Future-proofing charities through digital transformation

Representation of digital transformation in a business
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With the majority of companies working from home, donors moving online and services delivered virtually, the charity sector had no choice but to embrace digital transformation during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to navigate the ‘new normal’, the importance of digital best practices has never been more evident in the not for profit sector. In fact, according to Blackbaud, two in five charity organizations stated that they planned to begin digital transformation projects post-COVID, after 87% said technology had helped them navigate the pandemic. What’s more, two-thirds claimed that their business had plans to invest further in the future.

About the author

Michał Sztanga is CEO at Future Processing.

Whilst this digital transformation started out as a necessity, many charities are realizing huge benefits from the shift. This includes increased fundraising efforts, improved services, expanded trust and transparency, enhanced marketing and communications, and support for the day-to-day operations of in-house charity teams. With that in mind, it’s vital for businesses in the not for profit sector to continue building on these successes, keeping up a digital momentum and adapting to meet the demands of the future.

Embracing digital transformation

Not only will digital transformation help charities steer their business in the short term, but it will also lead to long-term changes in the way it operates and takes advantage of opportunities derived from new ways of working and fundraising. Recent research from Charity Digital, however, revealed that 58% of charities based in the UK have no defined digital strategy. This highlights the adoption of technology across the sector and preparedness for the future is falling behind.

There are a number of technologies on the horizon that charities can consider to stay ahead of the curve. The first is blockchain, which is set to be an extremely promising solution for the sector. Not only does this technology ensure that charities remain completely transparent with data, but it also allows donors to monitor how charities use their donations. This provides an incentive for future donations as donors are more likely to continue giving if they trust the organization and can see where their money is spent.

Charities have also seen a drastic increase in the number of open source initiatives available. Open source is software with source codes that can easily be inspected, modified or enhanced by anyone across the globe. Emerging companies like Ushahidi are supporting the open source movement and helping develop integrated tools and services that enable people or businesses to create new solutions for doing good. Organizations of this nature can facilitate communication among users across the world, at the same time drawing public attention to important social issues in the global and local contexts.

Additionally, the transition to a cashless society gained momentum during the pandemic, leading to a number of charities adopting cashless or contactless technology in terms of donations. This is a result of donor behavior shifting, highlighting the importance of understanding how emerging trends and channels can enhance the charity’s activities, increase impact and create new income going forward. In addition, new technologies are now available to secure cashless donations, ensuring the process is convenient for donors.

Video conferencing has also played a pivotal role for charities over the past 18 months. These platforms have helped with events, digital fundraising, service delivery and engagement with donors, and we can expect to see this continue in 2022. Therefore, in order to future-proof not for profit organizations and benefit from these emerging technologies, business leaders need to map out their current digital channels and understand how to make the most of them when reaching supporters.

Leading a digital change

It’s clear that charities will need to make digital transformation a priority when it comes to developing long-term plans and building their own resilience to market or economic challenges. The first step involves identifying where digital sits in their business model as this will help understand what tools are needed for successful implementation. It’s also critical to look at how the organization's target audience is using digital, in order to develop best practices and methods for effective communication.

Furthermore, charities should consider upskilling their team with an in-depth training program, as this ensures the whole team is a part of the process. They can also embrace a digital culture to ensure internal buy-in with employees, making sure they understand the power of digital transformation and how it can benefit the organization in the long term. Businesses can also speak to other organizations in the space that have successfully gone digital, to understand what worked well and learn from their mistakes.

For many charities, the best place to start is by implementing simple and cost-effective measures, such as enhancing the website, utilizing social media and ensuring resources are available for all. They can also create a hybrid offering as part of their digital transformation efforts, where digital services are utilized to resolve simpler issues and face-to-face interactions are used for more complex issues.

Charities of the future

Embracing change is vital in future-proofing the not for profit sector. Digital transformation will help to raise greater funds, provide better services, increase trust and transparency, and improve in-house efficiency. The top priority is focusing on the supporter and donor needs, and how best to address them with the right digital tools. This involves understanding how the charity works, meaning not for profit leaders need to know what their goals are and how technology can help them get there in the long term.

Furthermore, it’s important to remain open-minded and consider the different solutions available, such as open source, cashless technology and blockchain. Hubs like Techsoup, Tech for Good or Tech to the Rescue are available to help charities make their digital transformation decisions and scale up their technology. Moving forward into 2022, charities should put digital transformation at front of their mind and start to develop a comprehensive strategy, in order to reap the benefits and support their business needs in the long term.

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Michał Sztanga is a member of the leadership team and the CEO of Future Processing. He is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the company, with particular emphasis on collaboration with clients seeking to develop their business with the help of software.