Charities failing to match small firms in going digital, Lloyds survey shows

Steve Elsom, area director for SME banking in East England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking,

Steve Elsom, area director for SME banking in East England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, - Credit: Archant

More small businesses in the East of England are reaping the benefits of being digitally enabled, but many charities are missing out, according to the latest UK Business Digital Index from Lloyds Bank.

Now in its second year, the annual index shows that digital adoption among organisations in the East remains strong, with three quarters (75%) of small businesses in the region possessing basic digital skills, such as communicating, finding the right information, or carrying out a transaction safely online.

However, some hurdles still exist, particularly in the charity sector with nearly half (47%) of charities in the East not equipped with basic digital skills, a 1% increase since last year.

The index, in association with Accenture and digital skills charity Go ON UK, is the only report of its kind in the UK and tracks the level of digital adoption of small businesses and charities, such as running a website, using e-commerce, maintaining a social media presence or using online banking tools.

Small businesses in the East are reaping the benefits of going digital, with almost three quarters (73%) stating they believe a functioning website can help them boost revenue, and one in five (19%) regularly investing money to enable their digitisation.

A significant proportion of local firms also believe an online presence enables them to save valuable time (52%) and reach more customers (34%) on a day-to-day basis.

However, while small businesses are leading the way, charities in the East appear to be falling behind with less than one in 10 (7%) equipped to take online donations, and four fifths (80%) not making any investment in developing a successful digital strategy.

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Despite this, more than half (57%) of charities in the East operate a functioning website, but more than half of these (59%) say they fail to see how it can help drive donations. One in eight (13%) feel they don’t have the relevant skills needed to improve their digital presence.

Steve Elsom, area director for SME banking in East England at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The UK Business Digital Index provides a crucial measure of how small businesses and charities are adopting digital technology, and this unique insight into digitisation in our region is extremely valuable.

“Despite some firms understanding the benefits of digital adoption, more needs to be done to develop relevant skills in this area.

“It’s clear that real challenges remain and we cannot emphasise enough the benefits that digitisation can offer – increased efficiency, revenue or funding boosts, and wider audience engagement is all proven. More needs to be done to encourage charities and businesses to get online and become more digitally savvy.”

Baroness Lane-Fox, chair of GO ON UK said: “Perceptions and motivations remain key issues, with a quarter of organisations still believing that doing more online isn’t relevant to their business. And in an increasingly globalised marketplace, still only 13% of organisations are using their website for e-commerce. This is an ever increasing concern that needs our imminent attention.

“Another large issue uncovered by this year’s report is the intelligence that charities are being left behind in this shift, and we must do more to ensure that this doesn’t continue. The UK has a proud tradition of giving and charitable work, and surely supporting charitable organisations to achieve their digital potential must be part of this.”