Funders Checklist

These checklists bring the principles together with tools, and checkpoints that help you ensure that you’re on the right track.

Start with user needs, and keep them involved
What does this mean?

Before building or designing anything, you must start by researching and understanding your users’ needs. This means gaining a deep understanding of their situation, behaviours, attitudes, problems and goals. To truly understand user behaviours, it’s better to spend a lot of time with a smaller number of people, rather than one moment with lot. So rather than surveys, you use techniques like semi-structured interviews or shadowing.

Don’t only do this at the start though – you have to keep ensuring that your product or service meets those user needs and that you’re actually responding to what they tell you. This means ongoing testing and research with users, and constantly adapting your decisions based on what you find out.

One of the reasons user research is so important when developing ‘tech for good’ services, is that the digital service must meet the user’s preferences and behaviours as well as their ‘social’ needs. These two needs can sometimes clash (I want to save money, but I struggle to find time to write a budget), which means really thoughtful research-led design is even more important, to ensure the service will be both used, and beneficial.

Find out more

A simple guide to carrying out effective user research for charities.
An introduction to user value as one of the three strands of value in social tech.

list-icon
  • Does the charity show evidence of research directly with their user group to understand their needs? For example through 1-1 interviews with users, or undertaking shadowing or contextual research?  
  • Do they have a plan to continue to engage with their intended service users over time, such as talking about conducting usability studies?
things-icon
Things they might have:
  • User needs based on user research
  • Personas
  • Jobs to be done
  • A research plan for ongoing usability testing
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
  • User needs – the Government Digital Service has great guidance on identifying and writing up user needs
  • 1:1 user research interviews – here’s a handy how-to for charities on NCVO
  • Personas – there’s lot of guidance on the web, this is a helpful overview on Personas
  • Jobs-to-be-done – this Harvard Business Review article a is useful introductory article, more practitioner-focused information can be found on these dedicated sites jtbd.info and jobstobedone.org  
  • Usability testing – Nielsen Norman group have many good resources like this introduction, Steve Krugg has published two very helpful introductory books
  • Contextual inquiry, or shadowing – there’s a good introduction here
  • Form software such as Typeform or Google Forms can be helpful for signing up users for research and gathering short bits of information
  • Acumen parted with IDEO.org to produce a free introductory course to human centred design – Acumen / IDEO Human-centred Design Course
Case studies

Youth Business International

See this principle in action
Show less
Understand what’s out there first
What does this mean?

Duplication wastes money. Before you build anything, especially a new service, it’s important to understand what’s out there already. On the one hand, this means understanding who is already working on the issue you’re trying to address. Knowing this means you can learn from them, and avoid duplicating their work. Secondly, it means not building something that you don’t need to. Very often existing digital tools can be repurposed much cheaper and more quickly than building something new. If you are spending money and time on a new digital thing, you’d better have bullet proof reason why.

Find out more
A blog about accelerating tech for good impact through a culture of reuse

list-icon
  • Has the charity shown evidence that they have looked both inside and outside of their sector, in the UK and abroad, to identify services that are trying to do something similar? Have they identified how their service is different to these?  
  • Has the charity shown evidence that they’ve looked both inside and outside of my sector, in the UK and abroad, to identify services that are using a similar process or technology? Are they building with this, or have given a good reason why they need to build something new?  
things-icon
Things they might have:
  • Market scan, competitor analysis or map of other services out there already doing something similar
  • A business canvas showing how their product or service differs from what’s out there
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
  • Alidade can help create a plan for finding technology tools that suit a social change project
  • Charity Catalogue helps nonprofits easily and quickly discover the best online tools and resources
  • Nesta’s DIY Toolkit has been designed for development practitioners to invent, adopt or adapt ideas that can deliver better results
  • Squarespace, Tilda and Github pages can be useful for creating simple websites
  • The Lean Canvas and Superhero Canvas can help a charity map out what’s unique about their service.  
  • Tech trust marketplace gives charities tailored access to discounted software
Case studies
Show less
Build the right team
What does this mean?

To make an effective digital product or service you need the right mix of people, skills, knowledge and experience. You need to combine: technical skills, subject expertise, user insight and design. The team needs to be supported by a product manager who can coordinate and support them.

The shape of team will change depending on the nature of the work. One option is for the charity to employ in-house software developers and designers, this is big commitment but is often a good option if the charity intends to continue to develop a digital product or service over time. A second option is to partner with an external digital agency who bring this capacity – this is helpful where there isn’t the skill or expertise internally. In either case it’s important that the charity dedicate a product manager to manage the product. While the team are central, if you work in a big organisation, you might also need a senior sponsor to support your work at the management level.

list-icon

Has the charity demonstrated they have appropriate skills to deliver the work:

  • Do they have dedicated technical resource, whether in house or through an external agency?
  • Do they have evidence senior management buy-in – for example a senior sponsor in the organisation?
  • Do they have access to expertise in the social area they are working in?
  • Are users represented, either through an ongoing plan for user research, or through their involvement directly in the work?
things-icon
Things they might have:
  • Contracted teams of staff who are clear on the budget and timescale of their work.
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
Case studies
Show less
Take small steps and learn as you go
What does this mean?

No one gets its right first time. Building a digital service is the same as everything else. Our first ideas are often laden with assumptions about what we think users need, and our assumptions will almost always turn out to be wrong. So rather than plan everything upfront based on these assumptions, it’s important to start small and build the smallest, cheapest version of something we can to test whether our ideas are right. Then we can learn from the test, build the next version of the service, and test it again. This virtuous cycle is at the heart of good digital development. It’s at the heart of very established software management processes like Agile, and the Lean Startup. A further benefit of this approach is it forces the team to focus on specific problems, rather than try to do too many things at once.

Find out more
About lean startup for charities
About agile for charities or the agile manifesto
How technology can narrow the gap between new insight and new action

list-icon
  • Is the team expressing awareness that the service proposition is likely to shift over time as they test and improve it with user feedback?  
  • Have they identified key assumptions that they want to test over the life of the grant?
  • Do they know about are are using techniques like Agile or Kanban to manage the development of the product or service?  
things-icon
Things they might have:
  • A good system for tracking their development process, e.g. a Trello Kanban board
  • Scheduled processes in the team’s diary, such as sprint planning meetings and sprint retrospectives
  • A way to track their assumptions, such as a Knowledge Kanban
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
Case studies
Show less
Build digital services, not websites
What does this mean?

A website never exists in isolation. A person visiting a site always has a goal, and your website is just part of the journey they are on to achieve that goal. Always think about how the website fits into with the wider journey your user is on. What gets them to the site? How does it link with other parts of yours (or others) physical services? Where will the user go next to achieve their goal? Thinking in services means we are always thinking about where our users are coming from, where they will go next and how we support them throughout that journey.

Find out more:
A video introduction to service design
A post from Citizens Advice on how they’re improving their service
An introduction to journey maps and service blueprints

list-icon
  • Does the charity show evidence that they have mapped out how users will find their way to the new product or service, why they will come, and what they will get from interacting with the service?
  • Does the charity have a sense of the user’s journey through their service, for example the steps a user will take?
  • Has the charity thought about where the user will go after they finished with this product and what the charity needs to do to make their next step is as easy as possible?
things-icon
Things they might have:
  • A competed flow of where the user is coming from, what steps they undertake while involved in the service, and where they go immediately afterwards
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
  • Service Blueprints to map out both user, frontline and back office functions in a service
  • User flows to understand steps through a specific service
  • User journey maps to understand a user’s journey through a service, including things like their emotional state
  • Google Analytics to track how users interact with the online components of the service, and where the drop-off points are
Case studies

Reach Volunteering

See this principle in action
Show less
Be inclusive
What does this mean?

It’s important that your service works for all of your users, whatever their needs or situation.

Being inclusive should influence every part of your design. It might affect your choice of technology – for example it’s no use creating an app if your users don’t have data, or even smartphones. It involves thinking about your content and ensuring it’s written in a clear and accessible way. It means ensuring that your service will work for users who have different needs. For example, it should meet accessibility guidelines and work with assistive technologies. Designing for inclusivity should begin from day one – by starting with users who have different needs you’ll understand what your service needs to do be inclusive for all who use it.   

Find out more
An introduction from GDS on making your service accessible

list-icon

Is the charity committed to making the service accessible to users with different needs, for example:

things-icon
Things they might have:
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
Case studies
Show less
Think about privacy and security
What does this mean?

Part of creating responsible technology is considering the privacy and security of your users – especially in the charity sector where users of services are often in vulnerable positions. There’s plenty of good advice to help with security, such as the guidance from the NCCS. Data ownership and processing also need consideration. Following the principles of GDPR covers much of this, but beyond this be sure that your use of your users data is ethical.

list-icon
  • Is the charity following principles in GDPR, such as minimising the data that they are collecting?
  • Is there evidence the charity has considered the security of its service and has a plan to maintain that security?
things-icon
Things they might have:
  • Have a privacy policy
  • Get all interviewees and testers to sign a research consent form
  • Completed the Government’s Cyber Essentials checklist
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
Case studies
Show less
Build for sustainability
What does this mean?

We’re often attracted to invest in new things, but not in maintaining existing things. Consider how sustainable your product is likely to be before you build it. This means realistically thinking about the ongoing cost of maintaining the service and how the money will be generated to do this. Knowing how much a service is likely to cost in time and money upfront is a good start. A service might not run forever, so part of sustainability is about understanding when services need to change or be decommissioned, either because they’ve done their job, or because they are no longer doing it well.  

Find out more:
Progressively model of the development milestones in a social tech product or service.

list-icon
  • Has the charity mapped out the likely ongoing cost of the service depending on its growth, including future technical development, marketing and staff support costs?
  • Has the charity shown evidence that it has considered the lifecycle of the service, and when the service might need to change, or be retired, for example by considering it against the GDS stages of an agile project?
things-icon
Things they might have:
  • An Agile roadmap and a rough budget based on required people and resource
  • An ethical revenue generation model, so you have the money to evolve the product
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
Case studies

Breast Cancer Care

See this principle in action
Show less
Collaborate and build partnerships
What does this mean?

You can’t do everything yourself, nor should you. Collaborate or build partnerships with others in the sector to strengthen the product or service. For example, partnering with other organisations who have domain knowledge or routes to scale. Equally collaboration might come through using or building on others platforms, rather than trying to recreate an entire service yourself. Collaborating with other organisations doesn’t just help you – it can also lead to a more seamless end-user experience because other services are connected together. Ask yourself ‘what can we do together that we can’t do alone?’ and what is the value you can give?’

list-icon
  • Has the charity shown evidence that they have identified other organisations who are working to deliver a similar service or social outcome and how what they are proposing is different to that?  
  • Have they shown evidence that they have engaged with relevant organisations to minimise the amount of duplication?
things-icon
Things they might have:
  • A map of other organisations working in this space
  • Meetings planned / taken place with other organisations
  • An understanding from a user’s perspective how the different organisations / services they engage with interact
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
Case studies
Show less
Be open
What does this mean?

Being open makes things better.

If you are developing a digital service, being open has two benefits: firstly, it helps avoid duplication and  enables everyone to improve by not repeating mistakes. By sharing your learnings and, if appropriate your code, others can build on your work. Equally it means listening when others are being open and building on their work. Whether that’s learning about a particular model of intervention, or looking to reuse technology rather than building from scratch.  

Being open isn’t just about supporting collaboration. It’s also about supporting transparency in our sector. It means we can hold ourselves to account through open scrutiny of our decision and approaches, and ultimately improve our collective practice and impact.

list-icon
  • Is the charity open to sharing their work, either with other organisations working in a similar area to get their feedback, or through open platforms like blogs?
  • Is there evidence that they have explored open source technologies they could build on, or Creative Commons licenses they could use?
  • Have they considered if the service they build could be open sourced so that other charities could use the technology?
  • Have they considered how data from the service could be responsibly shared with other organisations in the sector?
things-icon
Things they might have:
  • Blogs sharing their work and process
  • A list of other organisations working in a similar space
  • A space where they share their code
tools-icon
Tools they can use:
  • 5 Star Open Data is a popular standard for open data
  • Creative Commons licenses to make content reusable
  • Github for sharing or accessing other’s code
  • Online communities of practice, like Digital Charities Slack Channel, Charity Connect, the ECF Newsletter and others
  • Speaking at Tech for Good and NetSquared meetups – find the nearest one here
Case studies
Show less

Did you find this checklist useful? Maybe you’d like to share it: