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Creating digital champions within your organisation

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NCVO member Mencap - a charity that supports people with a learning disability - share their experience on creating Digital Champions within their organisation.


Digital technology has revolutionised how we access information and communicate. As such, digital literacy should not be the sole domain of the digital team, but ingrained throughout the organisation.

At Mencap, we're always looking for ways to better work with our colleagues across the UK and turn them into staunch digital supporters. One of our biggest steps so far has been enrolling our Digital Champion Scheme.

The scheme is all about making sure teams have their finger on the digital pulse. We’re here to help Digital Champions be the support within their own team, so they can be their own team’s expert on a wide range of digital issues, from social media and blogging to email marketing and web content. 

The issues we faced

We started the scheme to try and tackle the following issues:
  • digital being an afterthought and not integrated into project plans from the start
  • materials being delivered that didn’t follow best practice
  • teams duplicating work or missing opportunities to work together and amplify their message
  • assumptions that digital is immediate and free or cheap
  • teams not briefing us in time, making much of our work re-active, and reducing time spent on more strategic, proactive communications. 

Our aims for the Digital Champion Scheme were to:

  • strengthen communication and relationships between the digital team and every other team at Mencap
  • improve digital literacy and thus raise the bar on the quality of materials we receive, reducing time spent on editing
  • make workflows more efficient
  • turn our Digi Champs into digital evangelists and help magnify our core messages.

The actions we took

  1. We started an internal campaign, meeting each team and introducing the idea of the scheme. There seemed to be a real appetite for it, and around 50 people volunteered to become Digital Champions.
  2. We now host a lunchtime meet-up every two months to talk all things digital – each session adopts a different theme, and we discuss everything from web accessibility, to new digital innovations, to the latest online trends. One of our meet-ups’ theme is User Experience, and Zone Public's former head of UX, Tory Dunn, talked to us about what she’s learned from working with other charities.
  3. We introduced a culture of digital show and tell - the champs are the digital eyes and ears for their team and they horizon-scan with us. Sharing ideas and links to inspiring digital ideas is also building cross-team relationships and better communication. It means we’re better poised to jump on new trends.
  4. We made our digital guidelines shorter and sweeter in the hope they’d be easier to remember! This includes tips and tricks for Twitter and Facebook, blogging guidelines, web editorial guidelines and content templates.
  5. We introduced ‘Digi Champ of the Month’ - they have the privilege of adorning their desk with our Digi Champ Trophy (a Nokia 3210 glued to a plinth of floppy disks.)
  6. We devised workshops to help upskill the champions and provide support outside of the meet-ups.

Examples of workshops we offer:

  • Using Drupal to edit web content.
  • Twitter best practice.
  • Web accessibility.
  • Online safety.

Digital activities we collaborate on:

  • Tweets, Facebook posts, and other social media content.
  • Email marketing.
  • Web pages and content.
  • Online marketing such as Adword and social media campaigns.
  • Staff engagement.

Positive outcomes

  • We’ve found that giving people more autonomy over their content means they take much more interest and pride in what goes up on the website or out on social media.
  • Since starting the scheme we’ve delivered dozens of workshops and seen an increase in people actively using Drupal and engaging with their web content. We’ve also seen an improvement in the quality of the work we receive, in line with the new guidelines.
  • Our CEO took up the Twitter mantle and got all senior management on Twitter within weeks. Getting the senior management team on board with the scheme gave it more gravitas and was key in ensuring that Digital Champions gave it the time and dedication it needed.
  • Using our Super Digital Champions to inspire others (and get a bit of healthy competition going!)

Negative outcomes

  • It’s been difficult to include people based outside of London in these meet-ups, reaching people in our regional offices, Northern Ireland and Wales. We’ve been hosting remote meet-ups or workshops via Google Hangouts or conference calls, but to get online working well, you still need some offline, face-to-face time.
  • There's too much content and not enough long-term planning. It’s brilliant that people are keen to get their work online, but in such a large organisation, there’s a danger of content overkill and losing your audience. People often see digital as free and immediate, and don’t factor it into long-term plans. The scheme is encouraging people to think ahead, horizon-scan, plan and budget for content they may want in the weeks and months ahead.
  • It's challenging to keep a large, diverse group of people engaged, and coming back to the next meet-up. 

Lessons learnt

  • Make each meet-up relevant for everyone in the room or risk losing them, because they’re volunteers and their time is precious. Don’t be too vague or too specific, and try to give examples that each team can relate to. Split into groups based on digital literacy level and tailor the activity to them. That way each group is being challenged and learning something, without being lost or bored.
  • External speakers are a good way to get bums on seats. We’re hoping to get someone from Twitter to join one of our meet-ups.
  • Don't make the scheme mandatory or a chore - people need to feel motivated by it to produce quality content and become active on Twitter themselves. Getting the senior leadership team on board really helped with this.
  • The Digital Champs are the lifeblood of the organisation's digital content – we need them to be excited by digital and aware of its possibilities; we want them to care as much as we do about the quality of their copy, video or other visual content, and think from the start of a project: how can we best communicate this message to achieve this goal?
  • There are always risks to encouraging your staff to be more digitally active for work - whether they’re writing blogs, tweeting about our latest campaign or updating a webpage in the CMS - but as long as the digital team can be there to offer guidance and continue to give feedback, the benefits generally outweigh the risks.


Page last edited Jan 11, 2021

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