The Charity Digital Skills Report: lessons for leaders

Workshop image, Digital Leaders

Written by Zoe Amar, Founder and Director of Zoe Amar Communications

I’ve been thinking about great leadership in digital a lot this week. This isn’t just an issue affecting big tech companies. Leadership was a significant theme of the second Charity Digital Skills Report, which we launched last week. Whilst there have been some small, positive changes, leadership has emerged as a key issue. Findings included the following:

  • There is a growing expectation that charity leaders must understand trends and how they affect their charities. 63% now want this, rising from 58% last year. On a similar note, 53% want their leaders to have some experience or understanding of digital tools, growing from 46% last year.
  • 42% think that better leadership skills such as being more decisive, focused and collaborative would help their charities in digital, rising from 38% in 2017.
  • The same number of charities (28%) as last year still see lack of leadership in digital as a problem.
  • There has been a big increase in worries about the lack of the leadership support needed to develop more digital products and services, rising significantly to 51%, up from 42% last year.

This data highlights what would make the biggest difference in charities progressing digitally: better leadership.  So, what should leaders do to manage the risks highlighted in the report?

Communicate your vision

A mere 9% of charities say that everyone in their charity understands their digital vision, which has stayed at the same level since 2017. I am shocked by this. How can you motivate your staff about digital change if they don’t know where they are going?

Plan how to retain digital talent

Developing staff and retaining staff became more of a priority in this year’s report. 65% stated that developing digital skills would help develop and keep staff (57% last year). A truly digital organisation is a learning organisation. Whether it’s building digital skills into job descriptions, encouraging people to be curious or developing creative ways to recruit talented digital experts, there is plenty you can still do on a tight budget.

Use the report as a catalyst

How does your organisation compare to the trends? Why not take the key findings along to your next senior management team meeting and use it as a conversation starter about how your charity is delivering digital change.

Involve your board

Once again the report demonstrated a worryingly large digital skills gap amongst trustees, yet 78% of people either don’t know what is being done to change this, or state that their organisations don’t have any plans. Do your board need a briefing about the latest digital trends and how they affect your charity? What digital skills do trustees have? Could they benefit from reverse mentoring?

Digital ultimately offers an amazing opportunity to help leaders prove their worth again, and make their organisations stronger and more fit for purpose. Leaders are going to have to work hard to regain trust and lead from the front with confidence.  Can you say the same of how other leaders in your organisation approach digital change?


Read the report


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