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Pandemic makes digital upskilling a priority for NFPs


2 September 2020 at 6:02 pm
Wendy Williams
Seventy-seven per cent of NFP CEOs say COVID-19 has made digital upskilling a higher priority


Wendy Williams | 2 September 2020 at 6:02 pm


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Pandemic makes digital upskilling a priority for NFPs
2 September 2020 at 6:02 pm

Seventy-seven per cent of NFP CEOs say COVID-19 has made digital upskilling a higher priority

COVID-19 has shone a light on the need for the not-for-profit sector to be more digitally savvy, with a new survey revealing more than three-quarters of organisations say they see digital upskilling as a higher priority thanks to the pandemic.

PwC’s inaugural Not-for-Profit CEO Survey found CEOs identified training in new software and programs (27 per cent), data analysis (17 per cent) and adaptability (15 per cent) as the top skills needed in the next 12 months to prepare employees for the impact of technology on their roles.

Jane Edwards, director in PwC’s social impact team, said COVID-19 had accelerated the need for digital upskilling of employees, with organisations forced to adapt to remote working and online service and product delivery. 

“Not for profits are often quite lean and must ensure they are embedding technology within their organisation and using it to their advantage,” Edwards said.

“They are able to be nimble, flexible and make rapid decisions, but they need people with the right skills and training to ensure technology is being used to its full potential.” 

Jess Wilson, national director of digital inclusion charity the Good Things Foundation, told Pro Bono News she was not all surprised that the sector was thinking more about digital skills.

“I think all organisations across the country, including community organisations, have had to really rethink the way they deliver services,” Wilson said.

“That includes our community partners. Supporting people who have no digital skills to learn digital skills is fine face to face, but doing that digitally is also really difficult, so they have had to be really creative about how they have done that.” 

Wilson said the problem extended beyond the skills of the community organisations. She said they had noticed during COVID that whether beneficiaries had access to devices was also a key issue.

“When we did a survey early in COVID about 77 per cent of our network said people not having devices was a barrier to them continuing support,” she said.

For 61 per cent of not for profits, the biggest barrier to conducting digital upskilling programs was a lack of resources. This was even more pronounced for smaller NFPs, with the survey finding the amount of training provided to employees falls as the size of the organisation decreases.

Despite this, the survey showed nearly half (42 percent) of NFPs were not making progress or considering collaborating with academic or government institutions on the skills needed for the future.

Edwards said NFPs needed to consider collaborating with government, business, academia, technology providers and other NFPs, to help them adapt in this fast moving environment and lift the digital skill capabilities within their organisations.

Wilson agreed. She said it was important for the community sector to work alongside government and academia to bring the best skills and knowledge to the table and make sure we are supporting people in the way that they need.   

“It is going to take all of us really to make sure that we are ready for whatever comes our way and to make sure that we have the technology and the service delivery models that are going to be needed in the future,” she said.

“I think COVID-19 has fast forwarded that quite significantly.”

Looking to the future, Wilson said the challenge is making sure the focus is not about technology replacing face-to-face or different service models, but about how it enhances and supports people to have more time with people face-to-face, by reducing administrative tasks and using technology differently. 

“For us, our normal is certainly that combination of having the digital tools that are really easy to use and simple, but alongside that digital mentor, that local person that is able to help people face to face and help them get over their fears,” she said.

“Because that is ultimately why people are often not using digital – because they’re not sure how to do it, and they’re not sure who to ask. 

“I think community organisations have a real opportunity to embed digital skills and digital literacy in the work that they do every day so they are supporting the people, who they are already supporting, to make sure they have the skills they need to engage in the world.”


Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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