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Three Ways Australian Not For Profits Can Improve Their Digital Capabilities

18 January 2018 at 8:35 am
Richenda Vermeulen
Richenda Vermeulen, the director of ntegrity, offers advice on how not for profits can emerge from their low digital confidence environments.

Richenda Vermeulen | 18 January 2018 at 8:35 am


Three Ways Australian Not For Profits Can Improve Their Digital Capabilities
18 January 2018 at 8:35 am

Richenda Vermeulen, the director of ntegrity, offers advice on how not for profits can emerge from their low digital confidence environments.

As a consultant working across a number of industries, I often see a significant difference in the way NFPs approach digital (ie marketing, technology, and workflow) than their for-profit peers.

As a general rule, NFPs are more hesitant to embrace new technologies, less likely to invest in training, and less confident in their skills.

I used to think these differences were simply due to tighter budgets.

But as I worked with more diverse clients, including small businesses, startups, and solo-entrepreneurs, I started to suspect that the difference in approach had less to do with  sparse budgets than it does with vision and culture.

In 2017 we surveyed 167 Australian Businesses and not for profits and the data confirmed that budget was not the driving factor that differentiated approach towards “digital”.  Specifically, we saw a significant gap in the digital confidence levels of NFPs.

  • “Are you confident in your organisation’s ability to execute your digital strategy?”
    Not for profits answered 54 per cent lower than other industries.
  • “Do you feel you have strong digital leadership in your organisation?”
    Not for profits answered 44 per cent lower than other industries.
  • “Are you confident in your team’s digital marketing proficiency?”
    Not for profits answered 36 per cent lower than other industries.

It’s a concern, but it’s not all doom and gloom.

Here are three ways I’ve seen not for profits emerge from low digital confidence environments and improve their digital capabilities.

Set a clear vision

Look, leadership in digital needs to come from the top. If you or your organisation is still treating technology as an experiment with unproven ROI, you need to come to your senses.

As a leader, communicate that your digital strategy is a key focus area, and commit to a clear budget and goals. Your vision shouldn’t be wishy washy – it should be a clear statement that everyone in the organisation can relate to how they plan their work, and spells out how internal digital efforts can contribute to your external goal.

Invest in training

Here’s a shocking statistic: 70 per cent of employees working in digital marketing have no formal training. It’s an emerging area, so most of what digital marketers know is from on the job learning.

The problem just “on the job learning” is that employees only learn one way of doing things. Whether that’s planning an email campaign, writing a blog post, or building next year’s digital strategy, most companies have a pattern or process to their marketing. Stepping outside of “the way things have always been done” — through training, mentoring, or job shadowing — allows your staff to learn new or improved ways of working.

The demand for modern training for digital marketers is such a key need that we’re now offering a 16-course digital training, teaching practical skills like email marketing, SEO, customer journeys and building a digital strategy.

Embrace thoughtful risk

If your team has never had an initiative that flopped or failed, you’re probably playing it too safe.  

Tom Watson, the head of IBM, writes: “To double your success rate, double your failure rate. Many discoveries and breakthroughs are made by accident. The history of innovation is a long list of failures that eventually lead to a bigger success.”

With digital, it’s easier to experiment than ever before. So instead of committing huge amounts of time and resources to a project, simply commit to testing projects more regularly.

The key with testing new ideas is to execute quickly, learn the lessons, and move on. Thoughtful risk is much less risky than taking no risks at all.

The challenge for leaders

New digital marketing channels now provides virtually unlimited potential for exposure, advocacy and fundraising – but it requires a strategic approach. The challenge for leaders is to make sure your team is staying focused on the right work that drives outcomes. By setting a clear vision, investing in your team’s skills, and embracing small tests, you’ll be on your way to embracing the new opportunities digital brings.

About the author: Richenda Vermeulen is the director of ntegrity, an award-winning digital consultancy that helps NFP’s improve their marketing and fundraising. 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 founder and CEO of ntegrity, a modern fundraising agency that works with hundreds of Australian and global not for profits and for-purpose organisations.

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