Digital transformation is one of those techy buzzword phrases that can seem vague and overwhelming. But it’s the key to success in today’s digital age, and embracing it at your nonprofit doesn’t have to be as unclear or complicated as you might think.
Digital transformation is about re-thinking processes, customer experiences, and even organizational culture to meet changing business and market needs in today’s digital era. While many for-profit businesses have been working with the idea of digital transformation for years, much of the nonprofit sector has lagged.
That is, until COVID-19 hit.
Due to global health concerns, nonprofit organizations were forced to accelerate their digital transformation by ramping up their use of email communications and online interactions with their constituents. Much of this was quick and tactical, without much time for planning.
Now that the initial move to more robust online interaction is behind us and some of the dust has settled, it’s time to take the next step. It’s time to think, plan, and build digitally. This approach can help your entire organization work more efficiently, interact more effectively with constituents and donors, and stay resilient in times of change.
At Heller Consulting, we’ve seen growing interest in digital transformation for nonprofits. Successful nonprofit leaders are starting to think beyond individual online interactions (like online donations and volunteer signups) to how technology can improve the full donor/volunteer/constituent experience with their organization.
Here are some of the ways we’re seeing nonprofits start to approach digital transformation in a more strategic way:
To dive deeper into digital transformation and read examples from nonprofits who adapted during COVID-19, download our guide: At the Crossroads of Nonprofit Digital Transformation
As a nonprofit leader, you might be scratching your head about where and how to begin with digital transformation at your nonprofit. Here are some tips to get you started:
If your organization is used to thinking about “online fundraising and marketing” and “offline fundraising and marketing,” it’s time to make a change. Bring those two teams together to break down those silos and start thinking about what engaging with your organization really feels like for today’s donors. You’ll find this starts with looking at an overarching data strategy to ensure that your fundraising and marketing data is connected in a way that can support your goals. This approach will then allow your organization to design a great donor/constituent experience and create more personalized and meaningful journeys for those who support your organization.
Getting started with automation tools does not have to be as expensive as you might think. In fact, some of your current technology systems probably have some form of automation capabilities built in. These tools can help you automate manual, time-consuming processes so your team can focus more on how to develop relationships with donors, volunteers, and other constituents. Dig into these tools, and then look for inefficiencies in your organization that you can start streamlining.
Change management is an organizational muscle that needs to be developed. It starts to build on itself. If staff members have a good experience with one project, then they’ll tend to feel positive about future projects. Over time, this creates a culture of positive change in the organization, which is especially important for technology and process changes that will come over time with digital transformation. Get started with change management practices with your next project, even if it’s a small one, so you can start to build that muscle.
While digital transformation requires a thoughtful approach to processes, technology, constituent experiences, and organizational culture, there’s a flip side. It also requires action. If you see an area of your organization that needs attention, don’t wait until you have the “perfect” multi-year digital transformation plan in place to address it. Focus on that area, apply principles of digital transformation, and start seeing the benefits now.
Working in this incremental way helps you to roll out solutions more quickly. It also allows you to learn what worked and what didn’t and adjust your approach for the next project.
Digital transformation can be approached from multiple angles. The important thing is to get started. We’re here to help you decide how to do just that. Contact us below to speak with one of our experts.