Hot Tips for charities working with digital volunteers.

In the last few years I feel like I’ve learned a lot about working with external tech project teams on digital solutions for LGBT Youth Scotland and I want to share some of that with you.

Full disclosure: I am a huge fan of digital tools and gadgets but when it gets to the more technical bits I start to get lost. I guess I’m similar to a lot of folk in the third sector, full of great ideas and aspirations but not quite got the skills to get to the digital finish line.

Fortunately there are plenty of people out there who do have the skills and are willing to use them but they have their own limitations, they’re already working full-time in their tech job, they’re not always quite sure what we need in the third sector and they speak a different language full of UX, Full Stacks and lots seem to love Pythons!

So here are my top tips for navigating that new charity/tech relationship:

1. Start small

You wouldn’t take a first date on a two week extended family holiday would you? So, don’t expect your first tech volunteer to solve all your digital dilemmas in your first project.

Example: Last year we were looking for a solution that would allow our LGBT Charter clients to share their evidence portfolios with us in real time online. A chance discussion with a contact highlighted his job involved Microsoft Sharepoint and he thought he might have the solution and could help. A few hours of his time later and we could set up folders in Sharepoint and manage the access permissions so the client and the right people in our staff team could access them. A problem we’d been going round in circles with for weeks, solved in a few hours.

2. Break your project into bite size chunks

Delivering something smaller that works for you without all the bells and whistles is better than not finishing a bigger, shinier project.

Example: Back to our Sharepoint filing. We’d had the coffee date and got to know each other, so we arranged a second date – this time lunch! Now we understood the basics it wasn’t too big a jump to set up a full Sharepoint site our clients could access for information, resources and peer support as well as their folders. A few more hours and we had the basics of setting up a site, a basic working site and the skills to go and add to it ourselves, which we did….then we made two more!

3. Tech experts are more than coders – they’re problem solvers

As a charity we don’t have to come with the digital solution all figured out, we just need to present the problem. More often than not we don’t actually know what the best solution is and that’s ok. (Side note – it probably isn’t an app or a magical CRM)

Example: Even if the magical CRM is the end goal but there’s lots of steps to take first to get that right. That’s where Digital For Good volunteers come in: they could help you streamline your current workflow to make things easier in the meantime; they could help you map all the data you currently collect and analyse what you actually need so that the right info goes into the CRM when you get it; they could help you research CRM solutions and make sure you’re asking the right questions to get the best fit for your organisation. And yes, when you’re ready, they could help you setup the magical CRM, in bite size chunks so that you can manage it when they’re finished.

4. Two week extended family holiday….

Or you could just share your success story with us, so that others can follow in your digital footsteps!

[Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels]

Jane Griffin
Jane Griffin
On the core Digital for Good team. Senior charity leader specialising in income generation, partnerships and digital innovation.

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