There is no question that the charity sector is starting to make big strides in their approach to digital marketing.  A 2016 report by Nielsen found that digital advertising is the fastest growing channel in terms of expenditure by charities, rising by 89%, compared to 3% growth for direct mail.  

However according to the same report, in absolute terms, spending on digital still lags far behind at a modest £5.5m, compared with £265.3m on direct mail.  This means charities currently spend less than 2% of their marketing budget on digital.  This is compared with the 38.8% of marketing budgets that advertisers in the commercial sector are currently spending on digital according to the latest eMarketer figures. 

Charities are not just lagging behind in digital spend, but also digital skills.  According to Lloyds Bank’s UK Business Digital Index only 51% of charities have basic digital skills, compared to 62% of small businesses. 

Relying on direct mail is becoming increasingly unsustainable, especially in light of the Institute Of Fundraising’s September 2015 ban on selling supporters' data and limitations on sharing data, the EU’s forthcoming GDPR regulations and the recent fines placed on the RSPCA and British Heart Foundation by the Information Commission for breach of data protection law. 

However, there is currently very little support on offer for charities looking to secure funds for digital projects or access the digital skills that would make these projects truly impactful.  Funders often see digital as a low priority area for investment, with very few trust or statutory grant programmes dedicated to digital.  Meanwhile, attracting volunteers for digital roles remains more challenging than for more traditionally glamorous opportunities. 

This is why we believe that the Transform Foundation’s mission of providing funds, skills and knowledge sharing to support charities in their digital projects is more important than ever.  The figures above show that there is an increasing willingness amongst charities to embrace digital and we believe the support we provide will help translate that willingness into increased action. 

We hope that our grants, including the Facebook Advertising Grant, the Website Grant and the future programmes we have planned, will be an important part in maximising the impact of charities’ digital spend and encourage them to increase the proportion of their resources they dedicate to it to levels in line with other sectors.

Meanwhile, our Digital Skills Timebank project, which will co-ordinate digital skills from FTSE 100 companies, represents one of the first dedicated and structured pools of voluntary digital skills offered to the charity sector.  This will make it easier than ever for charities to find the specific digital skills they need to deliver a wide range of digital projects.  

Finally, our White Papers, events and other education initiatives will ensure that the most important digital knowledge captured by charities in these projects can be shared widely to benefit the entire sector. 

Together, we believe that the funds, skills and knowledge we provide will transform the charity sector’s ability to raise more money, more effectively serve beneficiaries and raise awareness of all the fantastic causes that charities in the UK are working on. 

We are always interested in new ways we can achieve this, so if you have an idea for a grant programme, a digital skills pool or a research area that you think we should be focusing on, then send us an email at:

[email protected]