Australian Not-for-Profit organisations have been slow to adopt digital strategies, and have, consequently, become less competitive. That is the result of a study released in September 2019 by the Queensland University of Technology.
“In a highly competitive funding environment, the Not-for-Profit sector faces new challenges in maintaining and building human and financial support. The effective use of digital technologies has the potential to enhance engagement and build organisational effectiveness,” the study explains.
The study warns, however, that Not-for-Profit organisations need to be mindful in making use of technology in a way that corresponds to their missions and goals.
Not-for-Profits must adapt to the use of technology
For a Not-for-Profit to achieve impact, technology must be integrated into the overall structure of the organisation, the study shows.
“A digital strategy that flows from the vision and mission of the organisation reinforces the perception that recruiting volunteers and funders is integral to its operations. Relationships are still the key to successfully retaining donors and finding a balance of online and offline presence is essential,” according to the study.
Technology allows an organisation to know and serve its supporters better, the study emphasises. Knowing the supporters of your organisation and understanding the reasons for their support is key to managing their expectations and encouraging greater participation. Supporters want to know what their donation is being used for, be it time or money.
Relationships are, in fact, the key to a successful Not-for-Profit, so the purpose of technology is to help build and enhance these relationships.
“Technology is most effective when built into the structure and culture of an organisation. It is also more successful when driven from the highest level, with the goal of embedding an IT culture across the organisation,” the study notes.
Importance of the IT Plan for Not-for-Profits
But the challenge for Not-for-Profit organisations lies in assessing their options to ensure they choose the correct programs, equipment, platforms and security from the large array of new technology.
This is why these organisations must formulate a digital strategy. It is one of the most important strategic conversations Not-for-Profit leaders can take forward. “Digital leaders, board members or senior staff members within an organisation are key to fostering innovation and ensuring investment in financial and staff resources,” according to the study.
The objective is to create a holistic IT plan that objectifies needs, and then details the characteristics of solutions. Long-term planning is essential: Too often, some digital technology is integrated when there is an IT-skilled volunteer. When that volunteer is no longer available, the IT adoption stops.
The leadership must formulate the IT strategy, and communicate it to all the membership. This is also why more than 90 per cent of Not-for-Profit boards surveyed in the study agree that “poor management and leadership can limit the potential of digital technology at Not-for-Profit organisations.”
A well planned, supported and sustainable strategy will be more effective than enthusiastic short-term responses.
The right tools for Non-Profits
Not-for-Profit organisations generally focus their technology and communications around the organisation’s website. Many have interactive areas that can solicit and receive donations, or engage supporters in dialogue. The most successful digital strategies generally build around the website using social media, email and direct mail to broaden communications.
To manage all this, staff, at all levels, should have the skills, training and capacity required to engage with the relevant existing and emerging technologies and platforms. This may involve arranging skills training, particularly at regional and rural organisations.
Cloud-based software can be used to control expenses on IT adaptation. But the right software needs to be selected before making considerations about price. Here, the advice of a third-party advisor can be extremely valuable. Many Australian Not-for-Profit organisations make an arrangement with IT consultants in which the experts donate their services as regular partners, to help organisations make the right choices.
Trusted third-party providers can also work with Not-for-Profits to choose applications that really drive impact. For example, board management software accelerates and improves collaboration at the board and management level. This develops the culture of adapting technology at the leadership level, so that it can be communicated throughout the organisation. And it speeds the implementation of strategy at the management level.
Diligent Governance Cloud: Modern Governance Tools for Not-for-Profits
Diligent is a pioneer in Modern Governance, governance which brings the most robust technology to enabling every aspect of good governance.
The Governance Cloud ecosystem also offers tools to manage governance issues. The Diligent Conflict of Interest Questionnaires enables effective and confidential implementation of policy. It moves reporting online, eliminating the time and resource-intensive process of assembling binders, mailing information that may require last-minute updates, and waiting for days, possibly weeks for the return of signed packets.
Informed by our work with leading boards and 145,000-plus executives worldwide, these questionnaires channel all of your Conflict of Interest compliance data into one convenient, secure online place, in real time. Easy to customise, administer, and use, Diligent Conflict of Interest Questionnaires save time, minimise errors, and deliver a more streamlined process for everyone.
There are also tools for every governance issue that arises at companies and not-for-profit associations. For example, the Nominations app scours thousands of candidates so that boards can find those with the right skills as well as the right chemistry. It also creates channels for discussions with candidates and facilitates holding elections.
But there are also tools for competitive intelligence, for understanding the sector that the association works in, for rapid and secure communications, virtual meeting rooms for secure exchanges of ideas, for evaluating board performance, for entity management and more.
Good governance isn’t just one thing – so why buy software that only manages your board documents? At Diligent, we empower leading organisations around the world to turn good governance into a competitive advantage for their business. In the ever-changing landscape of the world, governance hasn’t kept up with the fast pace of business. Quarterly board meetings, paper board books and not using secure communication tools for sensitive data have opened up numerous companies to risk.
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