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Going Digital: Five lessons for charities developing technology–based innovations

This report explores the experiences of charities that have developed digital products and services and offers top tips for charities.

This report explores the experiences of charities that have developed digital products and services and offers top tips for charities going down this route.

Key Findings

  • Digital technology presents a big opportunity for charities to increase their impact.  However, it is an underutilised tool in the sector.
  • Key issues charities face when developing digital technology include: staying focused on the end goal and not being distracted by the technology; the need for new skills; getting Trustee buy-in; bringing in the right support and partners; and planning the funding.
  • To help overcome these issues, we need to share more examples of best-practice and create guidance to demystify digital; as well as creating new and complementary funding sources dedicated to charities developing such technology.

The increased uptake and reduced cost of smartphones and other technology presents a huge opportunity for charities to reach more people and provide an enhanced service to those they already work with. 

Along with increasing reach, digital tools and services can be cheaper for charities to deliver, and personalised to specific groups. However, despite the many benefits, relatively few charities are developing digital tools and services to improve their delivery.

To explore the reasons behind this, we held a roundtable with charities that are involved in developing technology-based innovations including The BB Group, Brook, Carers UK, Catch22 and vInspired, to learn from their experiences.

Our discussion produced five practical tips for charities going down this route:

  1. Don’t let the technology distract from the end goal of creating something that benefits your users.
  2. Find a developer who is happy to co-design with your users, is affordable, and aligned with your charity’s ethos
  3. Educate people in your organisation about the innovation at the earliest stage possible
  4. Investigate what external support is available, including accelerators and incubators
  5. Plan the funding requirements to maintain momentum

The paper concludes with some recommendations for how the sector and funders can help more charities harness the benefits of technology, which we hope will prompt further discussion. 

Authors
Isabel Newman, Katie Mountain

Authors

Katie Mountain

Katie Mountain

Katie Mountain

Investment Manager

Katie joined Nesta in June 2012 as part of the Impact Investment team.  She worked across all stage of the impact investment process from initial appraisal through to deal execution ...

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Isabel Newman

Isabel Newman

Isabel Newman

Impact Investments Analyst

Isabel is an Impact Investment Analyst in the Nesta Impact Investments team. She supports all stages of the investment process from initial appraisal through to deal execution and po...

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