It’s Spring 2020 and people’s lives in all parts of the world are being affected by the Covid 19 Pandemic.
The short and medium term effects, including changes in how we use technology, are likely to go on for some months.
The long term effects will go on for years.
Video conferencing using Zoom
In our sector, people who never used video conferencing before this pandemic are having to suddenly get their heads around the various platforms in order to have meetings, deliver services, keep helping their beneficiaries.
Zoom, a platform developed for business purposes, for big organisations with IT departments, seems to have become the goto platform. At the end of April 2020 more than 300m people were logging on to use it every day.
Internet evangelist and social videographer John Popham observed about the Zoom phenomenon:
And this is where we come in with some more information about alternatives to Zoom.
Most people will have heard of these others of course, but it might be a good reminder of what they can do, and a chance to reconsider which platform is most suited to our needs.
No IT department?
If you’re not a big organisation with an IT department, other video calling options as alternatives to Zoom are available:
Google Hangouts Meet – free group video call with up to 10 people, group chats (typing text) for up to 150 people – here’s a good article about how to use hangouts including how it works if you don’t have a Google account
RnR Organisation was delighted to see the involvement of WM Funders Network (WMFN) in the 1st national data4good conference in 2018.
We saw it as a potential opportunity for others attending the conference to influence WMFN members in how they may use data in their own organisations. During the event, some funder representative attendees expressed an increased interest in the uses of data, even if their organisation hasn’t currently got staff resource to engage in such development.
Smaller funders, data and data sharing
Smaller funders do not always see the benefits of data, and data sharing, and WMFN also has members for whom the cost of paying to attend events like this might be an issue. Combining attendance at this important event as part of their annual membership package was a bonus for them.
Engagement opportunities for conference delegates
Access to fifteen local funder representatives meant the opportunity for other conference attendees to, amongst other things:
Expose funders to messages about what conference organising partners and other delegates would like them to do with their data and the data from their beneficiaries Encourage funders to share their data and demonstrate how to do it Encourage funders to get charities/groups they fund to share their data Encourage collaboration (WMFN will continue to support member organisations in the West Midlands, including around data, and other regional funders networks could do likewise) Impact evidence of including smaller funders
Future steps with funders and data for good
As conference partners and others have written about the merits to the sector of getting more funders to share and explore their data, thus supporting the decision to encourage funders to attend the conference, this decision enabled a wider and better-informed breadth of discussion to take place.
We hope to see an increasing number of funders at future data for good events.
There is good impact evidence to back up the participation of small funders with information in articles like these:
We’ve been talking about charity data for a few years, working to increase data literacy and data sharing in and around our sector. We were one of the nine partners in the first Data for Good conference in Birmingham in 2018.
The conversation around data and it’s use by charities is developing so we decided to collate some of the resources we have come across and/or used. We’d be pleased to hear about others.
Sources and links to information on data about and for charities
Charitybase – free, open source database, API and web app which provides public information on the activities, locations and finances of the 168,000 charities registered in England and Wales.
CharityChoice – charity directory, providing detailed information on over 160,000 registered UK charities
Grantnav, 360 Giving – supports organisations to publish their grants data in an open, standardised way and helps people to understand and use the data to support decision-making and learning across the charitable giving sector.
Housing Databank June 2019, Shelter – brings together government data on housing need, supply, affordability and other issues at a local, regional and national level.
UK Civil Society Almanac 2019, NCVO , 2019 – definitive resource on the state of the voluntary sector. The Almanac produces insights on what voluntary organisations do, their income and spending, workforce, volunteers and the sector’s impact
360 Giving – charity which helps UK funders publish open, standardised grants data, and empowers people to use it to improve charitable giving.
Charity Digital – charity which helps other charities accelerate their missions using digital technology
Datakind UK – charity which supports charities and social enterprises large and small to work on and with their data using data science
NCVO – infrastructure organisation which champions the voluntary sector and volunteering
NPC – charity which supports charities, philanthropists, funders and social enterprises to maximise their social impact.
Operational Research Society – charity which helps inform strategic, tactical and operational decisions as well as assisting in the design of public policy.
Pro Bono Economics – charity helping charities and social enterprises improve their impact and value
Royal Statistical Society – charity which advocates the key role of statistics and data in society, working to ensure that policy formulation and decision making are informed by evidence for the public good.
Where are England’s charities? by Dan Corry, 16th Jan 2020, npc – author uses data to ask if the current distribution of charities around the country is what we would want in an ideal world and explores what government, funders and charities could do about it.
The mapshows all 13,653 charities that were registered with the Charity Commission in September 2016, and had registered with a postcode that falls within the West Midlands.
The layers tab on the right allows for filtering by category of activity (proportional by income), the search function on the left searches by charity name.
The layers are ordered by frequency of type (with 82 umbrella bodies and 2383 religious orgs).
James Bowles made this map following a suggestion by Pauline Roche from RnR Organisation.
Pauline recognised how useful such a map would be, not only for all the charities on the map, but also for existing and potential funders, including individuals who might want to support a charity in their area.
Nissa and I explored the most effective use cases for the Yoti app (which verifies legal identities or key personal details, like age) among UK charities.
We also explored the use cases for Yoti Keys, Yoti’s offline solution, which is a product in development that enables charities to register and subsequently identify people accessing their services without needing a smartphone, documentation or connectivity.
You can find more information about Yoti’s social purpose here.
How charities got involved
We told people who worked for charities based and working in the UK that we’d love to hear from them.
We were particularly interested in hearing from them if they had a need to legally identify people.
We also wanted to hear from people who could potentially use the offline Key to help prevent people from having to tell their story every time they access a service, or to help their organisation better manage and monitor people’s interactions with their service .
What happened next
The research ended in late September 2018, with a first look at our findings coming out later that year.
Nissa’s insights from the research were published here.
Yoti continues to work towards delivering the best possible products and services for UK charities. More about their social purpose here
Net Squared Midlands is relaunching on September 20th 2018 with a new development plan for bi-monthly meetups.
Net Squared Midlands, organised by Pauline Roche and Ted Ryan from RnR Organisation, is a tech for social good group with regular free events for people interested in using the web or mobile technology for social good. It’s part of a global NetSquared movement of innovators in more than 70 cities around the world, including Birmingham.
Ted said: “In developing Net Squared Midlands, we aim to build a sector that knows how to use technology more efficiently in order to help their beneficiaries, explore the specific issues and activities not financed through many tech for good funding streams, increase the efficiency and productivity of our sector e.g. automate repetitive tasks, and to build a creative and collaborative digital mindset in the sector”
Sam Reader, of new tech startup Wondr, who has recently become a member of Net Squared Midlands, said: “I think what RnR Organisation is doing, to help charities and non-profits is a great approach and very meaningful. Our team are also passionate about connecting people with others, to share useful information for positive action so I look forward to being involved with Net Squared Midlands.”
Net Squared Midlands is one of 4 themed areas of work undertaken by RnR Organisation, under the Tech for Good and Data for Good banners. They also publish a free monthly e-bulletin (Digital WM News), organise the unconference for voluntary sector infrastructure organisations (VCSSCamp), and Pauline chairs the regional funders network (WM Funders Network).
By Alize Cyril, LucyInnovation blog, 27th April 2017
“…What most charities can do now with big data is to use the information to find out what activities interest the public. With this information, fundraising activities can be tweaked to fit market trends and consumer spending habits. For example, if big data says that charity runs are much better fundraisers than bingo, for instance, then charities can test these trends for their supporters in order to yield better results….”
“…Charities, often at the frontline of service provision, are in an excellent position to collect and release data related to their own finances as well as their operations, such as numbers and breakdown of beneficiaries and volunteers they work with. A great example is the data released by the Trussel Trust about the foodbanks they run.
This is an opportunity for charities to:
lead the way by becoming more transparent
showcase the value of their work and the need for what they do.
Combined with local authority and government data, this evidence can enable policy makers to better assess specific, often multifaceted social issues…”
“Big data is disrupting how we date, consume media and shop online. But can an algorithm predict the causes that matter to us? What variables impact someone’s propensity to give?…” Includes link to JustGiving’s “Get your free beginners guide to data and fundraising”
“…The work non-profits do is more crucial than ever, especially as government funding for many social programs plummets and the gap between haves and have-nots widens. But keeping such organizations afloat has also gotten challenging as budgets shrink and donor numbers dwindle. These realities have convinced some insiders that smart data is the secret sauce non-profits need to up their game. And if non-profits get savvier and more effective, donors and participants could benefit, too. When you give to a worthy cause, research shows, your brain gets happy, and committed volunteers enjoy a “helper’s high,” reporting better health and more life satisfaction than non-volunteers.
For non-profits to pull off major social transformation, says consultant George Weiner, they need to start thinking more like their data-conscious for-profit peers: “We’re not trying to sell widgets, but we are trying to sell volunteerism.” Weiner, founder of the Brooklyn-based Whole Whale agency, is one of a band of experts imparting an urgent message to non-profits: If you’re a would-be world changer, 1840s technology isn’t going to cut it much longer…”
ABSTRACT: This paper briefly considers the opportunities and limitations of Big Data approaches to the study of the charitable sector in the UK. First a consideration of the core features and concerns surrounding Big Data is provided. A number of research projects that are characterised as or analogous to Big Data techniques are then described. In particular, there will be a focus on the potential research use of administrative data held by the Scottish regulator of charities, OSCR, and national surveys such as the Scottish Household Survey. Finally, the paper reflects on further potential of Big Data approaches for research on the voluntary sector.
“Big data – the gathering and analysis of large sets of figures – is playing an increasing part in business decision-making. Jenna Pudelek finds out, with two case studies, how it can help make charities more effective…”
“The concept of big data – the huge volume of data that our increasingly digital and traceable lives generate – can be intimidating to small charities. And for those struggling to keep afloat in a crowded and uncertain market, worrying about it is simply not a priority. But big data can be just as relevant for smaller organisations in the sector as it is for larger ones…”
The report concentrates on small businesses but it does have a very useful section on charities, especially useful for us being the data about charities in the regions – the two digital demographics diagrams for small businesses and charities are below
(1) Small businesses
The other key source of regional data about charities/voluntary organisations is the NCVO Almanac 2018
It’s a very open call for ideas, although there are four suggested themes.
A group from the public sector and voluntary sector with an interest in digital transformation and digital growth in the charitable sector discussed this at our Net Squared Midlands: Tech for good event in Birmingham in January 2016 and responded with the bullet points below:
1) Unlocking digital growth
Every business and every charity can benefit from using digital technology, but for many of the smaller charities and micro community groups that we work with there are huge leaps needed to make digital transformation happen.
Corporate Social Responsibly – could larger businesses provide digital employee volunteering and mentoring services, brokered through the national network of well established local Volunteer Centres and Councils for Voluntary Service?
Whilst many staff in charities may be comfortable with using their smart phone to go on-line or conduct on-line transactions, the organisations they work for often aren’t at the same level, or don’t have the same infrastructure to make access to government services easy. Many charity websites are not responsive or mobile friendly and others are out of date, poorly designed or non-existent.
Simple transactions Government procurement is seen as being very bureaucratic and a barrier that small charities often with limited digital skills and capacity struggle to engage with. There is a need for more information sharing and awareness raising of what the third sector can (and can’t do) digitally as part of a strategic relationship with government.
Simpler commissioning models are needed, maybe with a group of third sector organisations collaborating on contract submission to “Government As A Platform”. ”; info sharing with public sector – lack of knowledge;
Relevant activities that promote digital inclusion should be available at the point of need for individuals who use the services of charities, (e.g. Rough sleepers, single parents etc). Taking time out of running a small community group to assist a user undertake “computer classes” is not sufficient and can be off putting when the environment used is a school or classroom which may have unpleasant memories.
Help citizens to understand what their devices can actually do.
Will e-learning and MOOCs ever really catch on in the third sector?
Unlike public or health sectors where training is compulsory and e-learning has been found to be a very cost effective way to deliver this information, no such requirement exists for many tasks in voluntary organisation.
See Run A Club platform for skills development & administration of small community sports groups Run a Club packages
For some people leading chaotic personal lives there is a need for “pre basic digital skills”, mentors who can explain the reasons why being a part of the digital society is important. Vitally they also need to mentor and ensure that those farthest from being digitally active retain their connection, remember their e-mail address or government portal passwords.
Within voluntary sector organisations there should be a drive to recruit and sustain further digital champions, staff who can help their peers, volunteers and trustees or board members.
Of the 160,045 voluntary organisations in England, 83.1% are small or micro organisations with less than £100,000 income per year. It is these organisations that are most at risk of being left behind digitally and which this strategy needs to accommodate.
The digital framework and basic digital skills developed by Go On UK [now doteveryone] goes part way to helping organisations, but needs to cover the strategic digital transformation issues an organisation has to consider in order to build strong foundations.
Organisations prioritise service delivery over technology, which for a small charity is often the best use of limited resources and capacity, but basic ‘good practice’ cannot be ignored. Digital Fundamentals which must be embedded in the way organisations work, employ staff with digital skills and recruit volunteers to help their cause include:
Demystifying ‘the cloud’ and the efficiency saving that this form of working can bring to an organisation, its staff and trustee boards.
Being more aware of the many social media tools that help a charity raise its game, increase fundraising and promote its message to a wider audience.
Charities need to be directly aware of the National Cyber Security Programme as many don’t adequately protect their data files, use paper based filing systems or fail to back-up databases and don’t use anti-virus and other basic tools which could keep their digital assets safe.
Access to impartial advice about the best digital tools and products, not those linked to a particular supplier or solution e.g. http://www.connectingcare.org.uk
There are some worrying statistics from the 2015 Lloyds Bank UK Business Digital Index [updated annually]which tracks digital adoption among small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) and charities:
· 58% of charities lack basic digital skills (23% of SMEs), up from 55% last year
· 28% of charities think that they’re doing all they can online
· Over 50% of charities do not believe that having a website would help increase their funding and nearly 70% say the same about social media
· 55% of charities think that the knowledge level at board level is lacking.
· One-quarter (25%) of all organisations surveyed (SMEs and charities) believe digital is ‘irrelevant’ to them.[i]
And this list of technical equipment and events is exactly what is needed by many smaller organisations:
A national charitable funder ran a pilot programme recently which was to help charities use technology to create change in the lives of certain groups in society. There were a number of things which the funder said this programme would not cover and these were:
· Upgrading of internal IT systems
· Large-scale capital costs
· Updating of websites and routine social media campaigns
· Exploration events or hack days
· Staff or volunteer training
· Capacity-building to make an organisation more ‘digital ready’
As an organisation which believes in the need for the digital transformation of civic society, we think this is a handy list of work which does need to be funded by some funder(s) and we aim to identify and seek dialogue with funders who will fund these areas.[ii]
In summary it is vital to see increased opportunities for face to face networking with other Digital Leaders in the charity sector where exchange of information is possible and all share a common understanding. We have found it possible to gain knowledge of how to build a strong digital foundation by learning from one another in familiar surroundings and from people they trust in similar situations to them.