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19th November 2020

From remote working to TikTok: The biggest digital trends to expect in 2020

Originally published on ThirdSector, February 2020

As we enter not only a new year but a new decade, Kirsty Marrins asks charity digital experts for their predictions for the year ahead

Embrace remote working

Remote working has been moving from the exception to the norm. Emily Casson, digital marketing manager at the animal welfare charity Cats Protection, believes that this will reach tipping point over the coming year.

Casson manages a team spread all around the country and attracts hundreds of candidates per role by removing the location barrier. She says staff working remotely feel empowered and you experience increased productivity, improved morale and lower sickness rates, as well as reducing office costs.
"Working from home isn’t a ‘perk’; it is a rational business decision," Casson says. "The majority of digital roles can be done anywhere that has good WiFi, so insisting on a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday office job, often at a central London office, increasingly looks like an outdated approach, particularly with the recent focus on equality, diversity and inclusion, climate impact and staff wellbeing."

She believes that more charities should make 2020 the year they embrace remote working.

More meaningful collaboration

At charities that have invested in user-centred design over the years, teams are identifying common problems for their service users, donors, volunteers and staff. Digital and design teams are sharing their work openly and new connections are being formed from Twitter chats, meet-ups and "work-in-progress" blog posts.
Leanne Griffin, service designer in the Innovation Lab at Citizens Advice, believes we will see more meaningful collaboration in 2020. "I’m excited about what this will lead to, whether it’s more open-source code, shared design patterns or working within organisations to create change." she says.

"Inequality, mental health and the climate crisis are just a few of the challenges facing society, and we’ll make faster progress when we work together to innovate."

Agile will move beyond tech projects

An increasing number of tech projects in the charity sector are managed using "Agile" project management methods such as Scrum. Agile projects are delivered using an incremental approach in which self-organising teams get regular customer feedback throughout a project’s life cycle. The online donation platform JustGiving and Cancer Research UK have been using Agile techniques for some time.

Jen Lowthrop, Agile digital consultant and happiness trainer, believes Agile is far from just a fad. "It will continue to grow in popularity in 2020, with charity teams using Agile for non-tech projects too," she says.

It can be used for a multitude of projects, such as managing web content updates or big charity events. "Agile is especially useful when you want to ensure you’re gaining continued feedback and putting your customers, donors, volunteers and beneficiaries first," says Lowthrop.

"Save the Children has been using Scrum for a while now for both digital transformation and innovation projects."

But Lowthrop predicts that we will see more charities "going Agile" for customer-focused projects in 2020.

TikTok to take off

Social media platforms come and go, but TikTok, the video-sharing platform that now has more than 5.4 million users in the UK alone, looks like it’s here to stay.
There’s a tendency for people to get carried away when something new arrives, but Joseph Freeman, a digital leader in the health sector, says that charities need to put some thought into how it might fit into their channel strategies, especially charities that work with young people.
"It’s setting trends that are beginning to have a massive impact on music and popular culture," says Freeman. "You need to understand the memes and the way it works before diving in, but don’t dismiss this one just yet. We’ll be hearing a lot more about it – good and bad, I imagine – in 2020."

Climate change charities will see a boost in income

Thanks to the school climate strikes and Extinction Rebellion protests in 2019, climate change is firmly on the public agenda. For this reason, my personal prediction is that 2020 will be the year that charities tackling climate change will see a big increase in online income. However, they will need to invest in robust marketing strategies to reach the right people in the right places with the right messages.


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