Are charities making digital progress and what is holding them back in 2024? 

So far, we’ve had over 300 responses to the survey for the 2024 Charity Digital Skills Report. 

We took a sneak peak at the data. We were delighted by the honesty and were surprised by the patterns we can see already. Clearly there has been a lot of progress and yet charities are facing critical challenges as a result of the cost of living crisis. 

There’s still time to share your views and you can complete the survey here until midnight on Friday 26 April. For those who completed it already, 76% say it helped them reflect on their digital progress, strengths and weaknesses. There is also a chance to win unrestricted funding of £500 for five eligible organisations and you can opt in to receive a report detailing your responses.

The insights we are sharing here are based on the first 300 responses. Of these 60% are small charities with an income under £1m, whilst 35% are large charities, with an income over £1m (5% said they don’t know or prefer not to say).


Insight 1: Larger charities are progressing faster than smaller charities

Every year, we ask people to consider what stage their organisation is at with digital from the following list, developed from the Charity Digital Journeys Research:

  • Curious: We have some digital basics in place, such as social media or remote working, and recognise we could do more
  • Starting out: We’re developing our use of digital across the organisation but we don’t have a strategy in place yet
  • Advancing: Digital is part of our strategy, but we’ve not embedded this yet. We’re investing in technology and developing our skills
  • Advanced: Digital is integral to our organisational strategy and embedded in everything we do

Note that we do not include an earlier stage of paper based or pre-curious because less than 1% selected this in previous years. From our responses so far, we can see that digital progress in small charities is varied. 

Small charities are at various digital stages

Most small charities (63%) are at the earlier stages of their digital journey, with 40% starting out and just under a quarter (23%) at the curious stage. However, it is worth recognising that over a quarter (27%) of small charities are at the advancing stage and a further 10% are at the advanced stage. This means a significant proportion (37%) of small charities are further along on their digital journey.

Large charities are mostly advancing or advanced

When we look at large charities, there is a very different picture and they look to be further ahead with digital overall. Crucially, we can see so far that 80% of large charities are advancing or advanced with digital. This is more than double the proportion of small charities (37%). Less than one in five large charities are at the early stages and only 2% say they are at the ‘curious’ stage. 

Large charities are progressing quicker than small charities

Compared to last year, there are also significantly more large charities progressing with digital. In 2023, 68% of large charities were at the advancing or advanced stage (compared to 80% so far this year). In comparison, small charities are at fairly similar stages of digital in 2024 as they were in 2023. 

Take a look at the following
interactive chart to see how small and large charities compare in terms of digital progress.

Insight 2: Capacity and squeezed finances are significant challenges 

Digital is a priority

So far, 81% of respondents say that digital is a priority for their organisation (31% say this is high and 50% say this is medium priority). However, they are struggling to progress because of the cost of living crisis. 

The cost of living crisis is a significant barrier 

The top three barriers identified so far, which are preventing moving forwards with digital are:

  1. Lack of headspace and capacity (72%)
  2. Squeezed organisational finances (70%)
  3. Finding funds to invest in devices, software and infrastructure (60%)

The scale of agreement is surprising this year, with stretched finances, a lack of capacity and finding funds to invest now affecting up to three quarters of charities. 

Last year, the biggest challenge for over half (56%) of respondents was finding the funds to invest in devices, software and infrastructure, similar to the results we are seeing this year. However last year, only 45% said they are busy firefighting and don’t prioritise digital (see our 2023 Charity Digital Skills Report). To see this rise to 72% for lack of capacity, alongside issues with finances shows the impact of the cost of living crisis. 

Interestingly the results are similar for both small and large charities, as well as for those which are at different stages of digital. However, it is worth noting the following:

Small charities struggle with finances

  • Squeezed organisational finances (75%) ia the biggest barrier small charities face
  • This is closely followed by a lack of headspace and capacity (70%) 
  • Third is finding funds to invest in devices, software and infrastructure (63%)

Large charities struggle with headspace and capacity

  • The biggest barrier in 79% of large charities is a lack of headspace and capacity
  • This is closely followed by squeezed organisational finances (66%) 
  • Third is finding funds to invest in devices, software and infrastructure (56%)

Insight 3: Charities are missing out on funding for digital costs

Charities need funding to focus on organisation development

Given the findings above, it is no surprise that 58% of charities say they most need funding for headspace and capacity for organisational development. Both small and large charities agree and give similar responses here.  A further 43% say they need to fund training for staff and volunteers on digital and data. 

Most charities do not include digital costs or projects in funding applications

Less than a third of charities (27%) say they have been able to include digital costs in grant applications. We asked everyone what prevents them from including digital costs in funding applications. 

  • 40% say they need to prioritise meeting demand and delivering current work
  • 27% say they prioritise paying the bills and other core costs
  • 26% say their typical funders do not cover digital costs
  • 24% say applications for face to face services are more likely to succeed  

Confidence, capacity and financial pressures are preventing charities from accessing funding for digital costs

We know that funders expect to see digital costs as part of their routine grantmaking and you can read more about what funders think in this article. However, there is clearly a lack of confidence amongst those applying for funding to prioritise these costs. If you want advice on preparing digital funding applications do see these Catalyst resources

What next: Missing voices

With our first 300 responses we can see a good representation across the charity sector. However we do have some significant gaps and areas where we are nearly meeting our target. Anything you can do to help by sharing or completing the survey will help and be much appreciated!

Regional representation

We are aiming for a minimum of 30 responses from each region to ensure the report findings are representative and meaningful. Ideally we need 60 responses per region to allow for meaningful analysis and to publish dedicated insights.

You can see our progress so far in our map below. This highlights that we are on track for a good representation of organisations in Scotland, Wales, London and the South East. So far, we are missing voices and would love to hear from organisations based in:

  • Northern Ireland (5 responses) 
  • North East England (16 responses)
  • East Midlands (15 responses) 
  • East of England (16 responses)

Organisations led by specific groups

When looking at equality, diversity and inclusion, we still have some gaps (find out more about our approach and terminology in this blog post). We are aiming for 30 responses from the groups we’ve identified to ensure representation. Where we reach 60 responses, we can undertake meaningful analysis and publish dedicated insights for that group. 

So far, a third of our responses are from organisations led by people with lived experience of the issue they address (33%) which is fantastic. 

You can see from our visual where we are missing responses. 

Can you help us reach the following groups, where we are closest to meeting our target for both representation and meaningful analysis? 

  • Black led organisations (32 responses so far)
  • Organisations led by (and for) neurodivergent people (30 responses so far)
  • Organisations led by and for older people (30 responses so far)
  • Organisations led by LGBTQIA+ people (25 responses so far) or a main target group of LGBTQIA+ people (53 responses)
  • Organisations with a main target group of Asylum seekers, Refugees and Migrants (57 responses so far) or led by this group (5 responses)

Can you help?

At a sector level, the importance of gathering data and sharing insights on digital skills, support, and funding needs cannot be overstated. These insights provide a roadmap for those providing funding, services and support. Everything will tell us will help us make the case to funders and decision makers about what needs to change. 

We’d be really grateful if you could take the survey, which is open until midnight on Friday 26 April. 

And if you’ve already taken it, we would really appreciate it if you could spread the word. 

Remember- anything you can do to help us will make a difference . 

Take the Charity Digital Skills Report survey here. The deadline for responses is Friday 26 April. 

Author – Nissa Ramsay, Think Social Tech