Three ways to build digital capacity at your charity

Kirsty Marrins
Digital communications specialist
11 Apr 2018

There’s no escaping the fact that, when it comes to digital, the charity sector is behind. This is why Vinay, Carlos and Johnny started Lightful – to give the sector (who deserves it the most) access to the best technology at an affordable price. The latest Charity Digital Skills Report 2018 by Zoe Amar and the Skills Platform shows that 45% of charities don’t have a digital strategy and 51% cited a lack of skills as a barrier to digital. Whilst we are making progress (the numbers improved from the year before), there’s still a way to go.

It’s imperative that the sector addresses this. So what can charities do to build and improve digital capacity in their organisations?

Invest in training

Digital moves at such a fast pace that it’s essential to keep abreast of it, or else you’ll be left behind. This doesn’t necessarily mean jumping on the latest technology, such as VR or AI, but at least reading up on it and understanding its capabilities and the opportunities it could present. Thankfully there are so many free (and paid for) resources and training courses that you can access to develop your skills. Even if you can’t invest money, you can invest time.

Here are some that we recommend:


Lightful (obviously!)
Charity Digital News
Beth Kanter
Madeleine Sugden
Platypus Digital
UK Fundraising

Free online training

Microsoft Virtual Academy
Google’s Digital Garage
Code Academy
Clear Lessons Foundation
Control R

Paid for training

Media Trust
Small Charities Coalition
General Assembly
Squared Online
CharityComms (seminars and conferences)
Social Media Exchange (conference)

And don’t forget about your own expertise! Why not deliver your own training to your colleagues? Another good way to learn is to organise ‘lunch and learn’ sessions or ‘brown bags’. These can be held once a month and people from all over the organisation can present. You can also ask external speakers to come in too – from other charities, agencies or companies to share what they have learnt from successful projects or campaigns. These sessions are also a great way to keep everyone updated on what’s going on across the organisation as well as encouraging open dialogue and discussion.

Change the culture

Now this is much easier said than done but if you truly want to build digital capacity and improve skills, you need to embed digital into your culture. For this to happen, it needs to come from the top down and as Zoe Amar said in this excellent blog post, leadership is crucial. For digital to become embedded, it needs buy-in from the whole organisation.

More collaboration, less silos

Building digital skills and capacity at your charity won’t happen in isolation (or overnight). It requires collaboration and team work. Those who are most successful at embedding digital into their organisation understand that communication and working together is key. Whilst culture change needs to come from the top down, it will be the digital team (or person) who will have to make it happen.

In order for digital capacity and upskilling to happen, you need to first understand your organisation’s existing digital capabilities so that you can see where the gaps are. The Voluntary Sector Digital Maturity Matrix is a free tool provided by NCVO to help you assess how digitally mature your organisation currently is and where to prioritise areas for development.

But don’t embark on this alone – involve everyone in the process. When you involve others, not only will they have a better understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, they’ll want to ensure it works too.

Do you have any other tips on building digital capacity within charities? Or if you’re currently doing this, we’d love to know – tweet us @lightful.

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