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Digital Transformation for Nonprofits

What Is Digital Transformation?

According to Wikipedia, “Digital transformation (DT) is the change associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society. The transformation stage means that digital usages inherently enable new types of innovation and creativity in a particular domain, rather than simply enhance and support traditional methods.”

For a nonprofit organization, Digital Transformation is more straightforward than it seems. It is not only about transforming how your organization works, but how you manage employees, relationships, stakeholders or vendors, but also how you deliver on your missions. The primary goal of a Digital Transformation is to integrate all functionality into a single, cohesive, digital environment.

Why Should Digital Transformation Matter to Nonprofits?
For most organizations, specifically nonprofits, any transformation can feel too scary to consider. Most often, the barriers to a Digital Transformation are lack of funding and the fear of workplace disruption.

More than ever, nonprofits are asked to do more with less, which is why investing resources in a Digital Transformation is so important. In a world of highly constrained resources, you can’t squeeze more out of what you have unless you change the way you work — and this is where technology can play a huge role.

How Can a Digital Transformation Help?
One of the primary ways a Digital Transformation can benefit a nonprofit organization is by digitally automating paper and manual processes. Most nonprofits, like many commercial counterparts, still rely heavily on paper. Most of the process are manual and involve moving a paper request through email to be reviewed and approved.

I recently worked with a large organization that had decided to modernize its processes, remove every paper trail, and go completely digital. Requests are now made electronically, routed to the right person, and approved in a timely fashion. Management can now monitor efficiencies to see how much time, effort, and resources are saved from their Digital Transformation effort.

But, How Do You Get There?
What nonprofit organizations need to remember is that a Digital Transformation is a journey not a destination — it will take time to achieve your goals. Below, I’ve outlined the basic steps to a successful implementation:

Step 1: Establish a common frame of reference to align people, processes, and technologies

Step 2: Assess your current digital approach to identify gaps and opportunities

Step 3: Build consensus by demonstrating how a digital strategy can transform impact

Step 4: Determine how to increase your security within the cloud

Step 5: Build your digital transformation strategy and stay inspired

1. Establish a common frame of reference through a discovery process
Fortunately, there are a lot of resources out there. The NetHope foundation has published a frame of reference called the NGO Reference Model. This is a living framework that NetHope members are continuing to iterate and build on. At its essence, it creates a key connection between people, processes, and technology in your organization.

2. Assess your current digital approach to identify gaps & opportunities
This assessment should be compared against the 4 typical outcomes of a Digital Transformation, or how well you:

  1. Engage your constituents
  2. Empower your employees
  3. Optimize your operations
  4. Transform your products or services

3. Build consensus by demonstrating how digital strategy can transform impact
We all hear about the importance of having a Digital Transformation strategy. According to 2017 research by NetHope, most organizations surveyed do not have a comprehensive digital strategy in place. So, what’s getting in the way? Like many private organizations, change management, and the ability of an organization to absorb and adopt new technologies is often limited by the time and skills available. To be successful, make sure to seek the buy-in and engagement of your organization’s senior leadership. Top management will need to work together to ensure proper funding and focus.

4. Determine how to increase your security and when to move to the cloud
The right cloud platform can deliver immediate results for a nonprofit. It can increase their security posture and allow them to off-load concerns to a cloud provider. Another bonus for nonprofits is that most of the popular cloud providers, like Microsoft and Salesforce, offer special pricing for nonprofits –often highly discounted. For many nonprofits, a Digital Transformation often starts by moving the collaboration and communication platform to platforms such as Microsoft Office 365.

5. Build your Digital Transformation strategy and stay inspired
Once you build consensus and there is agreement on how to move forward, it is time to bring a transformative strategy to life. To do so it only takes a few easy steps, following the Dream, Design, & Deliver process.

  • Dream involves running a Design/Discovery workshop to envision innovative scenarios with your broader team. Then converge on the scenarios that will have the highest impact on organizational outcomes.
  • Design involves aligning processes, technologies, and organizational change management plans into a common, time-phased roadmap to deliver prioritized scenarios and impact.
  • Deliver involves implementing a process, reengineering, choosing technology solutions, and establishing organizational readiness. After the deliver stage, make sure to continue to measure impacts and observations that can be fed into the next stage of a Digital Transformation.

What It All Means
We have just outlined the 5 systematic steps to start your Digital Transformation journey, so now what? For many nonprofit organizations, time constraints and lack of internal resources limit the ability to get started — and this is where a dedicated partner can help make the transition easier. One common mistake we have seen many organizations make is to try and tackle a transformation alone. Unfortunately, they often have to bring in an outside organization anyway to fix mistakes — which can be extremely costly.

If you have any questions about a Digital Transformation for your nonprofit comment below,reach out to us online, or give us a call at 240-406-9960.

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