The Charity Digital Code: how leading by example breeds success - Thorne Widgery

In the fourth part of our Charity Digital Code series, we’ll be looking at the second defining principle of digital best practice: leadership.

If you missed any of our previous blogs in this series, catch up using our newsfeed or social media pages.

So, what is digital leadership and how can charities put it into practice?

As defined by the code, charity leaders “must lead on digital as a way of helping their charities be relevant and sustainable”.

In practice, this is a largely strategic and governance issue. Digital technology itself is a means of increasing the impact of a charity, from fundraising to increasing the efficiency of an organisation.

Ideally, a charity leader, or an established leadership team, should understand how digital works and what types of technology can be implemented to help their charity achieve its objectives (for example, social media, a website or a mobile app). This means starting from the very top, with charities ideally selecting CEOs and charity board members with a high level of digital awareness.

Understanding the benefits of technology will be greatly advantageous in a charity’s overall strategy. Implementing technology requires a level of investment which must represent value for money for donors. Therefore, the return on investment (ROI) should be key in all major investment decisions.

Likewise, charity leaders should understand the risks of technology, particularly in a data-driven industry such as the third sector. Therefore, trustees of a charity are ultimately responsible for ensuring that the relevant policies and procedures are in place to protect sensitive data and cybersecurity is at the forefront of digital strategy.

While social media is paramount in projecting a charity’s presence, its risks too should not be downplayed. When your charity’s reputation hangs on the balance of one inappropriate social media post, trustees should conduct due diligence on who has control of their digital platforms.

And finally, trustees should endeavour to lead by example. As the code states: “Whilst leaders and boards do not need to be digital experts, they must commit to leading by example as a sustained effort, growing their own skills, championing digital, understanding trends and best practice, understanding digital opportunities and risks for their charities, and how their organisation benchmarks against others.

“They should support and motivate colleagues to do the same. Large charities with a devolved structure should ensure that leaders at a regional or local level have the confidence, skills and mindset to lead digital change.”