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Hot Topic  |  Innovation

How Does Your NFP Become ‘Digital First’?


13 December 2016 at 9:28 am
Richenda Vermeulen
Successful not for profits are focused on “digital first”. Richenda Vermeulen, director of ntegrity, explores the top-three elements of digital transformation.


Richenda Vermeulen | 13 December 2016 at 9:28 am


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How Does Your NFP Become ‘Digital First’?
13 December 2016 at 9:28 am

Successful not for profits are focused on “digital first”. Richenda Vermeulen, director of ntegrity, explores the top-three elements of digital transformation.

Innovation is the key to growing in the not-for-profit sector. And the fastest growing and most innovative not for profits and social enterprises (ie GetUp!, Thankyou Co and Charity: Water) are “digital first”.

Digital first means you can mobilise online communities.

Digital first means you can leverage digital to connect with a new generation of donors.

Digital first means internal teams work seamlessly across projects.

Digital first means you can be responsive, rather than reactive to disasters.

From ntegrity’s own research into the digital culture of Australian organisations, we are finding the NFP sector lags behind other industries.

So how do you transform your NFP to be digital-first?

Microsoft’s Embracing Digital Transformation report, released 29 November, has some great insights from Australia’s top business leaders on what successful digital transformation needs: strong leadership, teams empowered with digital skills and innovative culture.  

These are three vital things the not-for-profit world must focus on to become digital first.

1. Champions at the top

One of the biggest barriers to digital transformation is lack of strong digital leadership. And our research shows while 60 per cent of Australian businesses surveyed have reported strong digital leadership, only 40 per cent of not for profits have it.

To be successful you need a strong leader to drive change from the top down, or inside out. We’ve found the first stage has to involve bringing leadership together to agree on why digital can no longer be confined to one department, what a culture of experimentation looks like and why they should prioritise digital in the budget (not just the marketing budget). This could be in a workshop, or an offsite event: ultimately the environment needs to ensure they agree on why digital first matters.  

2. Digital skills for everyone, not just one team

NFPs can only become digital first when digital is not siloed in one department, but an extension of every team member’s role.

Our research shows that digital skills are highly valued and 80 per cent of NFPs surveyed believe their organisation would achieve better digital results with more highly skilled people. Yet nearly 70 per cent of NFPs do not have sufficient resources or budget allocated to digital. Most NFPs have small digital teams of one to three people supporting the whole organisation. And when we talked to a few survey participants, the concept of upskilling all teams with digital skills had not even been considered.

Yet empowering all teams in digital is essential to becoming a digital-first organisation. You can empower your NFP with digital skills through internal training, encouraging teams to share learnings, transparency across projects, training for new digital tools and ensuring teams work with one another on different projects. Or you can get external training, such as webinars, courses and conferences.

3. It’s the inside that matters

The internal culture of your NFP directly impacts your ability to be innovative.

The culture is not your NFP’s values and working principles written on a piece of paper. The culture is a living and breathing thing. Similar to a website, it needs to be constantly evolving to meet the needs of your team, your recipients and your donors.

This looks different for every organisation. At ntegrity we share information, are transparent in our work, verbalise our struggles and celebrate our successes with one another, we’re honest about our deficits and always working on the best way to communicate with one another. And similar to the most innovative NFPs like Charity: Water, Thank you and GetUp, we’re responsive, experimental and agile.

Digital transformation is not just essential for business, it’s essential for NFPs. Growing your impact in an over-saturated, under-funded sector is possible with the right mix. How can you make digital a priority with your leaders, cultivate the right internal culture for innovation and upskill your team? Let’s start the conversation!

About the author: Richenda Vermeulen is the director of ntegrity, a digital consultancy that helps NFPs implement innovative solutions to improve fundraising and communications. Prior to ntegrity, Vermeulen spent 12 years in the not-for-profit sector, from frontline social work to launching social media marketing at World Vision Australia and World Vision USA.


Richenda Vermeulen  |  @RichendaG

Richenda Vermeulen is the Director of ntegrity, a digital consultancy that helps NFPs implement innovative solutions to improve fundraising and communications.

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