Voluntary Action Camden

Guide to digital skills and technology

Gaining digital skills for your organisation will enable you to amplify your mission and engage audiences both online and offline.

Digital skills broadly means gaining proficiency in using digital devices (computers, tablets and smartphones), platforms (social media and other web applications), and developing digital services (online training, an online platform to engage with members.) and tools (chatbots, apps etc.)

A healthy online presence will show people that your organisation is relevant and making an impact, and they’ll be more likely to support your mission. 

This guide explains the essential digital skills you need to build a dedicated online community and attract opportunities for funding and growth, and introduces you to key concepts used in digital service design and transformation.

Upcoming digital technology events

DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING

 

Introduction to digital communications

In little more than a decade, digital technology has become integral to voluntary organisation development. It is now becoming increasingly difficult for charities and other voluntary organisations to justify not having an online presence.

From within the established and traditionally-run organisation, it can often seem that digital technology is just another side issue, unrelated to the mission and task at hand. The gradual decline in voluntary organisations suggests that a bricks and mortar presence and associated ties in the community are no longer enough to stay relevant. Research shows that organisations without a robust digital strategy are struggling to overcome challenges which hold them back.

In order to improve your impact and relevance, digital can help you:

  • Amplify mission and values
  • Build an online community
  • Create and share content
  • Grow your network
  • Reach wider audiences
  • Attract funding and opportunities
  • Attract volunteers and recruits

If you feel your organisation needs a boost with its digital skills, either get in touch for a conversation or fill in our form to request support from us.

There’s no doubt that digital technology is rapidly reshaping the voluntary sector. New organisations launching now should start with a digital roadmap for connecting with target audiences. Established organisations should be identifying skills gaps and opportunities to develop their digital capabilities.

According to a Charity Digital Skills report, just over half (51%) of charities still don’t have a digital strategy. The main reason (49%) cited in the report is that core staff lack skills and competency, but they also confidence with digital technology.

You don’t need a background in technology to develop digital skills. Voluntary organisations can be run effectively on user-friendly digital platforms such as websites builders, social media channels and email marketing platforms, which offer basic and free plans.

Digital platforms generate and report insights into the audiences that interact with them, which you can harness to gain a deeper understanding of how to increase awareness and support for your organisation.

Digital capabilities that increase impact and relevance

Build a brand

Branding isn’t just commercial. The best charities and non-profits have strong brands. A distinct brand identity should set your organisation apart from similar organisations and clearly communicate your vision, values and mission.

In the voluntary sector, a brand strategy can lead to greater success with fundraising, partnership working, and building a team of loyal volunteers, employees and trustees.  

Create a stunning website

Your website should not only be an advert for your organisation, but a resource for people looking for helpful information that you can provide. There are now many easy-to-use online tools for building websites. Using the WIX site builder, for example, is an affordable way to create a stunning website that will function in the way you need it to.

Ideally, your website should be easy to navigate, helpful and understandable, i.e. it should be researched and designed from the user’s perspective.  

In this fast-moving digital age, web content and design quickly fall behind the times, which can make an organisation look out-of-date. In established organisations, it’s important to carry out regular website audits and keep the content fresh and current.

Create compelling content

If your website is your shop window, then your content is the goods on display. Websites need routinely updating with creative editorial content that keep visitors engaged and spurs them to action.

Read more about copywriting for websites.

Read more about sourcing high quality images for websites.

Do more social media

A common misconception is that you need have a huge number of followers to be successful at social media. A study revealed ‘higher authenticity scores for smaller charities, which indicated a higher quality of followers, as well as a more solid relationship between the amount of social support they have and the income raised.’ This is a sensible goal for new organisations who want to build a brand using social media marketing.

Read more about social media best practice at NCVO.

Read more about social media strategy and planning.

Send newsletters

Email marketing is a great way to build and nurture your community with useful information. Growing the number of subscribers to a newsletter is often a primary goal of a charity website.

Mailchimp is an email marketing service provider with a free basic plan, and is therefore a popular choice for small organisations.

Read more on creating effective charity newsletters.

Write a blog

Create helpful and informative blog posts that spark dialogue around issues that matter to your community. You can share expertise that others will find valuable and will want to share.

Read more on how to create a blog for your organisation.

Create a community podcast

Podcasting can be a powerful way to spark dialogue and share expertise. If you want to explore important topics and give people a platform to have their say, a podcast with listeners requires good quality recording equipment.

Read more about starting a podcast.

 

Alex

If you’d like help with your organisation’s IT or digital skills then please contact Alex Charles at alexcharles@vac.org.uk.

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