the digital charity

News

We ran a workshop today on using social media effectively at Volunteer Centre Newcastle.

The workshop was aimed at staff who manage volunteers in organisations in Newcastle.  We discussed the potential benefits of using social media as a communication tool. We looked at how other organisations have used social media and how you can evaluate its use in own organisation. This was followed by an open discussion where participants shared what worked well in their organisation and what the challenges were.

The key points were:

  • social media can be a useful tool but it isn't the answer to everything
  • social media should be seen in the context of a wider communications strategy for the organisation
  • you need to devote sufficient time and resources to use it effectively

The slides from the talk are available here:

Effective social media for engaging the public and volunteers (PDF 1.6MB)

If you have any question about how your organisation could use social media to promote your organisation or raise funds please get in touch.

You may also be interested in attending one of the regular social media surgeries in Newcastle.

Create a free website with WordPress.com

Tuesday, 07 February 2017 12:05

A quick and simple way to build a website for your charity or community organisation.

We all know how important it is to have an online presence. But how do you get started if you run a small voluntary group with limited resources?

We recommend using WordPress.com as a good way to create your organisation’s first website.

Why WordPress.com?

Here’s why we think WordPress.com is a good choice for community groups:

  • free or low cost

  • flexible

  • great for social media

  • good for search engine optimisation (SEO)

  • stay protected with automatic updates

  • built on open source software

There are several other online platforms that allow you to create a simple low-cost website.  These includes the likes of Wix, Google Sites and GoDaddy website builder. These might meet your needs, but most of them are proprietary platforms. This means that there’s very little that you can do if the vendor goes out of business or decides to hike their prices. You are also stuck if you outgrow their services. You can either stay with what you’ve got or you can start from scratch and rebuild your website elsewhere.

WordPress.com is built on the open-source WordPress software. At any point you can export your content and move it to your own hosting package. You can always download a copy of the WordPress software for free.

How can I get started?

It takes a matter of minutes to create your own website.

Visit WordPress.com, click on ‘Build a website’ and follow these five steps:

  1. choose your homepage style - in most cases you will want to choose a welcome page

  2. select a theme - there are over 160 free themes to choose from

  3. choose your domain - you can choose a .wordpress.com domain for free

  4. pick a plan - you can choose the free plan for now and upgrade later if you need to

  5. create your account

That’s it! You’ve created your own website.

Now, you just need to add some content. Read our article on writing better content for your website for some tips.

Need some inspiration?

We helped these organisations create a website using WordPress.com:

Use your own domain

With the free plan your website will have a domain like www.my-organisation.wordpress.com. This is fine, but if you want your site to look more professional you may want to register your own domain name. This means that people can visit your website at an address like www.my-organisation.org.uk.

You can either choose your domain at step 3 in the set-up process or you can add this later.

To register your own domain you need to upgrade to one of the paid plans. This currently costs from £18/year. The paid plans also mean that there are no ads on your website (similar to other platforms, the ads keep the free plan free).

Need any help?

There is a well-written support website that should answer most of your questions. This includes some video tutorials to help you get started.

Alternatively, we offer guided training to help you build your own website.  This can be with WordPress.com or any of the other commonly used platforms.

Please get in touch if you’d like more details.

Need to brush up your social media skills?

Thursday, 02 February 2017 09:42

If you or your organisation wants to learn how to use social media, Newcastle social media surgery can help. 

The surgeries are free, relaxed events for people who want to learn to use the web to communicate, campaign or collaborate. You will get time one-on-one with someone who knows how to use the web and free tools to do this. This could be Twitter, Facebook, blogs, websites, LinkedIn, YouTube.

Friendly volunteers run the surgeries for community activists, charities, social enterprises and community groups to get some practical hands on help and support. The surgeries have been running since 2012 and have helped more than 100 organisations. There is a surgery in Newcastle every two months.

Questions at past surgeries have included:

  • How do we create a Facebook page for our organisation?
  • How do we engage our volunteers and supporters?
  • What is a hashtag and how do I use it?

The 'surgeons' look forward to answering your questions at a future surgery!

2017 social media surgery dates

Please book a place so we know you are coming:  Newcastle Social Media Surgery

Call for volunteers

The Newcastle social media surgery is looking for more volunteers. If you have experience of using social media in your organisation and would like to help others get started then please get in touch with William Mortada on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Stephanie Cole on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Encrypt your website for free

Tuesday, 31 January 2017 12:24

Keep your website secure and protect sensitive data using Let’s Encrypt.

There has been a push for all websites to use encryption (https).  This will make your website more secure and protect the privacy of visitors to your site.  It is also likely to increase your search engine ranking

The good news is that you can encrypt your website and get a security certificate using a free service called Let’s Encrypt.  Even better, some website hosting companies are now offering this as part of their standard packages.  So you may be able to encrypt your website at the click of a button.  Get in touch with your web developer to see if they can do this for your website.

We recommend that all of our customers encrypt their websites to protect their visitors.  We will set up encryption for any new websites we build.  Security is particularly important if you store personal or sensitive information, or if you sell anything through your website. 

If you want to know more about website encryption and security certificates, read our article: Should you encrypt your website?

Please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to discuss this further.

CiviCamp Manchester - 9 March 2017

Monday, 23 January 2017 11:53

Come meet others from the UK who are interested in, using or learning more about CiviCRM.

CiviCRM is a popular web-based contact relationship management (CRM) system for voluntary organisations.  It is used for: fundraising, membership, email newsletters, event bookings, online payments, case management and more.

Find out more about CiviCRM

GMCVO Databases has organised a one-day conference on CiviCRM in Manchester on Thursday 9 March 2017.  This is the first time that a CiviCRM conference will be held in the North of England.  

The conference will be of interest to:

  • those who are thinking about using CiviCRM within their organisation and want to find out more
  • new and existing users of CiviCRM who want to understand the latest developments

If you have questions, there will be a number of UK-based CiviCRM experts in attendance who can help (including staff from CITA). You will also be able to talk to staff from other organisations who already use CiviCRM, and make connections that will help you in the future.

There will be twelve sessions during the day, plus an opportunity for people to bring their own issues or ideas to share.

Find out more and book a place: CiviCamp Manchester 2017

 

CITA recognised as CiviCRM contributor

Friday, 20 January 2017 17:26

We are pleased to have received official recognition as a supporting contributor to CiviCRM.

CiviCRM is a web-based contact relationship management (CRM) system for voluntary organisations. It is a fantastic way for non-profits to manage their contacts.  For the past three years we have been helping organisations to use it.

CiviCRM is built by a community of volunteers with the support of a small team of paid staff.  We have contributed to the development of CiviCRM by providing bug fixes and reviewing proposed changes.   We have also been active on the CiviCRM help site, answering users’ questions.  In recognition of this work, we are now listed as a supporting contributor on the CiviCRM website.

Please get in touch if you’d like to find out more about CiviCRM.

Create a mobile app for your community

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 09:27

Online platform allows community groups to create location review apps for free.

We’ve recently come across an interesting website called App Movement.  It’s an online platform that enables communities to collaboratively design and develop ideas for mobile applications.   It was developed by researchers at Newcastle University as part of the Digital Civics programme.

At present, App Movement can only create one type of app - a location review app.  This allows users to share a location on a map and leave reviews and ratings. Users can browse each other's contributions and share knowledge within their community.

18 mobile apps have been created since App Movement was launched in February 2015.  The platform currently has over 45,000 users.  Apps have been created by a wide range of groups looking to review and rate locations.

These include:

  • dementia friendly places

  • gender neutral toilets

  • drone flying locations

There are plans to add other types of app in future but these aren’t available yet.  In the meantime it is worth considering if you want to develop an app that allows users to review locations.

The idea for App Movement came from FeedFinder, a previous project the team had worked on with new mothers in the North East.  This app allows breastfeeding mothers to rate and review breastfeeding-friendly locations. Launched in 2013, FeedFinder now has over 9,000 users who have contributed over 3,000 venues and more than 3,200 reviews.  It continues to grow and support mothers in the UK and around the world.

Andrew Garbett, PhD Researcher at Open Lab in Newcastle University, is part of the team that created the app. He said:

“App Movement is a novel approach to mobile development that enables communities to commission their own tools and address issues at the grassroots level. Our aim is to enable civic action in relation to the problems that matter most to local communities and provide the tools to create, share, and understand the knowledge held within the community.”

You can create your own apps at: App Movement

Read more about it on the Digital Civics Website: App Movement: a platform for the community commissioning of mobile applications

Do you need an app?  Contact us at CITA to have a chat about your digital needs.

How can you keep your website safe?

Thursday, 01 December 2016 10:29

Five simple steps that you can take to keep your website secure.

It is likely that a website is an essential communication tool for your organisation. It's how you keep in touch with your clients, your donors and your volunteers. Yet, it's importance is often overlooked until something goes wrong.

Below we will discuss some of the ways that you can keep your website safe but first let's look at the risks.  We don’t want to worry you unnecessarily, but it is important to be aware of the risks.

What can go wrong?

Being online exposes your website to the whole globe. This is great for communication, but it also puts your website at risk of attack. Unfortunately, there are people out there that want to hack into websites. And it's not just people. Many of the attacks are automated and come from other compromised machines.

You may think that your website wouldn't be of interest to anyone else, but unfortunately that's not the case. Any website, however small, can be defaced to promote another cause or used send traffic to other website via posting links on your site.  Your website can also be co-opted into a ‘botnet’ and used to attack other websites.

As a result of being hacked your website may stop functioning so that no one can access it.  Or worse, it may be used to promote a cause that you find objectionable or is counter to the aims of your organisation.

Without suitable backups, you may lose the content of your website, which could take some time to restore.

What about personal information?

There are additional risks if you store any personal information on your website or in an online database.  

This could include:

  • your mailing list

  • contact details of your supporters

  • detailed client records

  • private messages posted by visitors to your website

If your website is hacked it could allow the hacker to gain access to this personal information.  They could use this to embarrass your clients or send them unwanted emails.  Depending on how sensitive this information is, this could be very damaging to your organisation.

How can we keep our website secure?

It is not possible to entirely eliminate the risks to your website.  But there are some simple steps that you can take that will significantly reduce these risks.

Software updates

Most websites today are built with a content management system - such as Drupal, WordPress or Joomla.  These systems have regular updates to fix bugs and security flaws.  Applying these updates promptly will reduce the risk of your website being hacked.

Secure passwords

Passwords are often the weakest link for a website.  It is important that you ensure that all your website users set strong passwords.  Automated attacks use a list of common words to try to access your website.  For this reason you shouldn’t use any common phrases or words from a dictionary.  You should also ensure that you use a different password for every website.

Read more: How secure is your password?

Website encryption

Encrypting your website can add an extra level of security. It will protect user’s login details when they log in to the website.  It also helps to protect any contact details and personal information that you access through the website.

Read more: Should you encrypt your website?

Hosting details

If anything goes wrong you will want to access your website hosting package quickly.  Ensure that you have these details to hand or know where to find them.  Keep them in a secure location.  As above, make sure you use secure passwords for your hosting account and control panel.

Backups

Take regular backups and keep these in a different place from your website.  While this doesn’t make your website any more secure, it does at least enable you to quickly restore your website in the event of a problem.  Make sure the backups are stored in a different location so that they aren’t compromised if your website is hacked.  You should periodically test the backups to ensure that they are working and you can successfully restore the website from them.

Image credit: Source code security plugin by Christiaan Colen is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

North East Social Enterprise Festival

Monday, 03 October 2016 11:50

Later this month we'll be at the second North East Social Enterprise Festival.

The North East Social Enterprise Festival is on Saturday 29 October at The Sage Gateshead.  It will be a celebration of social enterprise in the North East.

The Festival will have numerous displays of the benefits of collaborative efforts and a fantastic array of creative ways to combat social problems. Puppets, robots, stilt walkers, drummers, artists, IT geeks (that's us!), bakers and business skills will all be displayed.

Read more and book a place: North East Social Enterprise Festival

Develop better content for your website

Friday, 30 September 2016 09:49

We've recently built our 100th website - but it's not always a new website that our clients need. Sometimes a simple 'refresh' of the content is enough. We're offering a new workshop and advice package to help organisations make the most of their websites.

We'll help you get staff, clients, volunteers and trustees around a table and find out how they expect the website to work for them. With CITA's specialist knowledge of voluntary and community groups, we'll turn the findings of the workshop into practical advice and support.

Find out more: Developing website content workshop

Page 1 of 18