Nonprofits have embraced digital over the past year – for fundraising, service delivery, project management, remote working and more. With hope of recovery on the horizon, Zoe Amar, Founder and Director of Zoe Amar Digital, explores what to do about digital now.
After a year of hard slog, things are starting to change. While the third wave of the pandemic is all too evident, the vaccine programme has scaled, some nations are starting to open up and there is hope on the horizon. The next great endeavour will be building a road to recovery; a mighty task for leaders when so much is still uncertain.
The pandemic has been an exhausting whirlwind and whilst many of the leaders I speak to are excited about things improving, mustering the strength to plan for it, let alone the time, when most days are packed full of Zoom calls, can feel daunting. So here’s my take on what to do about digital as you mull over what the future could look like.
Let your supporters guide you
Your charity will have undertaken a huge number of digital changes during COVID-19, whether that’s working remotely, growing digital fundraising or developing online services. One of the questions I’m hearing from leaders is ‘what should I continue and what should I stop?’
I don’t know the answer to that, but your beneficiaries, donors, supporters and other stakeholders will. You or your colleagues are going to need to talk to them continuously over the next 6-12 months to understand how their digital behaviours and needs are changing.
You don’t need to spend a lot of money to do this. Running a small number of user interviews frequently will help you keep on top of what people want, although I would recommend comparing this qualitative data with quantitative data from surveys and analytics from your digital products and channels. Catalyst have a helpful guide on how to run interviews. As a CEO or leader you may not be involved in doing the interviews but I would recommend that you provide a steer on the key things you would like to know to inform the organisational strategy.
Learn from your team and from others
We have all been through a huge learning curve with digital over the last year. Now is the time to take a step back, regroup and reflect on the knowledge you’ve gained. Ask one of your team to run an exercise to help you and your colleagues reflect on digital progress during this time. This can be done using a simple 3-step process called a retrospective, which will help you and your colleagues create a shared understanding of what has gone well, what could be improved and what the next steps are.
This is also a good moment to learn from other charities about how they’ve adapted digitally during the last year. For example, Action for Children have developed and scaled up their digital services. What have other charities done differently? And what are their plans for the future?
Think about how the future might play out
Yes, no-one knows quite what lies on the other side of this period. It can feel like there are a huge number of different ways that events could go. The key is to narrow it down to a small number of alternative situations.
In the context of digital, this might mean that the people you support may prefer online services to face to face, and vice versa. Ditto with fundraising events. Once you know what the different scenarios are you can plan for them using this guide. However bear in mind that you will need to be agile in how you respond as we are likely to see some rapid shifts in people’s preferences during this time and a hybrid model of digital and face to face seems to be what many charities are planning for.
The future is going to be here before we know it. The accelerated digital adoption we saw during the pandemic is just one of the reasons why it is likely to be exciting, innovative and another huge opportunity to learn from the people our sector serves.
About Zoe Amar
Founder and director of Zoe Amar Digital – a UK-based digital agency and social enterprise, Zoe is also Chair of The Charity Digital Code of Practice; a leading sector expert in digital. She and her team produce an annual barometer of how UK charities are using digital, The Charity Digital Skills Report and she has co-authored the UK Charity Commission’s digital guidance for trustees, ‘Making Digital Work.’
With twelve years’ experience as a charity trustee, she currently sits on the board of Charity Digital Trust (formerly known as Tech Trust). Before founding Zoe Amar Digital she worked for 5 years as part of the leadership team at a national charity, which advised nonprofits about technology. She is the winner of an Inspiring Communicator award from Charitycomms and was recently voted one of the 25 most influential charity leaders by Charity Times.