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Finding The Funds That Got Away: How 33,000 UK charities are losing £2.6b of digital income a year

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

Mid-size UK charities are losing £2.6b income a year due to usability problems with their websites.

There ise a significant group of mid-size charities that are not capturing the benefit and income they should from digital.  This group is made up of the 33,000 registered charities with income between £100k and £10m, with a combined income of £26b, about one third of the UK total.

An early study by renowned usability consultants NNG[1] found significant problems with charity and non-profit websites.  They found that that users could not find a donation page on 17% of sites, that they experienced significant usability problems relating to page structure and design on 47%, and were confronted by misleading or confusing content on 53%.  

New 2019 research by web development charity specialist Pixeled Eggs[2] shows the situation has not improved.  Pixeled Eggs research found that only 23% of charity websites achieve a rating of ‘Good’, with none achieving the highest grade of ‘Excellent’.  A full 21% scored ‘Terrible’ which means the website presented significant challenges for users and search engines.

These problems confound charity supporters in their efforts to get involved and to donate.  A conservative estimate indicates these problems prevent about £2.6b in additional revenue reaching these charities.

It seems the cause is a lack of digital expertise, and the poor investment decisions this leads to.

The lack of digital expertise is highlighted in the Charity Digital Skills Report 2019[3].  This reveals that 35% of respondents do not have a strategic approach to digital, 53% recognise a lack of digital skills in their charity and 33% see trustee understanding of digital as a blocker.

This makes it difficult for mid-size charities to evaluate the risks and opportunities of digital, which means they cannot guage the right level of investment in digital platforms.  Where the value and future potential of a website is not understood, procurement becomes a price led exercise.  This means charities opt for low cost options that do not create the good user experiences that support the needs of beneficiaries and supporters.  

“No charity would choose to ignore digital income, and no charity wants to provide a poor digital experience for their beneficiaries and supporters. Getting the digital experience right should not be out of reach of middle ground charities to the extent usability testing suggests it is,” said Sepas Seraj, Pixeled Eggs CEO.  

There are ways to tackle this problem.  One to use an independent expert to help the charity understand the potential and risk of their digital approach and help procure quality suppliers. Another is to upweight digital expertise on charity leadership teams and boards, it’s interesting to see how much this is seen as a blocker in the Digital Skills survey.

Pixeled Eggs (who I am Chair of) have developed a hybrid approach to website development that is only available to charities with less than £10m income.  It’s called Keystone, and combines the benefits of a user centred approach to website development with the efficiency of themes to help tackle this problem. 

You can find more about Keystone here.


[1] NN/G Attracting Donors and Volunteers on Non-Profit and Charity Websites, 2nd Edition, Empirical observations of actual user behaviour as potential donors used a wide range of sites. Tested 60 non-profit websites, chosen to cover a range of categories, 75% with income below £10m.

[2] Pixeled Eggs Charity Website Audit tested 53 charity websites using qualitative method for usability (SUS and Beneficiary/Supporter/Information seeker journey assessment) and Google tools for technical (Mobile, Technical best practice, SEO and Accessibility).

[3] Skills Platform, Charity Digital Skills Report 2019, 540 responses, 50% income between £100k and £10m


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