BLOG: ‘Driving Digital’ by Jane Mackinnon of Community Enterprise

Community Enterprise is a social enterprise and community development consultancy and support provider. We provide support to third sector groups right across Scotland and beyond and work with communities to build and sustain projects for the benefit of local people. 
 
This year, we have expanded our offering to include a digital support service for the Scottish third, community and social enterprise sector and I have recently taken up the post of Digital Support Officer.  

Over the last 18 months we’ve all witnessed a rapid shift to digital. Already a burgeoning topic pre-pandemic, in March 2020 it became a means of operational survival for many of us. A sudden need to be digitally literate, to adopt new tools and to bring services online has brought immense challenges to many third sector organisations. Lack of resources, constraints to in-house capacity, and limited access to funding have all been potential barriers to this expedited digital evolution.  

Now in Autumn 2021, many of us are working in a hybrid model, continuing to utilise video conferencing to facilitate meetings, training sessions, appointments and classes where it makes sense to do so.

We’re also looking beyond Zoom, at digital tools and platforms to better our day-to-day processes and communications.

“If you’re finding it difficult to juggle all your contact information from emails, websites, and social media, it may be that you’re ready to invest in a CRM (Customer Relationship Management tool) to bring it all together in one place. Or you might be considering e-commerce options to sell your products or services online. We also have the added responsibility to keep our digital estates secure and protect ourselves and the data we store from cyber-attacks. Yes, we have a fair bit on our plates”.

So, the big question is, where to start? 

Number 1: make sure digital is on the agenda!  

Create a digital roadmap; this should be a living document that is revisited at regular intervals. An agile, adaptable plan is key, with the last 18 months teaching us that we can’t always plan for relevancy. 

This exercise may seem daunting and is something our service aims to help you navigate, whether that be through external support where we can lead on the audit, or webinars or training sessions to empower an internal team member to take on this responsibility. 

Taking stock with a digital audit is a sensible starting point. You need to create a clear picture of your organisation’s digital maturity, including strengths, weaknesses, and aspirations. From there, decisions can be made on some short-, medium- and long-term goals.

There are also lots of invaluable resources out there to help. One of my favourites is Charity Digital who host regular webinars and events on subjects including cyber security, online fundraising, digital storytelling and more. They also offer discounts on software, from security to financial tools. Another is SCVO’s digital hub, which is packed with informative how-to-guides and training sessions.

The Charity Digital Code recognises that digital is essential for charities and other third sector organisations to be relevant and fulfil their purpose in the digital age. The code has 7 principles to follow to get more strategic with your digital. Check out their website to view handy checklists and guidance by job role. 

The Community Learning Exchange funded by the Scottish Government is an excellent way to facilitate mutual learning. If you’re thinking of embarking on a new digital project, such as selecting a new booking system, a fundraising or income generation platform, you can benefit from the learnings of other organisations who are already using similar tools and who will be able to share valuable experience-based insights. Who knows? You may also find new partners to work with and collaborate on your project.

Another crucial step is to make sure you are set up for e-tendering to be informed of the latest procurement opportunities and to apply for those that are the right fit for your organisation. Take time to register and ensure your account is set up correctly on the PCS portal. You can use P4P’s 10 stage procurement guide as a useful source of information.

All of the above might seem rather serious, so it’s important to remember that digital is also a lot of fun! Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram allow your message to expand beyond the written word. Sharing exciting images, audio clips and short videos can open organisations up to new audiences. In particular, they can help us reach the younger or more diverse demographics many of us recognise we need to engage with more.

If you’re interested in exploring the possibilities of digital video and audio, we’ll be running workshops and training sessions to help you explore these new possibilities during 2022. 

We’re already beginning to provide support to groups from social media strategies to digital project planning and look forward to supporting the sector at grassroots level to encourage the benefits of digital and working to de-mystify what can be an overwhelming topic. 

If you can spare five minutes, do let me know where you are now by taking my survey about digital needs in the Scottish third, community and social enterprise sector. 

If you would like further information, please contact Jane at Community Enterprise email jane@communityenterprise.co.uk