What we learnt about charity digital capabilities from the Digital Maturity Matrix

We’ve analysed nine months of data from over 200 organisations – allowing us to find out more about:

  • how voluntary organisations feel about their current digital capabilities
  • their ambitions for the future.

Where did the data come from?

NCVO’s digital maturity matrix is a popular tool for the sector. It helps charities to identify their current strengths and weaknesses in different areas of digital strategy. It’s also a way to prioritise areas for development. A year ago, we launched a new and improved version.

It covers eight areas of digital maturity:

  • Leadership and strategy
  • Expertise and capacity
  • Technology
  • Service design
  • Content
  • Comms and campaigns
  • Data and insight
  • Security and protection

You can score where your organisation is now, and where you plan to be, against a series of statements. You can choose from ‘not started’, ‘some activity’, ‘some success’ or ‘highly effective’ when describing current practice or ambitions. These categories represent numbers, which then show scores per section and overall. If you’ve used the tool, you can have a look at comparing your scores with the average scores here.

Organisations are not scoring themselves very highly

Those completing the tool gave their organisation an average overall score of 36%. Very few organisations achieved the top scores by describing themselves as ‘highly effective’ or with ‘some success’ across different areas of digital.

Interestingly, organisations with an annual income between £100,000 and £1m gave themselves the lowest overall current scores, compared to smaller and larger charities. They scored themselves lowest for expertise and capacity, as well as leadership and strategy. But were not far behind or ahead of other sizes of charities in other areas of digital.

But organisations are ambitious about improving their digital capabilities

People who want to improve in digital are the ones most likely to seek out tools to measure their progress. It is perhaps not surprising, but nonetheless heartening, to see that those completing the tool wanted to double their score for all areas of digital – with an average overall score of 76% for where they ‘plan to be’. This was even true where they were scoring higher than others already.

The biggest jump organisations wanted to make between their current situation and target ambitions were for expertise and capacity, leadership and strategy, and data and insight (45%-46% improvement wanted). Having strong leadership, a clear strategy for digital and access to expertise are all essential to underpin stronger digital capabilities. It’s encouraging to see organisations focusing on these areas.

Those responding for organisations with annual income over £1m wanted to see much higher scores in future, compared to smaller charities. This was particularly in the areas of data and insight, and technology.

Security and protection, and communications and campaigns, have the highest scores

Organisations scored themselves lowest at present for their expertise and capacity and their use of data and insight (an average score of 26%).

They were more positive about their security and protection (an average score of 52%), as well as their communications and campaigns (average score of 40%). GDPR forced all organisations to think carefully about their security, so it’s perhaps not surprising to see higher scores in this area. Best practice and innovation in digital communications have been developing for many years. It’s often the area of digital where organisations feel most confident.

What next?

Thank you to Nissa Ramsay of Think Social Tech, who completed this analysis as part of a research project mapping digital maturity support journeys and support needs in the sector. This research is funded by Catalyst. Catalyst is a charitable initiative to make charities fit for a digital world, and make a digital world fit for everyone. Catalyst are:

  • Developing resources, training and best practice to build charities’ digital capabilities
  • Helping charities come together in networks to tackle common problems
  • Developing tools and services to support charities on the digital journey
  • Advocating for change where necessary, in the charity sector and beyond

We know that there are many tools and frameworkslike ours which look to help charities decide where to start and how to progress with digital. We want to help organisations find the best frameworks and tools. So we’ll be looking for ways to facilitate that. Alongside this, we also plan to develop this tool further in future.

Compare your results

You can compare your results with the average by looking at the digital maturity matrix results page (using your unique link), and comparing your results to the table below.

‘We currently score’


‘We plan to score’


Leadership and strategy 7.4/21 16.8/21
Expertise and capacity 4.7/18 13.1/18
Technology 7.9/24 17/24
Service design 7.9/24 17.5/24
Content 10.8/30 23.1/30
Communications and design 8.4/21 16.6/21
Data and insight 6.5/24 17.3/24
Security and protection 14/27 21.6/27
Overall 36% 76%
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Megan Griffith Gray, Director of Strategy and Transformation Megan is director of strategy and transformation at NCVO and is responsible for the organisation’s strategy, planning and reporting. She also leads the digital, marketing and technology functions.

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