"Bring your laptops home for the weekend, we may work from home for a few days."
The Pandemic started really casually for me, through an email on a Friday morning. I had just started working at a nonprofit, joining the ranks of the other 1.6 million office workers in NYC. We had a small office in a WeWork building just off Times Square.
That day, as the three of us were packing up our boxes, we were making jokes about whether we’d ever see each other again and wondering if we should take home the office chocolate. It wasn’t just us…if you’ve never been in a WeWork, it’s a giant office building, all glass walls. Every office was in a flurry of papers and packing. It was a weird, surreal experience, one that I will never forget.
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As a new nonprofit employee, everything was unfamiliar territory.
Even more so for the rest of the 12 million people already working in the nonprofit sector.
The Pandemic dramatically exposed nonprofits. They had to strategically manage through drastic changes, try to plan for a completely unpredictable future, and use their digital experience to pivot and implement new ways to carry out their programs and services- not to mention their fundraising initiatives.
I was doing some googling and found a great (if incredibly long) article on Salesforce which you can read here if you like. It was exploring the connection between nonprofits with high digital maturity and their ability to innovate and confidently respond to change. Every day, our world digitally upgrades all around us. More than ever, NP’s need digital tools to be effective, efficient and competitive- duh. If they didn’t know that prior to 2020, they sure know that now.
Salesforce did this huge, extensive survey of 867 NP professionals in 6 countries. They were asked to self-assess the extent to which data guides their operations in these five areas, and rate themselves from 1 (low) to 5 (high).
Decision making based on data and evidence
Ease of finding/sharing data to solve problems
Programs and services designed with recipients
Digital communication and ability to personalize message
Accurately forecast income from fundraising efforts
The results were incredibly average across the board.The lowest of 3.2 was in forecasting income from fundraising, and the highest of 3.94 going to designing programs/support with the recipients.
They used those averages to determine that only 16% of nonprofits (in their survey) rated a high degree of digital maturity, 71% of medium maturity, and 13% rated as low.
The overwhelming majority of nonprofits landing in the medium maturity probably means there is wider variance among their digital experience level. Some may not want to self-assess as low even on an anonymous survey.
85% of high digital maturity nonprofits met or exceeded their fundraising goals.
Half of all non-profits reported investing more in technology during the pandemic, and of those, 56% moved their programs online. Investing more in technology means making changes to sustain for the long term- these are excellent trends in the industry, as digital transformation is the key to long term success.
When asked what individuals within their organization needed to be more comfortable with technology, Board Members and Senior Management were twice as likely than other staff. Those most comfortable with tech? The frontline staff, entry-level employees who were likely to be younger. This group was also most frustrated and dissatisfied with the resources available to them. The digital age gap is real and severely disruptive to an organization’s ability to evolve.
Assessing response to change
In assessing their response to the pandemic, higher digital maturity NP’s were more equipped to evolve and adapt. By developing new digital channels, they found ways to engage with audiences, offer personalized services to recipients, motivate volunteers, and retain existing and acquire new supporters.
The whole survey left me wondering WHY? Why do only 16% of nonprofit organizations feel they have the modern digital tools necessary to be effective, efficient and successful? The correlation is obvious even without reading an extremely informative and well-graphed 58 page report.
So what is the hold up?
Traditionally, nonprofits are between 5-7 years technologically behind their for-profit counterparts. Think about how many different phones you’ve had in the last 5-7 years. Probably at least 2, maybe 3, right? We’re equipping ourselves with new technology every 2-3 years, at the minimum. Why are nonprofits selling themselves so short on something that we personally deem as essential?
The best time to start is now
This lead me to become an advocate for innovation, change, and growth among nonprofits. As employees (from senior management to entry-level), you should feel ok voicing your needs and ideas- consider it an obligation, frankly, a critical responsibility. This is a pivotal time for nonprofits, and the changes you’re implementing now (or not) will directly affect your future.
No matter where you are in the range of digital maturity- from high to low- if you want to become even more tech driven, contact us today. Don’t sell yourself short.