Pandemic exposes gaps in charities’ digital capabilities, NCVO warns

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed gaps in charities’ digital skills and capabilities, the NCVO’s blueprint report for the coming year has warned.

Digital innovation amid the health crisis, in areas such as online fundraising and service delivery, is set to be continue in the long term and charities need to ensure they can adapt to technological change.

The warning has come in the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) annual Road Ahead report for 2021. Each year this looks at the key trends, challenges and opportunities facing the voluntary sector over the next 12 months.

The report stresses the need for charities to embed digital ways of working, particularly among small charities.

“Many technological trends accelerated by Covid are unlikely to reverse,” states the report.

“The digital trend has many benefits, particularly increasing reach, being more accessible, and reducing inefficiency.

“Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the existing charity digital skills and infrastructure gaps, making this transition particularly challenging, especially for smaller charities.”

The report also highlights the vital role the charity sector can play in tackling digital exclusion among vulnerable people.

“Addressing the digital divide has become more pressing than ever, in terms of ensuring access for disadvantaged groups,” it states.

But it adds that not all services “work well online” and the need for charity staff and volunteers to work together in-person “has not gone away, despite the success of remote working for many organisations”.

Charities are also encouraged to embrace the use of data analytics to ensure “future services meet the needs of people and communities” and be aware of data protection and cybersecurity issues.

This year’s Road Ahead report has expanded its scope to include environmental and legal sections.

It stresses the role of charities in “campaigning for tougher action and supporting communities to adapt” to tackling carbon emissions and climate change.

Tackling inequality

Equalities across society have been widened by the pandemic, the report adds, giving the charity sector a greater responsibility to ensure it is promoting diversity and supporting all marginalised groups.

The report specifically mentions the Charity So White campaign to ensure charities are inclusive.

“The inequalities starkly highlighted and accelerated by Covid, along with the Black Lives Matter movement and protests around the world sparked by the death of George Floyd, have added further weight to the Charity So White campaign driving the voluntary sector to become more equitable, diverse and inclusive,” states the report.

“The public commitments by voluntary organisations to address systemic inequalities faced by people from marginalised groups and communities must now move to action,” it adds.

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