No charity, or any organisation, can afford to go it alone in digital. Building successful partnerships with tech organisations is key. This issue comes up a lot when I talk to charity leaders and it was the topic of our latest Digital Discovery event, our community to help charity leaders discuss the opportunities and challenges they face in digital. We founded Digital Discovery in 2016 in partnership with the Charity Commission, Grant Thornton UK and Green Park.

We were lucky to have a brilliant panel at our latest event, consisting of Dominic Preston, Partner in the Technology Team at Grant Thornton UK, Mandy Johnson, CEO of the Small Charities Coalition, and Rachel Neaman, CEO of the Corsham Institute.

The panel shared a huge amount of useful insights. Here are my highlights:

  • 50% of venture capital funding goes into tech, and valuations of purpose led tech companies are huge. This could be an ideal moment for charities to partner with tech companies
  • Small charities have plenty of grassroots experience and are agile, both of which would make them great partners for tech companies
  • Both charities and tech companies should be clear on what they bring to the table. Don’t start negotiations until both sides have set out their value propositions.  And a good test of the partnership is the ability to craft shared goals

We then went into a fascinating discussion with the whole group. They raised many thought provoking points, including:

  • Charities must see themselves as an equal partner in tech partnerships. They have plenty of expertise to offer, much of which would be very valuable to partners. Charities must ask themselves what tech companies can learn from them, and vice versa
  • Should more charities approach tech companies with the specific aim of bring disrupted?
  • Working with the right tech company could increase the pace of change or metabolic rate of a charity. I’ve heard that RLSB’s partnership with Google on the Wayfindr app was a great example of this
  • Tech companies are often staffed by plenty of young and idealistic people who want to do something with a wider social purpose, who would be a great fit for charities
  • Do charities need to be bolder and more commercial in tech partnerships, and better at calling out bad practice?

A lot of really interesting ideas came out of the discussion and we’re looking forward to planning how we can take these forward.

We’re really grateful to everyone who came for all their contributions.

Thank you again to Dominic, Rachel and Mandy for sharing plenty of provocations to get the discussion going.

We’re currently planning the next year of Digital Discovery events. The events are invitation only and we invite a small group of charity leaders, so that everyone feels comfortable sharing their hopes and fears for digital. If you would like to attend, I would love to hear from you. Please drop me a line on [email protected]