How to Be a Future-Ready Nonprofit
What does it mean to be a “future-ready” nonprofit? In Salesforce’s 2022 Nonprofit Trends Report, released today, 1,629 nonprofit employees were surveyed across seven countries, providing a holistic view of the current state of the sector. The report provides wide-ranging visual data orbiting the central idea that digitally mature organizations are often better equipped to respond to the rapidly changing world in which they operate. In these uncertain times, it’s important to consider the benefits of investing in technology to position your organization to be more agile and drive impact despite disruptions. Read on for our top takeaways from the report.
Please note: the data and findings below are pulled directly from the 2022 Nonprofit Trends Report, created by Salesforce.
Developing the nonprofit heart, and business mindset
In the nonprofit sector, many leaders are skilled in relationship development but don’t have strong business acumen. The CEO of a U.K. nonprofit put it this way: “You have to be innovative, and you have to be pioneering. A more commercial and very business-grounded attitude needs to be taken to future-proof organizations.” Many nonprofits reported that they are prioritizing their workforce in the coming year, a wise move as one nonprofit leader advised “[...] organizations should view their employees as a resource that requires investment, attention, and care.” Many shorter-term changes put into place during the pandemic are now being implemented as longer-term strategies, like remote work options. With this comes growing cybersecurity concerns, as charities are often targeted in these attacks. 39% of nonprofits cited “paying more attention to cybersecurity and data privacy" as their highest priority initiative over the next 12 months. To guard against risk and nurture employee resources, nonprofits can turn to technology to help them stay agile.
Five keys to increasing agility
Fostering agility within an organization often means leveraging technology to glean data insights that support more informed decision-making, positioning your organization to be better prepared for the unexpected. Based on qualitative interviews with nonprofit leaders, the report outlines five keys to organizational innovation, adaptability, and change:
- Be pragmatic. Hire specialists or engage with trusted private sector advisors, especially for guidance on technology or legal issues; look to banking partners, board members, and corporate partners for their expertise.
- Commercialize the benefit to donors. Think in terms of “packaging” the benefits of becoming a supporter to make them easy to understand and act upon.
- Listen to improve. Employ surveys and other listening tools to get feedback from stakeholders, both internal and external.
- Aim to multiply impact. Think simultaneously about the new and evolving needs of the end user and the needs of the economy as a whole - e.g. upskilling users in areas where the economy has gaps.
- Think collaboratively. Lean into your organization’s skill set(s) and find peers to fill in the gaps. Explore partnerships with other nonprofits and businesses.
Fostering a positive mindset for change at your organization is invaluable when disruptive events call for quick decision-making.
How important is digital transformation?
Nearly three-quarters (74%) of nonprofits say digital transformation is essential. This report defines digital transformation as, “the integration of digital technology into all areas of an organization, fundamentally changing how the organization operates”. Organizations that undergo digital transformation benefit from an increase in agility, effectiveness, and efficiency. Many of these benefits stem from having access to high-quality, actionable data to drive impact and decision-making. Additionally, nonprofits can leverage data to design programs and services, personalize communication with stakeholders, problem-solve, and forecast income. VP of Advancement at the Chinese American Service League, Brandi Adams, advises “Data isn’t just for reporting, it’s for making the critical decisions that improve the quality of programs and put relationships at the center."
According to the report, more than half (55%) of nonprofits say their organization needs to invest in technology to increase fundraising, and 60% say their donors expect a better experience than their current technology provides. Organizations often grapple with resource constraints, leading them to make shorter-term investment decisions about technology improvements or adoption. While this is valid, it’s also important to keep in mind that strategic digital transformation provides the framework for your organization to grow and scale more effectively in the long term. 77% of nonprofits say technology has helped their organization be more efficient or improve mission impact.
The effects of digital transformation are also felt in the nonprofit’s culture. Organizations that have a high level of digital maturity are 3.5x more likely to have highly motivated employees, 1.7x more likely to report a healthy workplace culture, and 1.3x more likely to have lower levels of staff burnout.
How do we invest in digital transformation?
Allocating time and resources to pursue digital transformation can be daunting. The barriers most commonly named by nonprofits are a lack of budget or resources (37%), higher priorities within the organization (30%), or a lack of skilled talent (28%). Even though most nonprofit leaders recognize the benefits of improving technology, the capacity to take on the work is often a challenge.
A thoughtful and supportive project management plan can help ensure success and ease of adoption in a digital transformation project. At Idealist Consulting, we have created a unique project management methodology that educates, guides, and empowers our clients on the project journey. We provide learning resources, conduct an in-depth discovery process, create thorough documentation, and offer hands-on training all aimed at creating a smooth transition to your new digital system. We know that finding the staff and ideal timing for a large project can be a challenge for organizations. If you’re curious about our method or the ongoing support we provide for nonprofits using a Salesforce system, click the button below to talk to an Idealist!