UK: Digital Transformation

What is "digital transformation"?

Digital transformation has been described as the use of technology to radically improve the performance and reach of organisations. This has already happened – with smart phones, apps, connected devices, charities are being left behind, as current and potential donors move towards digital offerings.

Charities must keep up to date and radically transform their organisation in order to keep up to date with the rapidly changing technology of the modern world. Digital transformation isn't about improving current practice or upgrading systems, it's about using digital tools and processes to genuinely transform how the charity or organisation operates and interacts with others.

Why aren't we making the most of the digital world?

  • Risk aversion – investing time and money into new technology is often a scary prospect for organisations, especially in the current uncertain economic climate;
  • Lack of leadership – we need examples of success stories to give others confidence to talk the step towards digital;
  • Focusing on digital marketing and social media – although this is a start, it doesn't transform the organisation and therefore shouldn't be considered as digital progress.

What can we do to embrace the digital transformation?

1.Have a clear leadership strategy focussed on digital transformation;

  • Having a leadership message that it focused on digital transformation encourages all others within the organisation to improve and work towards the goal of effecting real digital change within the organisation

2.Put technology at the heart of what you do;

  • Digital services are not just the focus of IT departments, everyone should be focused on the goal and be able to have input into how they could aid the goal of digital transformation within the organisation

3 Start from the inside of your organisation and work out;

  • Collaboration within the organisation is a key to digital transformation. All of those involved should be able to feed into the project. By transforming the environment and working practices of the organisation, this will lead to more innovation out with the organisation.
  • An example of this is the Cystic Fibrosis Trust who recently moved to an office specifically designed to allow the staff to work collaboratively. The office is open plan and they have invested heavily in video conferencing to give employees flexible working opportunities.

4 Encourage experimentation;

  • You could set up a research and development lab (like Shelter UK did!) to bring people across the organisation together with a common purpose
  • Bring in external agencies to assist where the task is too onerous within the organisation.


The OSCR has welcomed the significant jump in the use of online services by Scottish Charities. The number of users of OSCR's online service, has risen to 95% of Scottish Charities, up 14% from last year.

The OSCR has provided this service to charities to provide benefits such as:

  • Accessible 24/7;
  • Charities can complete required submissions online;
  • System ensures only complete information is submitted;
  • Trustees can see previous submissions;
  • Online accounts are stored for 5 years.

The introduction of the OSCR online platform is part of the wider aim to encourage digital participation for those running and working in the charities sector. To encourage charities to sign up, OSCR have supported charities through the sign up process.

Now, less than 3,313 charities use paper submissions to OSCR. There are still around 1215 charities (5% of Scottish charities) still to sign up, if you are one of them, click here.


Through their new digital transformation project, the SCVO aim to support organisations to maximise their impact and operate more efficiently by using technology and digital tools. 50% of third sector organisations in Scotland are not making the most of digital technologies as they often lack funding, time and space for innovation.

For organisations to make use of digital technology they should:

  • Deliver services online;
  • Use social media to inform and engage people;
  • Use free and low cost tools to improve business processes;
  • Build websites and apps to address user needs;
  • Fundraise online;
  • Use data to inform planning.

SCVO have a 2020 Digital Strategy aiming to get organisations to embrace digital opportunities, grow faster, innovate more and meet the needs of clients/customers.

There are three main aims of the 2020 digital strategy:

  1. tackle inequalities by equipping people to use digital technologies;
  2. maximise the impact of the third sector by encouraging digital transformation;
  3.  support digital innovation in the third sector.

Being a Charity in Scotland

Last month, the Scottish Charity Regulator, OSCR, published a brochure entitled "Being a charity in Scotland." It is aimed at ensuring the basics of Scottish charity law are easy to understand.

OSCR's Head of Engagement, Dr Judith Turbyne said:

"We are aware that, at times, the responsibilities of trustees might appear onerous. We are trying to ensure that it is as easy as possible for trustees to understand what they need to do when setting up and running a charity."

The Guide covers the two main areas of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005 – the charity test and charity trustee duties.

The Guide sets out the top 10 key points to running a charity properly

  1. Always do what is best for your charity
  2. Act with care and diligence
  3. Understand your legal responsibilities
  4. Declare and manage conflicts of interest
  5. Know and understand your charitable purpose(s)
  6. Have a copy of your governing document
  7. Understand your charity's finances
  8. Send OSCR the correct information, on time
  9. .Make sure details on OSCR register are correct
  10. .Give people the correct information

© MacRoberts 2017


The material contained in this article is of the nature of general comment only and does not give advice on any particular matter. Recipients should not act on the basis of the information in this e-update without taking appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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