Charities – how to get the digital basics right (guest post)

This year we’ve heard a lot of talk about how the blockchain can revolutionise charitable giving, or how charities can harness VR to reach out to new supporters.

These technologies are undoubtedly exciting, and indeed hold the potential to change the way non-profit organisations raise both money and their profile. But, as the Lloyds Digital Index for 2018 highlights, most charities (and SMEs) have a long way to go just to get the basics right first.

You shouldn’t attempt to build a house on unstable foundations, and in this article we’re going to look at some of the key areas that charities need to up their game in, and why it is important to do so.

Nearly all charities websites fail to meet accessibility criteria

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines sets out a number of ways in which websites can ensure they are usable for people with additional needs. According to the research by Lloyds, 95% of websites in the third sector don’t meet these guidelines. This is largely unintentional, and a result of ignorance. No doubt the good people running these organisations on a daily basis would be mortified if they knew their websites were impeding service delivery to those who need it most.

So what can be done? For a start, charities can test their websites online for technical compliance. Responding to errors should not be too taxing, and following a few basic principles can help to alleviate many problems in the long term. Above and beyond this, charities should look to actively engage supporters with their website, asking for feedback and conducting research sessions to ensure it meets expectations when possible.

92% of charities have not taken steps to optimise their service for mobile visitors

The same research indicates that most charity websites don’t work well on small-screen devices. This is a problem, because at least 50% of visitors will be using a mobile or tablet device when they land on the charity’s website. If the website does not work well on these devices, visitors will not be engaged and will be less likely to support the charity. This results in lost donations.

To remedy this, charities should partner with website developers who will take mobile visitors into consideration from the start. This means working to understand what people need from the website, and how their context (screen size, source of entry and location) may affect web page structure and content.

Processing online donations

Shockingly, Lloyds research also indicates 40% of charities have no way to accept donations online. As touched upon at the outset of this blog, it is healthy to look at innovative new technologies like virtual reality, but handling online donations must fall in the website 101 category. People expect to be able to donate online, through their laptops, phones and tablets. Charities are likely missing out on thousands in donations, as would-be supporters take their donations elsewhere.

This is also incredibly easy to remedy, with plenty of online tools available to charities who wish to accept donations online. From third party tools to integrated solutions, the options are there for charities who wish to level-up their online fundraising. Taking online donations is just one piece of the puzzle, but an instrumental one at that.

Getting the basics right

The good news in all of this is that getting the basics right is actually quite simple, and in most cases need not cost much money. With open source software solutions, video tutorials and free online tools, charities can tap into a world of knowledge in order to up their organisation’s digital ability and seriously compete with the bigger players. This will help them to build longevity and develop an embedded digital culture that will stick around long after the tech predictions of the year have fallen out of favour.

This article was written by Matt Saunders, founder of web design company Charity Box, a socialenterprise that builds websites for UK charities.