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Let’s face it

Let’s face it, operating a Not For Profit (NFP) in a fast changing, digital and highly technical world is nothing short of hard work. What would seem an unrelenting parade of new technologies, and list of “next big things” makes it increasingly difficult to find the right technological solutions. Not every emerging technology will alter the social landscape or assist in the battle to service your consumers. Some however, do have the potential to disrupt the status quo, alter service delivery models and make the business of running an NFP a little easier.

Most NFP are acutely aware of this need to keep pace with disruptive technologies. To continue to do things the way they have always been done, risks the loss of funding and certainly won’t cut the mustard with new funding models like the NDIS. Yet adoption of disruptive technology remains slow within many areas of the NFP sector. Why is this so?

There may be many answers to this question, for example, a lack of funds or resources, a lack of scale, or just the plain old we’ve had no need to change. Perhaps however, the biggest roadblock to implementation is – Where do we start? What technology do we adopt? There are a plethora of tech companies out there that will tell you they have the right answer to these questions. However, before you go racing off to market to purchase any solutions you need to determine the right solution for your particular situation.


When we start with the right question the how comes much easier. In Service Design we use a human centric approach to problem solving that begins with asking ourselves – What problem am I trying to solve?

Here are some questions to get you started:

  1. Who are my customers?

The answer to this question might include: Consumers, Government, Philanthropists, Internal Staff and other businesses.

  1. What are our customers key interactions/touch points with our services?

(Try mapping this out in a visual representation from their initial contact through the engagement process.)

  1. What are our customer’s feelings, motivations and questions throughout their engagement?

(Back this up with anecdotal research and data analysis from existing data including customer surveys.)

4. What do our customers experience?

Using design questions like these help us to identify gaps in service delivery (ours and others) or touch points that are disjointed or painful for your customers. Chances are you now have a number of ‘right’ problems to solve.

Where to next?

Our customer insights and research may have highlighted internal or external pain points experienced with the service delivery system, the way we practice, or even the way we run our day-to-day business. For example: Consumers have trouble navigating the service system, or counselors have no time to see me, or local businesses are experiencing long delays in payment of their invoices. The nature of the problem becomes the basis for an appropriate tech response. Your solution might now be an App that helps consumers find the services they need. It could be a website that assists the consumer with their immediate concerns prior to them being able to see their counselor. Or, you may need software solutions that enable timely payment of invoices.

Who knows, you may have just come up with the next disruptive game changer. Go for it!

Julie Beckers is the Principal Innovation Architect at Innovation Creation Pty Ltd.

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