Melanie May | 23 August 2021 | News
81% of charities changed how they use digital technology during the pandemic, leading to changes in accessibility and skills required by staff, volunteers, and service users.
The latest data (from July 2021) comes from the ninth monthly Covid-19 Voluntary Sector Impact Barometer, led by the NCVO, Nottingham Trent University, and Sheffield Hallam University. It reveals that 82% of 350 respondents reported their staff using digital technology to work or volunteer remotely – up from 41% pre-pandemic.
While the changes have led to some improvements in service accessibility, with 45% reporting an improvement as result of their online operations, 17% reported a reduction.
73% also said that the level of digital skills needed by staff and volunteers in their work had increased as a result of the changes. New skills required include in teleconferencing such as Microsoft Teams, Skype or Zoom (17%), email communication (9%), online security (9%), and handling online transactions (7%).
There are some barriers however to increasing or improving use of digital technology. The most reported were:
Anya Martin, research and insight manager at NCVO, said:
“The last year has been a huge challenge for many voluntary organisations, especially those who deliver face-to-face services. For some, it has meant a total closure of operations for almost the entire year, preventing them from delivering their services and from generating income. Others have had to adapt the services they provide to ensure that their staff and people who use their services are safe.
“As always, we’ve seen charities respond creatively to the challenges. Most notably there was a huge uptake in the usage of digital technology – both for frontline service delivery and for back office uses. Many organisations used the crisis as a catalyst to develop better and more efficient services. The past year has been a challenge, but voluntary organisations have risen to it and gained valuable learning and expertise in the process.
“While progress still needs to be made, the data in this month’s report offers promising insights into charities potential future in the digital space, and the opportunities technology can offer for improving service accessibility beyond the pandemic.”
Daniel King, professor of organisational behaviour at Nottingham Trent University and project lead, added:
“The Covid-19 pandemic for many charities and community groups has seen dramatic shifts in the way that they operate, with most undergoing significant levels of digitalisation. Whilst for many this has been challenging, it has also opened up new ways to deliver services, run meetings and develop new ways of working, some of which will be taken up beyond the pandemic.
“The pandemic has shown some of the possibilities and limitations of digital working and service delivery, but investment is required to really capitalise on these changes if the sector is really able to build on the learning for the last 18 months.”
In addition to the digital changes revealed in the Barometer, respondents to July’s survey also indicated a mixed financial picture once again for charities. 27% of respondents said their finances deteriorated, while 26% saw their finances improve – similar to the previous month’s figures.
The previous month’s Barometer focused on EDI, revealing that the majority of charities (79%) have plans to address EDI but that the impact of the pandemic and lack of resources are hindering efforts, with barriers including limited financial resources, staffing capacity and lack of relevant skills.
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About Melanie May
Melanie May is a journalist and copywriter specialising in writing both for and about the charity and marketing services sectors since 2001. She can be reached via www.thepurplepim.com.
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