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The CEO’s Guide to The Charity Digital Code of Practice

13 December 2018

by Zoe Amar

Founder & Director at Zoe Amar Digital. Zoe is widely regarded as one of the charity sector’s leading digital experts. She writes for Third Sector about charities and digital issues and co-founded the Social CEOs awards.



5 minute read

Since we launched the new Charity Digital Code of Practice I’ve spoken to lots of CEOs who’d like to know more or want to take it to their board.

But here’s the challenge. I know how time poor CEOs are, having worked with many over the years. There are many demands on their diaries, so here’s a quick guide to help leaders and those supporting them.

One of the biggest issues that I see CEOs wrestling with, however skilled, is what to prioritise in digital and how they stack up against other organisations. Deciding where to invest hard earned funds, alongside keeping pace with what’s new in digital is a big challenge.

One of the biggest issues that I see CEOs wrestling with, however skilled, is what to prioritise in digital and how they stack up against other organisations.

The Code aims to solve this problem by setting out best practice for large and small charities in digital. It has been developed by a group of organisations including CFG, the Charity Commission, Office for Civil Society, DCMS’ Digital Enterprise Delivery Taskforce, ACEVO, NCVO, SCVO and many other sector bodies, plus more than forty charities of all sizes who have tested it. It’s been funded by Lloyds Banking Group and the Co-Op Foundation.

I’ve picked out 3 highlights from the Code which will help CEOs get to grips with it:

Don’t Go It Alone

It’s a big opportunity for CEOs – but you don’t have to go it alone. There’s a line in the leadership principle of the Code about how CEOs need to initiate and spearhead digital change, a notion supported by ACEVO and other organisations on the steering group. CEOs often ask me where they should start with this stuff and the answers are in your constitution. If your charity was set up to help people improve their mental health in South West England, how could you use digital to reach and help more of them? And what role should digital play in your strategy – for example, should online fundraising be a priority? A good place to start is by taking the Code to your next senior management team meeting and using it as a tool to discuss where you and your colleagues see your charity against the best practice in the Code.

Get Your Trustees on Board

Trustees may be scared of talking about digital – so you might have to frame it differently. 69% of charities cite their board’s digital skills as low or having room for improvement. The word digital can be scary and alienating if you’re not confident about your skills. But trustees will engage if you talk about managing risk, governance and strategy. ‘I want us to develop a strategy that helps donors and beneficiaries think of us first’ is better than ‘we need to use digital more effectively.’

Use Data Effectively

Digital can help you understand what your supporters want, right now. If you really want to know what they are thinking, ask your digital team to pull off the latest data from Google Analytics, e-newsletters and social media. Or just go on Twitter and see what people are saying using hashtags that are popular in your field, e.g. #mentalhealth. The more you look at the right data the more we can all make the right decisions that will help us all support more people.

There is lots more in the Code to help CEOs understand how digital is changing leadership and your supporters’ behaviour, how to create a culture and strategy which helps your charity better achieve its goals, how to grow your team’s skills and how your charity can adapt to digital.

For CEOs though, digital starts with one thing: you.

Are you open to doing things differently so that your charity can increase impact and be more sustainable?

Take a closer look here:

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