The Digital Challenge: Rising Investment but Obstacles to Overcome

Organisations in every sector have been working to maximise opportunities presented by digital developments whilst others have been wrestling with the challenges created.

In the charity world, some organisations resource digital minimally whilst others have introduced far-reaching transformation programmes. The members of THINK’s Digital Forum have recently participated in a benchmarking study to find out how national (UK-wide) charities are resourcing digital.

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The benchmarking exercise found that the average national charity had six staff with responsibility for digital communications, engagement and fundraising. This team is led by a Head whose responsibilities include but are not exclusively digital. Supporting the Head will be two Managers and three Executives all focusing on digital.

Nine out of ten national charities reported increased digital headcount in the past 18 months. The same number indicated that they plan to increase their headcount further in the next 18 months; some of these are likely to be increasingly specialist roles.

Salaries for senior roles are competitively benchmarked against the market recognising the value of the experience and specialist skills required.  However, remuneration for the roles at Manager and Executive level vary and often fall short. Eden Brown charity recruitment report that staff at Manager/Executive level have on average an “18 month lifecycle” in their role.

At the time of writing there are almost 200 digital roles advertised on Charity Job, Third Sector and the Guardian. Recruitment in this candidate short market is difficult and will become even more challenging with more opportunities available.

Going forward retention strategies and enhanced inductions, to make new employees productive sooner will become more important, as will ensuring salaries are competitively benchmarked. After all, how can any strategy be implemented with a continually changing workforce?

Position in Organisation

Digital teams are unlikely to be positioned in the fundraising directorate. In 44.5% of charities the digital team is placed in the communications directorate and a further 44.5% in directorates responsible for both fundraising and communications.

Teams are together in one central unit in 78% of charities rather than deployed across the organisation. These centralised teams work to enable the organisation to maximise opportunities by sharing knowledge and by upskilling existing staff.


Despite growing investment, in only one third of charities will the person responsible for digital report to a Director.  Leaders do not need to be digital experts but they do need to drive the change that will enable their organisation to be fit-for-purpose in this increasingly digital world. So, it is fair to ask if it is possible to create a digitally engaged and enabled organisation when the person tasked to lead digital doesn’t have direct access to the senior leadership?

Disappointingly, 56% of fundraising teams do not yet regard digital as a core competency. The inability to recognise this core competency will hamper performance and the continual addition of staff without it will undermine any efforts made by the centralised digital team to upskill existing team member.

The Future

User experiences are changing, we live in an instant era which has consequences for charities. Many charities, in the drive to deliver the best donor experiences, recognise this and are resourcing their digital transformation accordingly.

THINK’s Digital Forum provides the unique opportunity for ongoing learning and peer-support via three Forum meetings a year, exclusive research and a private discussion group. To find out more and join contact Gary by emailing