UK charities are struggling to attract free advice to support their stretched IT departments, forcing them to reinvest small amounts of their income in IT.
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Over two-thirds (67%) of UK charities do not employ paid IT staff and 42% believe the lack of affordable external support is a problem.
These are some of the findings of a survey of 140 charities carried out by a consortium of IT services firms led by London-based livery company the Information Technologists' Company (ITC).
“There is no shortage of expert pro bono advice out there, with plenty of IT professionals willing to offer their time and resource – the issue is that charities are not always aware of how they can take advantage of these services,” said Michael Grant of the ITC.
"What is required is a process of education that explains what is available and how they can access it. We hope the survey will raise awareness of the broad range of IT services that organisations such as the ITC and its partners can offer,” he said.
Charities rely on support in their IT. When ITC surveyed charities with an annual income greater than £1m, it found that 41% spent less than 1% of their income on IT, 46% spent 1-2% of their income on IT and just 13% spent over 2%. The average spend among commercial organisations is greater than 4% of income.
Cost is the problem that is preventing charities from fully utilising IT. According to the survey, 69% of respondents said the cost of a new IT system was a significant challenge in using technology to support their goals, while 42% of the sample identified the availability of affordable external IT advice and support as a key challenge.
But charities recognise the benefits IT can bring. Over 60% surveyed said developing more interactive online services for the people supported by the organisation is an opportunity they would invest resources into.
The problem was highlighted by recent research from Accenture, which found that while 76% of charities say technology has helped them support more people, few are investing in new technologies such as mobility, cloud and social media.
According to the Accenture research, 44% of respondents recognised that IT speeds up the delivery of services, raises awareness and aids data collection by allowing organisations to better engage with new audiences. Another 44% said technology helps them fund the same projects at lower costs.
But it found that charities are cautious about investing in the latest technologies. Some 30% have no plans to invest in social media, despite many believing the technology has a role to play. Only 6% said they have a mobile app for their organisation, and 80% said they are not migrating to the cloud.