How Russian CSOs work in the digital environment — survey and statistics

How CSOs work in numbers — survey and statistics


The HSE Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector has revealed which platforms CSOs choose to communicate with donors and who among the benefactors can be called ‘digital outsiders’.




Article published on the ASI website



The HSE Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector and the Blagosfera Centre held a discussion on how the digital competencies of CSOs are changing. The discussion is part of the series “What do we know about the state of civil society based on survey data and statistics?”.


The presence of CSOs in the digital environment has been growing over the past few years, according to data from an all-Russian survey given to the heads of non-governmental non-profit organisations. The Director of the HSE Centre for Studies of Civil Society and the Nonprofit Sector, Irina Mersiyanova, presented the results of the surveys conducted in 2019, 2021, and 2023 at the meeting.


How active are CSOs online?


In 2023, 93% of CSOs that participated in the survey said they worked digitally, compared to 85% in 2021. The majority of respondents said they maintain their organisation’s official website and social media pages. Among social media, CSOs have begun opting for Telegram Messenger more frequently: in 2021, 3% of respondents spoke of their Telegram channels. In 2023, that figure had risen to 26%.


In addition to their own resources, about a quarter of CSOs used third-party digital platforms: thematic databases, communities, online publications. However, the interest of CSOs in online advertising has fallen over the past two years. In 2023, only 7% of respondents said that their organisation placed advertisements online.


How do CSOs use the Internet?


57% of CSOs used their official website to communicate with donors, beneficiaries, and partners. Video broadcasts on the official website and on social media are becoming a popular way of communicating. They are used by 27% of the organisations surveyed.


Within the organisation, CSOs most often chose to communicate via social networks (69%). Slightly more than a third of organisations used an electronic office with electronic document management, signatures, and reports (37%). About the same number of respondents used the platforms Zoom or Webinar.


“During the pandemic, many CSOs had to turn to new digital tools due to the need to provide remote work and the breakdown of the usual chains of interaction. And many of these changes persisted even after returning to normal operation,” Irina Mersiyanova notes.



In 82% of cases, digital technologies were found in the managerial work of CSOs (10% more than in 2021). CSOs used cloud services, digital platforms, CRM systems, and more.


Only a third of all CSOs surveyed used digital technologies for fundraising. More often, organisations collected donations on social media, buttons on the website and email newsletters.


The index of basic digital competency


Based on the performance of the CSOs’ information presence, external communications, digital infrastructure and fundraising, researchers compiled an index of the basic digital competencies of CSOs. The average index score in 2023 was 2.2 out of 10. The data varies for each area of digital technology. For example, CSOs began to expand their presence on the Internet, but did not use all the possibilities for online fundraising.


The ‘digital outsiders’ turned out to be the religious CSOs, organisations dealing with housing issues, and CSOs which are not socially oriented. Digital leadership has been headed by fundraising foundations and CSOs providing social services. The larger the organisation, the greater its digital competencies.


“Over the past two years, the number of organisations that do not use digital technologies at all has halved: from 10% to 5%. The percentage of CSOs that have mastered basic skills, for example creating a chat for operational communication with volunteers, a page on social media or a news channel on Telegram, has significantly increased.” Irina Mersiyanova concludes.


The all-Russian survey of CSO directors was conducted from October to December 2023. It was based on a representative sample by legal form and the year the organisation was founded. The sample size was 975 organisations.


You can watch the recording of the discussion “How the digital competencies of Russian CSOs are changing” here.





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