Nonprofits And Their Future In Digital Transformation

  • July 1, 2021
  • wishtree
  • Digital Transformation

“Every industry and every organization will have to transform itself in the next few years. What is coming at us is bigger than the original internet, and you need to understand it, get on board with it, and figure out how to transform your business.”

Tim O’Reilly, Founder & CEO O’Reilly Media

The pandemic completely changed how organizations meet their employees and their customers. 2020 saw meetings move from spacious boardrooms to platforms such as zooms. Video conferencing became the norm. Nonprofits all over the world were meeting their donors online through tiny screens. An increase in need of financial aid gave rise to peer-to-peer fundraising, money transfer being only a click away. Fundraising events moved online as well. Technology like VR and services like food delivery opened up entirely new scopes for fundraising events. Improved and seamless donation systems replaced frustrating legacy technology that used to drive away donors. And all of this is just the beginning.

Digital transformation is a term that everyone is familiar with one way or another. It is the adaptation of digital technology and the replacement of manual non-digital processes with digital processes. This process allows the organization to change its functions and provide more value to its stakeholders. For example, internal processes such as accessing donor information and keeping track of expenses are made easier and more comprehensive, thereby cutting down on the time and resources utilized. In addition, it streamlines operations and makes it more transparent- from how the donor data is stored to how the projects are implemented – making it easier to keep track of operations and accountability.

WHY CHOOSE THE DIGITAL WAY?

“At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years… If they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.”

John Chambers, Executive Chairman, CISCO System

2020 was an eventful year for all industries and sectors. Covid-19 pushed people out of their workplaces and into their homes. Within a few months, the pandemic brought about years of change in how organizations across all sectors function. Digitalization, however, isn’t new concept. Even prior to the pandemic, technology had become a crucial part of workplaces. From data storage to communication to sales and marketing, every vertical in an average organization had somehow been pushed online. With the ordinary person becoming more and more tech-savvy, organizations discovered a need to expand on various platforms to keep their visibility. Mobile applications, websites, etc., started becoming a necessity for businesses, for-profit and nonprofits alike. The events of 2020 only accelerated the process.

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Digital transformation has had a significant impact on the private sector. It has helped in enhancing efficiency, increasing productivity, and lowering costs. The World Economic Forum estimates that industries and organizations that digitally transform will create over $100 trillion in newly created value, opportunities, and favorable market impact by 2025.

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Digital change has become quite crucial for the Nonprofits sector as well, given the changes in the external environment and the ever-changing trends. This transformation isn’t only about updating the technological infrastructure. It involves integrating people, processes, and technology to be a win-win for all, cultivating better trust and transparency along the way, and creating more value.

Before making their services portable by upgrading to a hybrid cloud IT infrastructure, Legal Aid of Bluegrass had outdated servers that limited their ability to maintain connectivity amongst the staff members as they tried to extend their services across rural Kentucky. This is just one example of how digitalization can help nonprofits increase the magnitude of their impact.

The importance of going digital in today’s environment is not a secret; neither is the fact that organizations making intelligent investments in technology outperform those who aren’t. According to a survey by BDO, 46% of nonprofits said they faced difficulties coping with the challenges posed by Covid-19 due to advancements in technology that they couldn’t keep up with due to lack of awareness. The need to integrate technology won’t disappear as the pandemic subsides. More challenges are going to arise along with the existing ones. With the world now aware of the pros of going digital, it’ll become tough for nonprofits to prevent themselves from being weeded out due to their inability to keep up. 

Then there’s the case of cybersecurity. The nonprofits sector is still not adequately prepared to ward off cyberattacks. Nonprofits collect a lot of data from their stakeholders, which can be easily compromised due to ignorance about data security, lack of investment in proper technology, and so forth. If there is a concern about the safety of their data, donors and other stakeholders might shy away from engaging with the organization.

WHAT IS HOLDING BACK NONPROFITS FROM TRANSFORMING COMPLETELY?

The world of digital transformation can be daunting. The wide range of concepts and ideas floating around in the area might make it look like technical jargon and an added expense. Nonprofits operate under constant pressure to show results to justify the funding that they receive. There are around 10 million nonprofits worldwide, most of which have less than 50 people on staff, and half have zero IT budget. Even though the end goal of nonprofits differs from that of other conventional businesses, they do share certain similarities. Nonprofits are often made up of people with varied skill-sets and talents, some working full time while others voluntarily. Their funds are stretched to the maximum, pushing them to keep aside the more sizable portion of charitable works and less for administrative and fundraising purposes. More often than not, there is a lack of knowledge among the personnel to implement and operate digital processes, which deters the organization from implementing the changes. Additionally, many nonprofits and charities work on legacy technology that doesn’t support implementing the required changes.


Hindrances also occur during and after the implementation of digitalization. Therefore, the organization must find the right partner to implement its needs in the correct order. Herein lies the need to engage with professionals equipped with the required knowledge to gauge the organization’s needs and suggest the changes accordingly.

HOW TO GET STARTED ON TRANSFORMING DIGITALLY?

The best time to start on the journey to transform digitally is right now. Digitalization doesn’t happen overnight. It is a long-term process that requires a lot of dedication and perseverance. Before setting out on the journey of transforming digitally, the organization needs to go through an audit to determine its needs and means. Post that, it needs to prioritize the areas that need immediate attention. Completely transforming the entirety of the operation doesn’t make sense. Instead, it can select one area of its operation to start with and go from there. Then comes the need to find the right partner.

Firstly, a great technology partner needs to have a broad awareness of the organization’s ecosystem. A technology partner helps in implementing and optimizing the technical systems. Apart from this, there is also the additional responsibility to do so with minimal resources for nonprofits. A good technology partner needs to look after the end-to-end implementation of the right technology, tailor-made to suit each client’s specific needs. The right technology partner understands your needs and delivers accordingly where the organization can focus on its core function while entrusting the partner with technical guardianship. 

The roadmap to this transformation is not set in stone. At Wishtree, we strive to make the transition as smooth as possible. As in the case of 3ie, an international grant-making organization using a Spreadsheet-based Timesheet System for tracking the time spent by Employees for their daily activities. The challenge was to efficiently track employee time and generate reports based on the programs/fund source presented to organizations providing grants to 3ie. Wishtree developed the Timesheet application that captures the time spent by all the employees on various activities and provides the workflow to approve/reject the timesheets submitted to the manager and generate pay stubs for employees. It also captures Leave data to generate Leave reports. This has helped to save more than 3000 person-hours every year.

Digitalization is not a passing trend. It is here to stay and revolutionize how organizations operate. It is the new imperative. There will always be hindrances in the path towards development. However, there is always a way around as well. It need not be a pipe dream. It is the future, and we can help you be a part of it.

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