Text saying The Charity Digital Skills Report on a blue background with an image of orange flowers

This is a guest blog written by Eshe Kiama Zuri and Nissa Ramsay. In this post we explain our focus on diversity, equality and inclusion in the 2023 Charity Digital Skills Report. We also outline our language, terms and approach to identifying specific groups and diverse communities. Please note that we have updated this blog for the 2024 survey. 

We recently launched the 2023 Charity Digital Skills Survey (complete it here). It is open to all UK social sector organisations. In the survey, you will see that we ask about digital in a very holistic way. We ask questions about specific digital skills and IT provision, along with board and leadership skills.

We have also asked about and renewed our focus on diversity, equality and inclusion. One of the key aims of the survey is to identify what support and funding the sector needs in order to move forward with digital. To do this, we’d like to find out if some groups within the sector have experienced barriers to funding or support, so we can make the case for the help that is needed. This requires compelling data. 

In 2022 we used the DEI Data Standard to capture monitoring data and target outreach. As a result, we know we lack representation of specific groups. This means we cannot compare groups or publish specific insights. We know we need to look beyond common DEI language. We want to bring in more diverse voices to the survey and ask more inclusive questions. 

This year Nissa Ramsay and Zoe Amar (who co-author the report) worked with consultant Eshe Kiama Zuri (see www.eshekiamazuri.com). Nissa leads on the survey questions design. Eshe reviewed the equality, diversity and inclusion language, as well as supporting the targeted user testing and outreach. This post outlines our choices. 

It’s important to note that no terms are perfect. We do not claim that these are the terms that should be used as the standard. We will continue to seek feedback on these with the intention that all respondents feel included and able to share their experiences in the survey.

Why we focus on specific groups

The social sector and the funding available needs to be more inclusive. 

Research and campaigns (such as Ubele, CharitySoWhite, CharitySo Straight) highlight the impact of institutional racism, power and inequality. This is resulting in chronic underfunding for some groups and challenges with organisational development. 

There are funders working collectively to address these inequalities. Examples include the Funders Racial Equality Alliance and the DEI Data Standard. There are also funders looking to better support racial diversity, groups with lived experience, black-led organisations and communities experiencing racial inequality.  

On the back of this, we chose to focus on a small number of specific groups for the survey. We chose these because they face barriers to accessing funding. Some align with the DEI Data Standard. We also tailored these based on user feedback and consultation with our consultant, Eshe Kiama Zuri. We did need to revise some of the language and terms we originally intended to use, in order to make them accessible to those who may be unfamiliar. 

We hope that these groups, as well as the language we use to describe them will enable us to collect meaningful data. We want to make sure:

  • The language makes sense to participants
  • The groups make sense to participants
  • The groups will enable stakeholders to act on the survey findings  
  • We can collect enough data to analyse and report on (over 30 responses)

We have also added new open questions about experiences of discrimination and funding. These are optional, allowing people to share their experiences in their own words. 

Our language and terminology

In the survey, we have asked about the core purpose of the organisation to serve the following groups, whether the organisation is led by the following groups. 

  • Black communities
  • Other racialised communities 
  • Asylum seekers, Refugees and Migrants
  • d/Deaf, disabled and/or neurodiverse people 
  • People experiencing domestic violence and abuse
  • LGBTQIA+ people
  • Marginalised genders
  • We provide infrastructure, research, policy, network, support or services to other organisations
  • Not applicable
  • Another group not identified here (please specify)

When completing the survey, it is possible to tick multiple options. Using options that can overlap rather than exclusionary single options means that we can collate precise data on the communities that we are focusing on. These questions are mainly relevant to organisations providing frontline services. To this end, we included an option for those providing other types of services. This ensures responses are relevant.  

Black communities

We have differentiated between Black communities and other racialised communities as it is important to identify that Black communities experience both general racial oppression and targeted racial oppression (as anti-Blackness). Charity Commission data shows that Black people are poorly represented on charity boards and 92% of trustees are white, older, and above-average income and education. Ubele and Centre Black also highlight how Black-led organisations operate in an environment of structural inequality. 

However due to the amalgamation of Black communities with all other racialised groups under the term BAME/BME communities, there is a lack of data that is specific to Black communities and black-led nonprofit organisations. Following the pledges that were made to Black communities from 2020 (after George Floyd was murdered), we want to see if there have been any changes to the digital needs these groups may have. 

When we use the term Black, we are speaking of people of Black African or African-Caribbean descent.

Other racialised communities

When we use the term other racialised communities we mean people who experience racial oppression but who are not of Black African or African-Caribbean descent.

In using the term other racialised communities, we are trying to move away from BAME/BME, which is an increasingly outdated term. Using the term racialised communities allows more space for all people who are racialised to be included, as not everyone is comfortable with or included under alternatives such as people of colour (POC).

For this year’s survey, we are not requiring data from specific groups other than Black communities, or we would have made the appropriate distinctions. This may change for future surveys.

Asylum seekers, Refugees and Migrants

An asylum seeker is an individual who is seeking international protection. An asylum seeker is someone whose claim has not yet been finally decided on by the country in which they have submitted it. Not every asylum seeker will be recognised as a refugee. A refugee is someone unable to return to their home country and has been granted international protection. Migrants are people who have left their home country either by choice or who may have left for their own safety, but for whatever reason are not classed as asylum seekers or refugees in the UK.

d/Deaf, disabled and/or neurodiverse people 

We are using the term d/Deaf, disabled and/or neurodiverse as opposed to the single term disabled. d/Deaf represents lower case deaf, which often is seen as people who have significant hearing loss, are hard of hearing or may have other hearing loss. Upper case Deaf is often seen as culturally Deaf, with people who may have been born Deaf or who actively engage in the Deaf community. 

Disabled is used as an umbrella term for physical, mental and chronic disabilities. 

We use neurodiverse to encompass the diversity in people that are neurodivergent. This is inclusive of people with neurodiverse conditions, whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, such as autism, ADHD, Tourettes, dyslexia, dyspraxia etc. It also encompasses those who identify under the term neurodivergent and/or neurodiverse.

People experiencing domestic violence and abuse

We use the term ‘people’ here to acknowledge that all people can experience domestic violence and abuse in their life. Commonly the term used would be ‘women and girls experiencing domestic violence and abuse’. But, this does not represent the full experience of domestic violence and abuse to all people. If you work specifically with marginalised genders who experience domestic violence and abuse then you can check both options. And the same with any other representation of communities experiencing domestic violence and abuse.

LGBTQIA+ people

We use the expanded term LGBTQIA+ that represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual and agender plus all other identities that fall under the LGBTQIA+ umbrella.

Marginalised genders

Under the umbrella term marginalised genders, we are including: 

  • cisgender, intersex and transgender women and girls
  • non-binary and agender people
  • intersex and transgender men
  • and anyone else who faces or has previously faced sexism or gender based oppression

Rather than using the term women and girls, we have opted for marginalised genders, as it looks at all people who experience sexism/ gender based inequality. We commonly see that intersex and transgender women or other non-cisgender women are not included when using the term women and girls. Non-binary people and intersex and transgender men also can currently or may previously have experienced sexism/ gender based inequality and are included with the terminology marginalised genders, whereas they would also be excluded by the use of women and girls. 

Focusing on small organisations

The Charity Digital Skills Report 2022 highlighted that small UK charities face specific challenges around tech, digital and data. This year we have undertaken user testing with small groups to ensure our questions are inclusive of their experiences. We will continue to explore differences in digital skills according to size. 

Welsh Charities

Last year, Welsh charities and organisations based in Wales in the 2022 were under represented. This was compounded by confusion over location questions about office locations and remote working during Covid (these have been clarified and simplified). 

We have created a Cymraeg (Welsh) translation of the survey, to adhere to the right to Welsh language access. This has been made possible by additional support we will be receiving from Catalyst. We have just launched the Welsh translation of the survey which you can take here.

We intend to provide further insights on any variations in digital skills between each country (if we achieve enough responses). 

Providing support through the survey

We very much appreciate the time that participants put into the Charity Digital Skills Report. We also try to promote diversity and inclusion in the following ways. 

  • This year, organisations can win one of four prizes of £800 unrestricted funding, thanks to support from Catalyst. To be eligible, organisations must have an annual income of up to £1 million in their last financial year. Eligible organisations can also gain two additional entries to the prize draw by sharing the survey. 
  • We provide links to further support and guidance throughout the survey
  • We have changed the questions to ensure they make sense to participants, based on user testing. We also used the Hemingway App to help make our writing bold and clear.

Help us do more 

Please complete the survey and / or share with other relevant UK based organisations! You can find it on our website

We hear anecdotally that the survey creates time to reflect and to think more about their digital approach. Some learn about new aspects of digital as a result. 

If you want to give feedback about the survey or how you have used the report we do have an impact survey.

If you do have any feedback, or want to discuss this with us, please do get in touch.