Unsurprisingly, charities and organizations throughout the UK have increasingly struggled in every new month of the pandemic. Even as the world nears a more “normal” state, close to 83 percent of charities predict they will have a significantly lower income in 2021 than previously anticipated, according to a survey from Pro Bono Economics in November 2020. Lack of funding and support has heightened the struggles of charities across the UK and the world, including access to the digital tools required to carry out their operations, maintain and increase both their revenue and donations made, and above all to keep their teams and organizations successfully running. This then prompts the question - what can be done to help? Perhaps more importantly, who can help?
Small organizations and charities rely on technology to carry out campaigns, manage donations, spread their message widely with their target audience, and share information internally and externally. This means they are in serious need of an innovative and easy-to-use platform - one that maximizes productivity while minimizing costs. As my co-founder and I have observed throughout our own three decades in the charity sector, tech is the only long-term solution to this challenge. It is essential for tech providers to understand the pressures and pain points of operating a small business or organization.
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Why is tech the answer?
Put simply, tech helps because the quicker you react to an issue or news story, the better it is for donations. Another example is if you have a large searchable library of information, you can personalize the way you target individuals, making your ask for a donation more successful. Almost all cloud storage providers only comprise directories and file names, but it can make a huge difference to have everything in your library tagged and identifiable via thumbnails or GIFs in every collection, so you don’t have to open it to see it. This all saves time, which is crucial for the charity and SME sectors.
While the UK charity industry generates an impressive £78 billion per year, spread out amongst 168,000 registered charities, only the top 1,000 account for a significant share of this income. Therefore it is only those charities that can afford expensive enterprise-level solutions, or manage to pay for each individual user, as providers such as Dropbox require. Which, quite frankly, very few want to do. If you have 100 - or even 10 - users at an extra £5 per user, you are wasting resources that you can’t afford to squander. The unlimited administrator option in cloud storage is essential as it’s the only way to really allow for constructive teamwork without hindrance.
Prior to the pandemic, Cancer Research raised over £1 billion in one year, a record they aim to beat once again this coming. This means that the vast majority of small businesses, social enterprises, and good causes do not have the means to pay for cloud storage, and will therefore resort to settling for free storage levels on popular one-size-fits-all applications, or by sharing paid logins.
While these solutions may seem easy, they lead to data security issues and to the overwriting of files and images, which creates confusion and limits productivity. This highlights the need for tech providers to create platforms that are easy-to-use, designed from the ground up, and instantly learnable - especially as most users do not have the time to learn how to navigate a new package due to having busy roles, working as volunteers, or running every aspect of a new business. Tech providers need to have the charity and small business sectors at the front of their minds when developing services, not only from an affordability angle, but also because this streamlines collaboration across the organization, thus increasing revenue and the ability to help their end-users.
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Challenges still remain in place
The biggest issue I observed and experienced working in the charity sector was sharing key images or documents with the team, including volunteers at both local and nationwide events. We had problems sharing images that were live from the event, as using platforms like Dropbox meant that volunteers had to be shown how to upload and ensure the document or video went to the right directory and was labeled correctly. Files were overwritten or sent to the wrong directory numerous times, meaning a member of staff had to spend time undoing the issue.
The charity and SME sectors can only evolve if they are in a position to overcome challenges that have arisen with the pandemic, and require the tools to compete with larger fish in ways that currently inhibit them to. So why isn't this solution being offered by major storage providers, such as Dropbox, Swivle, and Thirdlight? There is an undeniable need for this open dialogue throughout the industry. We at GoodCloud understand that users can sometimes feel that offerings that are given as ‘charity special rates or free levels’ are actually cut-down versions of existing directory-based storage solutions, which are often difficult to follow and don’t do the job they should. Organizations end up having to pay more for extra users, such as team members or volunteers, or breaching their free storage level which impacts the service they offer to their customers.
“Tech for Good” needs to be more than just a tagline. When used, it should reflect providers who offer the solutions that will help the charity sector move forward and up from the most challenging year of our lifetime. Our team’s past experience working in the charity sector means we know all too well how charities and SMEs are often scared off by big companies and corporate-speak that is not always digestible. Tech providers need to put their money where their mouth is and offer the information and guidance needed, along with affordable services.
They need to bring together organization representatives to discuss and advise on potential grant-making within the third sector, which is what the GoodCloud Foundation has done, and then make those grants without simply expecting others to pick up the slack. Tech providers, charities, and SMEs need to work together to develop and use solutions that are having a tangible positive impact, and working to bridge the divide in funding across the charity sector.
Why should leaders in tech care?
If tech companies are providing charities and social enterprises with cloud storage platforms that enhance their donations, performance, and success as a whole, everyone wins. When charities find a tech company that is supportive to their local cause, they are more likely to use that tech company, and therefore both the user and provider get to where they want to be.
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Russell Marriott, Co-founder and CEO, GoodCloud