Why I love the Charity Digital Code of Practice

Gillian Murray talks about how you can take forward the Charity Digital Code of Practice in your charity.  Gillian is CEO of Pilotlight, a charity that provides access to strategic business support for charities

Back in 2008 I set up a CRM system for Pilotlight on the cloud. Hard to remember that 10 years ago not everyone had heard of the cloud. So, in a way, I could count myself as digitally aware, at the very least, looking for efficiencies through technology. However, fast forward to our current strategic plan, developed in 2017 and there is one strategic objective (the last one) titled ‘technology’. We’re all aware that things are moving fast in this space but for a small charity, when does something become an absolute priority?

A sense of urgency

A sense of urgency is vital, because as in any small charity, we’re always trying, not just to imagine, but to do, six impossible things before breakfast. During the consultation for the code, my reflection was – other sectors have been embedding digital for years and their investment is based on sound bottom line gains. Why should the charity sector be left behind when our bottom line is, arguably, more important than profit? So, the urgency is not just about exploring opportunities to make efficiencies or even better meet our mission – it’s also about the risks of not embracing digital.

It’s all about strategy

What got me out of my ‘technology’ box is the clarity with which the code reminds us that we’re talking strategy here. So, rather than thinking tools, or channels (tablets! social media!) we are going to review each of our strategic objectives through the lens of digital. For me, that’s the equivalent of putting the horse back before the cart. That way, digital becomes an integral part of how Pilotlight meets its mission – of helping charities help more people, more effectively.

Focus on the end user

In light of our mission, the focus on end users is particularly interesting for Pilotlight. Our job is to support charities to be more effective, efficient, and sustainable, and one of our key questions is: ‘what’s the difference you are trying to make?’ So, always a strong focus on end users, and digital offers a whole new dimension which is important to explore as we map the service-user journey with our partner charities. For us as an organisation, it means focussing on attracting more business members with digital skills and experience to better support our partner charities. But it’s also imperative for Pilotlight to develop digitally in ways that we approach, attract and support our key customers – charities and business members.

My top tips for taking things forward:

  • Take thinking time
    I can say one thing with complete certainty – time is at a premium for charity sector leaders. Yet, before worrying about investment and resources, take a step back and think about your ambitions – how does digital support your strategic objectives & how does it challenge them? While you absolutely don’t want to be left behind, there are choices to be made and they involve all your stakeholders.


  • Take action
    Your actions will fall out of your plan, which will fall out of your strategy but as a leader, making a statement of intent is important. Demonstrating to your staff team and your Board that you are making digital a key priority is a powerful tool. This can be as simple as setting up a working group – and this is where I find the code very helpful; I think it provides a great framework for areas of focus.


  • Take heart!
    Digital can be daunting, but it’s a wonderful opportunity for our sector, and for our leadership to come together around what has the potential to be a real game-changer. I’m excited by the thoughtful and insightful conversations that are happening and the potential for better connections and joined-up thinking in this digital evolution/revolution.


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