Government told to find out why charities aren’t making best use of technology

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Senior executives from Google and Twitter tell House of Lords committee on charities digital technology is crucial to sector

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30th November 2016 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

Tech bosses have told the UK government it needs to do more to investigate why not all charities are making use of digital technology to advance their causes.

Nick Pickles, UK head of policy at Twitter and David Skelton, public policy and government relations manager at Google, were giving evidence to the House of Lords select committee on charities on the benefits of digital engagement to volunteering, campaigning and fundraising, effective ways to engage, and how digital innovation can be improved across the sector.

The pair agreed that although some charities were excellent digitally, the sector as a whole is lagging behind businesses and said it was up to the government to investigate why.

Pickles said really understanding why not every charity is not making using of digital is the most important thing the government could do.

“Is it because they are uncomfortable using services,” he said.

Nick Pickles

Nick Pickles

David Skelton

David Skelton

“Is it because of a lack of internet connectivity but they can use a computer or is it a lack of digital skills to use a computer but they do have internet connectivity?

“I think there is a lot more work that can be done to understand those barriers and then, I think, build that knowledge into how we help charities.

“Social media particularly and digital media more broadly is an opportunity for charities to communicate with the world on whatever issue they are working on without intermediaries.

“Ten years ago you might have needed to know someone at a newspaper, be invited on television, you might have needed an advertising budget but now you jump that – it levels the playing field for small and large organisations.”

Both Pickles and Skelton highlighted the work their organisations were doing to help charities make use of available technology.

Skelton said Google encourages its employees to become trustees in charities, allows them time off for volunteering and has a suite of apps and services available to charities free of charge as well as gifting them a $10,000 adword grant every month.

“For many people the best way of reaching them as potential donors, potential volunteers is through digital means,” he said.

“Many charities do that well already but there is also more that could be done.

“Digital represents a really important way of scaling campaigns, broadening out campaigns, targeting campaigns.

“It doesn’t have to be expensive, many of the best uses of digital by charities have been done cheaply.

“The fundamental point is that digital for many charities is not just a thing that is nice to have it is a fundamental way to help them achieve their core mission and to help them help good causes.”

Pickles added Twitter has produced a handbook on how charities can use its site best and supports campaigns with pro-bono advertising.

He added: “I’m very conscious that one of the issues that is front and centre of the charitable sector is how do we be as transparent as possible with both our funders and our supporters, that they know how we are governed, that they understand why we are undertaking certain work, and digital is a great way of doing that as you don’t have to wait for the monthly or yearly newsletter to come.”

The Lords Select Committee on Charities is assessing the sustainability of the charity sector, exploring the pressures and challenges they face, as well as the roles of governments and public bodies.

Earlier in November, Martin Sime, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, told the committee the UK government has displayed a “toxic” attitude towards charities.