There are many different paths when it comes to digital transformation and all charities are at different stages in their journey. Most have embraced digitization in some aspect of their operations, be it providing services or monitoring their finances, but there are others who have yet to embed digitization into their strategy at all.
That 2022 Charity Digital Skills Report found that charities with a digital strategy declined slightly from the previous yearwith only 56% of companies saying they have one.
There seems to be a growing divide between companies that are digitally mature and those that aren’t. This was also determined by the Twilio communication platform in its 2022 study, The state of digital engagement for nonprofits.
According to Twilio, those who were further along their digital journey were more likely to view digital communications as a priority, were more likely to equip their technical teams, and were more likely to focus on evolving the program participant experience for beneficiaries.
The study shows that nine out of ten companies see digital communications as critical to fulfilling their mission, but both charities and beneficiaries believe they are not yet fully embracing them.
Only half of nonprofits see their communications strategy as effective, while just 37% of program participants say digital communications help them access services. Almost twice as many (72%) said digital communication was important to achieve this goal.
In fact, the growing gap is even more concerning as the report shows that organizations that incorporate digital engagement among their program participants are seeing immediate gains. These returns include improved employee productivity, increased awareness of their programs, more efficient and scalable program delivery, and a higher number of program participants served.
Almost half (45%) of nonprofits provided their beneficiaries with a better experience thanks to digital engagement, while 43% achieved better outcomes for them. Digital communication is vital for charities to thrive and only a few organizations are reaping the rewards.
Can other charities catch up?
Although there is a growing gap between those who are advancing with digitization and those who are falling behind, this is not due to a lack of trying. In its report, Twilio.org describes the characteristics of organizations at different stages of digital communication maturity.
Those developing digital skills or just beginning their journey also recognized the importance of better digital communication with program participants in Twilio’s report. Four in five said they were critical to their mission (96% of digital leaders said the same).
No matter what stage organizations are currently in, investing in digital communications for their program participants will always be critical to their future success. Three-quarters of companies say they plan to invest more in digital communications technology in 2022, including 92% of digital leaders.
Funding is a challenge, but with funding available, including through the Twilio.org Impact Fund, charities should be able to secure the help they need to grow their communications strategy and improve engagement with their audiences. It’s not always easy, but it’s worth the effort.
For example, fundraising for technology adoption can be most effective when charities partner with their suppliers, like Tarjimly, a nonprofit that helps refugees, did with Twilio. Twilio’s technology is now used in Tarjimly’s program delivery.
Creating a long-term strategy for technology is also important for charities looking to raise funds for it. It shows funders your commitment to embedding digital data and that the solutions you choose are not a flash in the pan, ensuring longer-term support.
While lack of resources and funding will always be a factor in how quickly an organization is able to fully leverage digital technology, being able to meet your audiences where they are is just as important for effective communication . In this way, charities can reach more people more efficiently and only with relevant and targeted communications. Not a word is wasted.
The report identifies digital leaders from across the sector who are already adopting this strategy, such as For example, the civil rights organization Democracy Works, which texted eligible voters with voter registration forms and maps of the local polling station, encouraging them to vote. Part of what made Democracy Work’s work so effective was that they understood the channels of the people they wanted to connect with.
Twilio points to another example from Debt Free London, a charity that offers free, impartial debt advice. In 2020 Debt Free London, like many charities, had to close its physical advice centres. In order to continue to meet the demand for their services, they had to do so remotely and stay in touch with the 21 partner organizations across the city.
Working with Twilio, Debt Free London has developed a technical solution without the need for a large in-house technical team. It was able to set up a modern contact center in a matter of days, distributing messages across multiple channels including video, WhatsApp, email, Facebook Messenger and SMS.
“Thanks to their newfound digital freedom and accessibility, Debt Free London has been able to hire more staff and dramatically extend their opening hours to be available 24/7 to help more people in the UK with free financial advice when they need it most.” report closes.
The charity sector already understands the importance of communicating digitally with its program participants – many have already seen the payoff. But the next step is to bring all charities to the same level. It requires investment, but most importantly, a clear understanding of who you are trying to reach.