Charities are lagging in digital adoption and investing in digital technology, with small ones falling the furthest behind, according to the first-ever digital skills survey on Canada’s charitable sector.
CanadaHelps, the country's largest platform for donating and fundraising online, was responsible for the survey. It provides critical baseline data on the digital health of Canada's charitable sector and was designed to understand the current use of technology, as well as assess potential barriers to the adoption of digital technology and advancement of digital skills.
More than 1,400 Canadian charities responded to the survey between Feb. 2 and 14. Among its key findings were:
- One in three charities believe they’ll soon find it harder to continue their work if they don’t improve their digital capabilities.
- Fifty-eight per cent of charities with less than $100,000 in annual revenue (which is 50 per cent of all charities) have no plans to integrate digital into everyday activities. That percentage is more than double that of larger charities.
- The majority of charities believe digital adoption is important, yet more than two-thirds of them indicate that adopting digital technology is a lower priority.
“This report reveals the daily tug-of-war that most charities in Canada face in terms of the ability to prioritize digital skills adoption,” CanadaHelps president and chief executive officer Marina Glogovac said in a media release.
“There is a willingness to expand the adoption of digital technologies, especially among the smallest of organizations. However, without material support from the government and funders for charities to invest in developing a strategic digital plan and acquire essential skills and technology, the survival of many charities is at risk.”
A report based on the survey revealed that more than 55 per cent of respondents say they either don’t have enough funding or the skills, expertise and knowledge for greater use of digital tools.
In response to questions pertaining to experience using software and digital tools, the majority of charities said they only use software for general office operations and financial reporting. Fewer use software and digital tools for applications such as websites, email marketing, digital accessibility and project management tools, which could support fundraising and capacity-building.
Most charities rated their digital skill level as fair or poor, highlighting a significant skills gap. More than 40 per cent of respondents acknowledged they require help to understand the benefits of software and digital tools.
The report calls on government action to advocate for and strengthen the charitable sector. It notes there’s no home in government to advocate for, strengthen and grow the impact of charities.
“We believe that for charities to stay relevant and to achieve the benefits that digital transformation can deliver, they need to see a clear path forward through greater investment from government and funders,” said Glogovac.
“Charities desperately need the same support provided to Canadian businesses. Without concerted and immediate government action, many charities will not bridge the skill, funding, and staffing gaps to keep pace in today’s digital world.”
CanadaHelps is a charitable foundation working to increase giving in Canada through technology. Its website provides a one-stop destination for making donations, fundraising or learning about any charity in Canada.
The organization also develops affordable fundraising technology and provides free training and education for charities so that, regardless of size, they have the capacity to increase their impact.
More than three million Canadians have donated more than $1.9 billion to charities using CanadaHelps since it was founded in 2000.