In our day to day work, it is hard to function without including reliable and well planned use of digital technology.
A digital technology plan should be an integral part of your organisational strategy and everyday operations. There are tools that can help your organisation operate more efficiently, transform how you communicate your messages, raise your profile, and be a more effective voice for your beneficiaries and supporters.
This page lists the technology building blocks that an organisation should think about.
Your website and your online presence is your shop window; it reflects how your audience see your organisation and perceive your work. Does your website reflect your organisation? Is the content up to date? Does it have the right contact information? Can it be viewed on a mobile device?
Visitors to your website should be able to easily find out about your work and see your call to action. Does your marketing flow consistently from your printed brochures to your website and social media channels?
- How to create a web presence for your charity
- How to make sure your website gives the right message
- How to make use of mobile
- How to write effectively for mobile websites
- How to create a marketing plan
A reliable IT network and web connection
Your internal IT network and web connection are generally unseen parts of your organisation. But if they don't connect your computers correctly or are prone to stop working just when you need to print that important report, your organisation suffers. If you rely on the cloud for web applications and communication with partners they’re critical.
Similar to a car engine, it's not something every charity has the skills or inclination to fix themselves. There are organisations who can help you to recruit local specialist IT volunteers, such as the Charity IT Association.
- Upgrading your IT Systems with very little budget (Case Study)
- How to make your telephone systems work for you
Keeping track of your technology can be difficult. You can start by making and maintaining an inventory of all the computers and devices your organisation uses. You don't necessarily need to know in detail how each works and how they connect to each other.
Invest in a reliable technology support provider service. This will cost money but it’s much better than asking a friend of a friend or a family member in their spare time to look after the engine that drives your organisation.
Make sure anti-virus, firewalls and other security software are kept up to date. Licence expiry dates should be part of your inventory. Don't ignore messages on a computer requesting to apply security fixes or updates: schedule these when you aren't using the computer.
Always look for and evaluate low-cost/free software and hardware for charities. For example the Technology Trust offers low cost software for registered charities, and both Microsoft and Google offer free cloud-based software for charities:
Open source alternatives to proprietary products are listed on the AlternativeTo website.
Could your organisation function if you lost all your data? The importance of backing up your data regularly can’t be overstated. It is also essential to check that data can be restored should a previous copy of a file be needed. Using a cloud based file storage system can mitigate the risks as the data is always being automatically saved off-site.
Check you have a viable and working disaster recovery plan in place – and test it. Could your organisation continue its work at another site if you couldn't access your offices for a day? A week? Indefinitely?
A good digital toolbox
There are many simple web and cloud based tools to help with almost any aspect of a small charity’s work, From collaborating on a newsletter to fixing the date of the next trustees meeting there will be a website to assist you. For example:
- Doodle to help you arrange meetings
- Mailchimp to distribute mail-outs to supporters
- Trello for workflow planning
- Box for file storage
Take some time to try them out and see if they can help save you time and money.
- How to move to the cloud
- How to have a Google Hangout
- How to improve Trustee meetings through better use of IT
Knowing your beneficiaries
Of course you know them, you work with them every day. But do you record this information? Is it kept in a spreadsheet? Or in paper files? A database is an essential tool to help you track involvement with your supporters and record work done – vital for showing outcomes for funders and partners.
Using your data as a key asset
Does your charity maximise the power of the data you hold about the work your organisation has done? Have you aided your future planning by accessing publicly available open datasets that compliment your work? Mixing local authority or health providers’ data with the local knowledge your organisation has could help address a need in the community, or tell funders the success stories of your work.
- Seven steps to becoming a data driven organisation
- Open data tools and resources and the Data unity project for community groups
Be mindful of the requirements and duties placed on an organisation to safeguard the data it holds about an individual. You can read more about this on our guide to data protection page.
Telling your story online
Your organisation is doing great work, so tell the world about it. Social media tools are a great way to reach a wider audience than your local community. Tell supporters about your successful fundraising campaign on Twitter and Facebook. Blog about the transformation of your community. You could even go further than words on a screen and share your story through a short film on YouTube, an audio recording or a Pinterest picture board.
- How to develop a social media strategy for your organisation
- How to communicate your impact
- How to communicate a campaign using video content
- How to create a blog for your charity
- How to get your story covered by local media
Listening as well as talking
Social media tools are not only for broadcasting. You can follow conversations about events and relevant news using hashtags on Twitter, and seek out influencers. Set-up Google Alerts for your topic of interest and join in conversations about your work. You may open up potential collaborations with people outside your local area who support your aims.
- How to get started with social media
- How to manage social media
- How to build your network using social media
- How to choose the right social media platform for your org
- How to collaborate
- How to set up a Google Alert
Everyone should have easy and equal access your services. You have probably factored this into the design of your building, but can a person with a disability easily find the information they need on your website? Have you designed your resources to be inclusive for all? Have the necessary workstation technology adjustments been made for staff so they can carry out their duties effectively?
Training and skills development
Are staff and volunteers appropriately skilled in using the devices they are given and the software or website tools they are asked to use? Digital skills development doesn't always have to be expensive or classroom based.
At NCVO we have developed our Building a Digital Workforce toolkit which has been tried and tested with our staff. This set of resources and templates can be used and adapted to help you plan, design and deliver a comprehensive digital skills development programme for your organisation. Also consider using the on-line learning and webinars in the KnowHow Study Zone, finding local mentors or visiting your local social media surgery as a way staff can gain new skills.
Policies and procedures
A suite of guidance documents about how an organisation uses technology is vital. While these may not be referenced every day, it's essential that they comprehensively cover each area of how the organisation uses technology, and are regularly reviewed when legislation or culture changes. At a minimum, every organisation should have the following.
- Acceptable use of technology policy
- Social media guidelines,
- Data protection and data sharing policy,
- DSE guidelines,
- Health and safety policies
- Bring your own device policy (link opens a template and guide).
Thinking differently about the office
Does your organisation need an office? Could the day to day operations of the organisation still be carried out by equipping your staff with the technology to work remotely? This can reduce your costs and IT overheads, but could also introduce challenges around connectivity and communication.
- How to create and manage a flexible, working office
- How to hot desk
- How to work from home efficiently
It's tempting to think that once an organisation changes the way it uses technology, there is nothing to do for the next few years. Digital technology moves at a fast pace. It's important to be aware of new developments and to critically evaluate each to see whether it is relevant to the work of your organisation. Make use of charity digital technology networks, newsfeeds and meet-ups, and be ready for the next big thing.
- Charity Digital News and Charity Comms for the latest charity digital and communications news
- NetSquared and TechForGood host face-to-face meet ups for charity staff to learn from each other
- Digital Leaders is a cross-sector network and events programme about the latest digital technology topics
Over to you
The voluntary sector is pioneering new approaches in using digital technology to improve beneficiary involvement and to use technology for social good. If you have examples or case studies about your use of digital, why not share them here?
- 10 ways technology can help your organisation work better
- Data Protection Act – guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).
- Lasa IT Services – strategic technology advice and information for charities.
- Charity IT Association (CITA) – IT volunteers to help your organisation
- Social by Social – guides on using technology to deliver social change.
- Technology Trust – savings to charities on technology products.
- New Reality – a report on digital technology and social impact.