7. Charities Are No Longer Relevant in the Digital Age

Seven Arguments Against Charity
7. Charities Are No Longer Relevant in the Digital Age
Most people would say that the work of charities is valuable; in fact, some of us would go so far as to say the work of charities is essential for the wellbeing of society.  But, against a backdrop of negative news stories, recent years have seen a perceptible shift and hardening in the relationship the public has with charities. In the seventh and last of a themed series of posts,  addressing some of the more common complaints against charity, The Boiling Frog considers whether traditional charities still have a place in the digital age.

Charities are no different to any other sector in that they are being challenged by the rise of digital. But their slowness to adapt means they face being left behind. The new Digital Age has empowered users to do good outside of traditional structures.

Just as any sector/institution might ask itself how it can be relevant to the millennial generation, so too might charities. The sector has to face up to whether or not charities and volunteering as we currently know them are relevant to a generation that has been brought up in a digital age and look to different forms and mechanisms for social action (such as online platforms, petition sites and crowdfunding).

It’s fair to say that there are clear barriers to charities’ ability to engage fully with the new digital and data agenda, not least the scarcity of funding and in-sector expertise within smaller organisations. But the risk is huge that unless charities embrace this new era, they will in the words of Martin Francis Campbell, chief information officer of World Vision and chair of the Digital Collective, “quickly go the way of Woolworths and Borders. Nostalgic organisations which remind us of the way things used to be”.

Charities are of course still relevant today, but the time to act is now. A good first step for any charity would be to sign up to The Charity Digital Code, funded by the Lloyds Banking Group and the Co-op Foundation, and overseen by a steering group of charity representatives. There is a special version of the code for smaller charities along with help for those with limited resources.

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