OPINION: Building back better demands a digital revolution

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OPINION: Building back better demands a digital revolution

Philanthropists and foundations must do more to enable communal organisations to improve their online output, argues Michelle Mitchell


Earlier this month, the annual Charity Digital Skills report was published. A whopping 82% of charities have said that they see digital as a greater priority than they did pre-pandemic with 72% actively working towards some form of digital progression.

But the barriers to this are numerous with 40% requiring funding and 38% identifying the need to upskill staff and volunteers to achieve their digital ambitions. A particular challenge is in the area of data usage, management and analysis with very little progress seen in organisations’ capabilities compared to 2020.

The Jewish charity sector is no exception. Through our Digital Development Programme, the JLC has been working alongside eight other organisations (both JLC members and non-members) to benchmark digital maturity using the NCVOs Digital Maturity Matrix and then set digital goals. On average, the nine organisations involved (including the JLC) have benchmarked themselves at 41% digital maturity with grand ambitions to reach a target of 73%. Our greatest area of strength is in Security and Data Protection, and we require greatest improvements across Data and Insights (i.e. how we gather, use and analyse data to inform our operations).

Reaching our goals will require real focus, and we have worked together to identify several areas of ambition that we have in common.  Over the next six months, the JLC will be offering training and consultancy across these areas, and at the end of the year, we will re-take the Digital Maturity Matrix, so we can see how far we have come.

Our offering includes; developing a digital marketing strategy, measuring the effectiveness of digital output, driving impact and IT security advice alongside CST. We have also been gathering information on the digital tools and systems used across community organisations to create a Communal Software Directory. This can be utilised alongside emerging “user groups” to aid peer learning and networking around specific platforms.

This will become increasingly relevant as charities continue to be impacted by the cost-of-living crisis, having to balance heightened demands on services, with rising costs and funds just not stretching as far as they have done previously. We know from past crises that having robust, compliant, data sharing policies and platforms in place can ensure effective and joined up services in an emergency, and that by working together we might be able to achieve some economies of scale.

Whilst it can understandably feel necessary to reduce overhead budgets, if we are to try to “build back better,” we must continue to invest in digital. Funders can help with this, with NPC calling in their recent report “Confronting the Cost of Living Crisis” for philanthropists and foundations to give more, with less restrictions and invest in building grantees’ capacity. The JLC are also willing to play our part in supporting the community at this time, connecting and coordinating the sector whilst retaining space for long term opportunity and innovation, and hope that others will choose to do so alongside us.

  • Michelle Mitchell is Head of Strategic Collaboration at the JLC. To learn more about their Digital Development Project please email michelle.mitchell@thejlc.org
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