Earlier this year, CAF released their Charity Landscape report for 2022. In his opening remarks, Neil Heslop, OBE Chief Executive, Charities Aid Foundation called for support from government and businesses to support a charity sector who reported these 3 issues as “the most pressing challenges facing their organisation”:
The common theme throughout these issues is resourcing. Charities need resources to sustain their organisations and meet demand. The CAF report found that:
“Three in four charity leaders (75%) stated that demand for their organisation’s services had increased over the first year of the pandemic, and 86% anticipated that demand would continue to increase”
Charities need access to resources that can help them to manage demand and focus on infrastructure and good governance. The latest Charity Commission annual report and accounts 2021 to 2022 show a significant increase in the number of charities removed from the register, with 5,252 charities removed in 21/22 compared to 3,316 in 20/21, which suggests that charities are finding it increasingly difficult to balance the need for a functioning organisation with meeting the needs of their service users.
Whilst support from government, funders and businesses remains relevant and essential, it is worth exploring how internal solutions can also provide an alternative means to help reduce the burden. According to the Charity Digital Skills Report 2022: “Almost all charity leaders (89%) believe that technological change is relevant to their organisation.” This could include the delivery of digital services to help diversify how they can reach people as well as digital fundraising to generate income and increase financial sustainability.
Charities will need to adjust their ways of working to implement digital solutions and they are at varying stages of doing so, with smaller charities largely highlighting that they are not yet ready to maximise digital solutions:
Small charities are finding it harder to develop their digital strategy, which is supported by data
Larger charities have proven to be better placed to develop and execute effective digital strategies, this can be attributed to their greater access to resources, whether this is people, services or funds. With smaller charities representing a majority of the charity demographic, it’s important that they are not left behind. At the current rate, it’s likely that they will need more support.
It’s important that charities feel confident in their internal systems and tools in an environment where access to resources is proving challenging.
It’s crucial for the continued development and sustainability of the sector that smaller charities can develop their digital strategy to close the gap with the larger organisations and deliver an overall healthier sector.
It’s important to understand the specific needs of these organisations however, and according to the Charity Digital Skills Report 2022:
“Small charities would most value funding for: Training for staff and volunteers on digital (44%); computers, devices and software or subscriptions for the organisation (43%); and time to develop our digital approach or strategy (36%).”
Further findings include:
As the data suggests, small charities want access to training, free support and advice on what projects they need. They also need time to think about their strategic needs and build out their digital approach. They could benefit from outsourcing tasks where possible and receiving external support, with “16% outsourcing more work to freelancers and agencies” - however this can be costly and as previously mentioned, financial sustainability must be at the centre of any solution.
Back to Neil Heslop, who stated in the 2022 Charity Landscape Report, new ideas need to be explored at government level and in the short-term that “businesses, too, need to view charities as natural partners to help them demonstrate their purpose”
Perhaps there is some untapped potential on this front, with businesses and their networks who hold a great breadth of resources which can benefit charities in these ways:
Accessing expert support on projects
Receiving advice/training on digital strategy
There are a number of ways for charities to access this kind of support, whether through local networks, partnerships, platforms and more, however this presents the challenge of a fragmented market, with half of charities already stating that they need support with which digital project to apply for, which makes access to opportunities a challenge.
What if they could simply access a variety of free projects, in line with their needs from numerous sources, all in one place? It will allow them to save time to focus on their services and good governance, and save money on outsourcing to agencies/freelancers.
What if charities could reduce their financial burden by easily outsourcing, enabling them to focus their time and money on the mission, infrastructure, fundraising and good governance? That’s where Pro Bono Alert comes in. Pro Bono Alert is a free browser plugin and one-stop shop for all pro bono needs, where a number of leading pro bono providers are sharing their projects, allowing charities to easily access expert support. Charities simply need to input their preferences and then they will receive tailored alerts on their browser.
By creating a centralised hub of pro bono opportunities, charities can easily outsource their needs in a few simple clicks, with businesses providing free access to their people to help charities overcome obstacles at no cost, therefore reducing the burden on charities to spend their reserves to cover income shortfalls by providing free help. It would allow them to take steps to bridge the gap between small and large charities, as they will be able to access people with specific skills to help them build out their digital strategies, receive training and advice on a variety of matters from experts.
Ultimately, it empowers charities to focus on achieving financial sustainability (58%) and meeting increased demand for services (30%) which were the two largest concerns for charities, whilst potentially mitigating the impact of the third biggest challenge: Reduction in public / government funding (26%) - all whilst enabling them to access tailored and free support for the benefit of the entire sector.