Digital Transformation - 6 mistakes for charities to avoid

by Desa Markovic


Recent years have seen a huge shift in focus towards more digital ways of working, with many organisations across the non-profit sector embracing digital transformation. Despite this, the 2022 Charity Digital Skills Report found that only 56% of charities have a digital strategy in place - even though 82% of charities see digital as more of a priority as a result of the pandemic. Charities looking to take on digital development and transformation face unique challenges, with constrained budgets — as well as the perception that digital transformation is expensive — and a lack of in-house IT skills being some of the most common.

This doesn’t have to spell doom however, with careful planning digital transformation offers huge opportunities for organisations looking to maximise their impact. We’ve outlined some of the biggest pitfalls to avoid when looking at taking on this challenge.

Unclear Goals

It’s impossible to get to where you’re going if you don’t know what the destination is! Not having clear goals and objectives for what you’re trying to achieve is one of the top reasons digital transformation fails, so it’s important to spend time working out what you’re looking for to make sure you can really focus your efforts. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable and achievable, and be sure to consult with your team to make sure they’re what you really want and need.

Skill Gaps

The skills you have within your teams have a huge impact on how well you can take on and adapt to a more digital way of working. This doesn’t mean that you can’t take on digital transformation if you don’t have many (or any!) technologically literate individuals within your organisation at the moment. Making sure you have plans to upskill your team, empowering them to use any new tools or systems, is a vital part of any successful digital transformation.

Running before you can walk

Ambitious development goals are amazing! However, one of the biggest mistakes organisations make is trying to tackle all of their problems in one go. It’s worth remembering that lots of change means lots of change management.Too much change in one go, especially if it affects core systems, can easily overwhelm your users leading to poor uptake, wasted effort and frustrated teams.

Another downside of trying to tackle everything all at once is that digital development itself can often act as a catalyst for further transformation. Once you’ve got a better idea of where you can go, you may find that your ideas about what you want and need change dramatically.

While it may seem unsatisfying, opting for a phased approach with a focus on key priorities will give you a much better chance of success.

Tight Timescales

Planning, developing and adjusting to new, digital ways of working takes time, and it’s easy to underestimate how much is needed for each. It’s better to approach transformation as a continuous (and sometimes slow) process rather than a one-time set up. Setting unrealistic deadlines is a sure-fire way to overwhelm yourself, and waste effort and resources on solutions that don’t quite work for you.

Not getting everyone on board

Digital transformation usually involves changing the way that your teams work — in small and big ways. This means making sure everyone, but especially leaders, in your organisation have bought into the change and are ready to instil a digitally focussed culture across your organisation. Many organisations make the mistake of failing to clearly articulate their digital transformation strategy and its benefits, and of not involving their wider teams in the process. Internal resistance can be common, and disengaged or dis-incentivised teams make the difficult process of transition even harder.

Thinking inside the box

Taking on a change like this can be a great opportunity to shake things up. It can be tempting to focus on solutions and systems that make sense to you, and fit the way you’re used to working — especially if you’re making the switch from one digital solution to another. Don’t make the mistake of trying to recreate a system you’re familiar but unhappy with.

We’ve talked about what not to do when you’re considering taking on digital development, but that’s only half the story! If you’d like to know more about what you can do to successfully prepare for digital transformation, click the link below to grab a free ticket to our next online Charity CRM Network event on the 1st of March. We’ll be chatting through everything organisations working in the non-profit sector can do to avoid the pitfalls we’ve discussed here and ensure their digital development is as impactful as possible.

Check out our event: Preparing for Digital Transformation

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