10 steps to successful digital transformation for charities and non-profits

group on women working on computers at a large desk

Written by Kayleigh Alexandra, Author at Micro Startups

Years after the bulk of business moved online in some capacity, some organisations remain mired in outdated operational methods, and charities and non-profits are chief among them. It’s easy to understand why, of course: when you care far more about helping people than you do about making money, you’re far less likely to be concerned about staying ahead of the curve.

What those organisations need to realise is that embracing new technology is about far more than making money. It’s largely about making tasks easier, saving time and effort, and reaching more people than you ever could with traditional methods. Profit is really just a consequence for the businesses that pursue it — for a charity, it’s about putting money back into helping people.

If you’re involved with a charitable organisation of some kind, and it’s in that awkward position of being out of touch with the digital world, it’s time to make some changes. Here are 10 steps it should follow to undergo a successful digital transformation:

Get the management on board

You can’t make any meaningful changes without the go-ahead from the people in charge, and this can easily be the biggest obstacle. People from older generations don’t always understand the point of digital transformation, after all. It falls upon the more tech-savvy to explain how it makes it faster and easier to help people. Get a commitment from them — ideally in writing!

Itemise analog processes

When you have a mixture of digital and analog processes in your everyday operations, things can be very confusing. Start by making a note of everything you do that could plausibly be moved online. Paperwork? Outreach? Marketing? Make a comprehensive list so you can start figuring out where the priority should go.

Set out a plan for the future

What’s your ultimate goal with the transformation? What do you think your organization might look like in 10 years, for instance? If you can decide that, you can have something to work towards, and have a vision to set out when working on promotional campaigns. Knowing that a charity aspires to keep improving is a great reason to invest in it.

Seek support from partners

Organisations that aren’t profit-led don’t generally compete very aggressively, because each one knows that the success of any other is a good thing overall. This makes networking much easier and more expansive. As a charity, it’s likely that you already have numerous established relationships with other companies (charitable or otherwise), many of which have no doubt already undergone digital transformations. Why not reach out to them for advice and support?

Train staff on the basics

At some point, you need to stop being hypothetical about using digital tools and start actually using them, and that can be complicated. It’s possible that plenty of staff members and volunteers working with your organization have limited computer skills. The first practical step, then, is to provide IT training: bring someone in to teach, or get people on IT courses.

Overhaul your team management

The operational areas that tend to take up the most time, effort and money for charities are HR and finance. Every fresh staff member must be onboarded and paid, and given the turnover inherent to the industry (it’s often a temporary pursuit, after all), this can be extremely arduous. You’ll find that using online payroll software will keep everything in order — couple it with a comprehensive range of online training materials to get people up to speed faster. Consider the merits of using something like Perkbox for employee engagement — it’s easy to manage and can really help freshen up any employee benefits you offer.

Polish the company website

Even if you’re heavily analog, you’ll undoubtedly have a website by now: it just might not be very good. You need a modern website that’s fast, responsive, and easy to use. Consider hiring a novice web developer to overhaul your site, or, if it’s particularly outdated, replace it with a new one. It doesn’t need to be amazing, so don’t pay a huge sum: just make sure it’s rock-solid.

Become active on social media

Charity PR can feel awkward, but it’s a necessary part of the process. You can’t help people if you don’t have sufficient funding or assistance. Social media is great for getting the word out about charity, particularly if you can provide case studies and stats about the work you do: showcase what you’re trying to achieve, and you’ll build up a valuable following.

Provide more ways to help out

The more support you get, the better, and moving online gives you more ways to gather it. You can provide donation buttons on your website, in your emails, and in your social media profiles. You can also create online communities for volunteers: on Facebook, for instance, or even a dedicated forum. If someone wants to help out, make sure they have options.

Follow industry authorities

The digital world never stops moving, and standards change at a rapid pace. That means that your digital transformation will never truly be finished — you’ll need to keep making minor changes on a somewhat-frequent basis to ensure that you don’t fall behind the times. To stay apprised of what needs to be done, follow whichever digital industry blogs best suit your style: sites like Charity Digital News are particularly relevant.

If you can do each of these things, you’ll find your organization in a much stronger position to push on and achieve greater things in the future. Your digital transformation work won’t be done, but that’s unavoidable — just keep your eyes open so you can see what fresh opportunities the next industry developments will bring.

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