Charity Digital Code
26 February 2019
November 2018 saw the arrival of the Charity Digital Code, a voluntary and free to use digital code of practice to help charities of any size to increase their digital activity and to improve their digital skills. Technology is changing our daily lives and the purpose of the code is to raise awareness and encourage the use of technology, along with offering tools to help measure the success of these actions.
The Code was created following input from over 100 charities of all sizes and the Charity Commission and is available here.
We understand that many of our schools clients hold charitable status and are registered with the Charity Commission directly. Others of our schools clients hold exempt charitable status and are registered with the DfE as the principal regulator. Academies, Sixth Form colleges, voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and foundation trust schools are all exempt charities.
The Charity Digital Code will be relevant to all schools. The Code is not a regulatory requirement, but it is envisaged that charities will regularly review their progress against the code to ensure continuous improvement.
An additional version of the code has been produced that is tailored toward charities with an annual income of £1million or less.
The 7 Principles
The principles and best practice are something that schools will be familiar with because the education sector has already embraced the use of technology in the classroom, online learning platforms, use of the internet/websites and social media.
A brief summary of the 7 principles and what success will look like can be found below. Please note: 'must/should' sets out the minimum requirements; and 'could' sets out enhanced best practice.
"Charity leaders must lead on digital as a way of helping their charities be relevant and sustainable."
'Digital' and the use of technology is a strategic and governance issue that leaders/Governors/Trustees need to be aware of and take a lead on. Trustees will ultimately be responsible for the policies and procedures that are in place. Digital issues need to be considered regularly and should not be 100% delegated. The relevant skillset across the governance structure of your school will help you achieve your vision and increase your impact. Leaders will need to be aware of what level of investment in digital is required to achieve this vision, including in relation to cyber security and data protection.
"Charities should make the needs and behaviours of beneficiaries and other stakeholders the starting point for everything they do digitally."
- Building your strategy, services and functions around how pupils, staff and parents use digital will make these groups more likely to engage and increase your impact. Understand your audience and make your services and materials accessible to all. The digital needs of staff should be considered when updating internal resources, such as the intranet.
"Charities’ values, behaviours and ways of working should create the right environment for digital success."
- Creating the right culture is important for increasing: collaborative working; transparency and momentum for change. Best practice involves developing the confidence and motivation of staff to use digital resources and technology in all roles. Sharing digital assets might be one way to develop your partnership working with other schools and to measure the impact of these arrangements.
"Charities’ strategies should be ambitious about how they can use digital to achieve their vision and mission."
- Upon successfully implementing this principle, charities will be clear about their strategic direction in digital, enabling them to invest time and other resources more effectively. Ensure you have a clear vision and purpose. You should be ambitious but realistic about what you are able to achieve and you may find it helpful to create a Digital Strategy to assist on this journey, particularly if you are looking to upgrade or replace some of your technology/systems.
"Charities should aim for digital skills to be represented at all levels of the organisation."
- All staff and volunteers play a part in helping your school progress. It is helpful for leaders to have an understanding of the digital skills within their team and identify gaps that need to be filled by training or recruitment of new team members. Schools need to think creatively about how they attract and retain staff with the desired digital skills. Some schools have found mentoring programmes helpful for trainee and newly qualified members of staff – particularly if the school is part of a Multi-Academy Trust or is working collaboratively with other local schools.
- Managing risks and ethics
"Charities need to determine and manage any risks involved in digital."
- As with all operations/activities you will need to assess the risks involved and ensure that these risks are properly managed. This will help maintain public trust and confidence and will assist if there are reputational issues to respond to. Do you have effective oversight of relevant social media channels? What due diligence do you conduct on your suppliers? When did you last review and assess the relevant entries on your risk register? Who is responsible for monitoring and introducing new technologies at your school and any associated ethical issues? This topic also strays in to cyber security and data protection matters, which should now be fully compliant with the GDPR.
"Charities will need to adapt to survive and thrive as digital changes how everyone lives and works."
- The code suggests that you should aim for continuous development and improvement, including knowledge of digital trends, to ensure that you remain relevant. Look at what the sector is doing and how other schools are piloting new ideas. Consider the implications of emerging technology, such as the use of biometric data and artificial intelligence when planning your future strategy documentation.
We hope that this summary is a useful starting point. We would advise schools to review the Code thoroughly to see how it applies to you.
The Charity Digital Code website is available here, and also contains useful resources for each of the 7 principles, including podcasts and articles.