Last month I was a panellist in a debate at NFPTweetup about the role of digital media and how it can help tackle the challenges facing the sector. (For those of you who haven’t been, NFPTweetup is a fantastic quarterly meet up for charity sector professionals with an interest in digital and social media). It was a really interesting evening and it’s led to a light bulb moment for me about the third sector and its use of digital media.
In its essence digital is very simple: it’s just about the way our organisations connect and communicate. And whether your organisation has a website or a Facebook page, or if you use LinkedIn or Twitter we are all involved in it in one way or another. Digital has massive potential to help our sector meet the challenges it faces, whether by strengthening relationships with our stakeholders, reaching out to MPs or communicating what our organisation does. But I bet that we all know people- and organisations- who are not as yet making the most of it. Why is that?
At Lasa’s technology conference in 2011 the key note speaker, Martha Lane Fox, challenged charities to help get more people online and ‘think internet first.’ Whilst I know that charities have an important role to play in this I also think we have to look at some of the less immediately obvious issues around digital that can make or break its success.
I believe that digital is about a lot more than, well, digital. Sure, we all know about the digital divide and the economic, infrastructure and skills gaps, and those are clearly important issues in themselves. But in order for charities to wholeheartedly embrace technology and to capitalise on its potential we need to look at what it’s going to take for that to happen. In my view it’s about leadership, and cultural change, and understanding that technology is a catalyst and an enabler, not something that you can delegate to your IT department. Everyone in your organisation- from the CEO to the volunteers- is involved in using technology. It is pervasive and organisations who harness its power can achieve so much more and do it efficiently, successfully and creatively.
This doesn’t mean that charity leaders need to know how to write code or become technology experts. As charity CEOs said in this video last year, you don’t have to be a ‘techie’ to make the most of technology, you just need to understand how you can make the most of it as a force for positive change.
At a time when the sector needs to make the most of every tool at its disposal,
we at Lasa want to help third sector leaders unlock the potential of technology to help their organisations. (We work with thousands of charities across the UK each year, supporting them in doing just that.) So we’ll be running a series of flagship events, funded by Google, over the next year to help the sector use technology to survive and thrive in tough times. This will include a charity digital summit, an event for third sector leaders looking at leadership and technology and finally our annual technology conference in 2013. Our CEO, Terry Stokes, will also feature in a live interview with Charity Leaders’ Exchange about why charity leaders need to engage with technology on 12 July.
Zoe Amar is Head of Marketing and Business Development at Lasa, a charity which provides services to Shelter, Age UK and thousands of other charities across the UK. She is a regular personal commentator and speaker on charity marketing, contributing to The Guardian, Charity Comms, and Charity Finance. Zoe is also on the board at Bright One and is a Chartered Marketer. She tweets from @zoeamar