancies faster with the right people to support our service users.

We’re excited to be launching a new service in 2017 that we have designed to be digital first wherever possible. From recruitment of new workers to making it easy for service users to find out about and engage with our services, gathering referrals and capturing and monitoring data, the process will be digitally enabled.

Digital solutions also open up new opportunities for fundraising. Larger charities such as The Royal British Legion are trialling exciting new options like contactless collection tins. Alcohol Concern, who run Dry January, have implemented an app to help participants track their progress. We’re looking at how we can refresh our digital presence with our different stakeholders firmly in mind to make it easy for service users to get support and to tell the story of our work to gain new supporters.

Digital provides so many opportunities. For us it’s an enabler to be more efficient and engage with service users and supporters so that we can help more people to remove the barriers to living a fuller life.

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