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“Technology no longer optional”: why NFPs need to invest in digital skills

Not-for-profits must adapt to the digital world to survive or risk losing out to competitors who do

As technology is becoming sufficiently more instrumental to a business’s success, it is more crucial than ever that not-for-profits adapt to the emerging digital tools and skills.

Infoxchange CEO, David Spriggs, talked to Third Sector about the critical need for NFPs to adapt to the digital world as “technology is no longer optional for not-for-profits” and organisations struggle to survive in a hugely competitive sector.

Spriggs added that due to the importance of the digital world, “we see it’s almost impossible now to service your clients, and certainly meet the requirements for funders, without having strong technology underpinning your organisation.”

Infoxchange recently conducted an annual survey on digital usage in the NFP sector in partnership with Connecting Up and TechSoup NZ. The survey, Digital Technology in the Not-for-Profit Sector, illustrated that there is a “pressing need” for digital literacy.

“Historically NFPs have under-invested in digital technologies, with spending usually directed towards frontline service delivery,” the report read.

“Without the right technology to drive supporter engagement, enable staff to deliver services efficiently, measure client and community outcomes and communicate success in a professional manner, organisations will be unable to compete.”

Spriggs said one of the key findings of the report found organisations are not putting sufficient budget allocations towards learning and development within the sector.

“There’s a significant investment needed in the existing workforce around digital skills, some around social media, some around the more basic productivity skills and others to just have significant digital literacy and confidence to be using things like test management skills which are critical to service delivery of so many NFPs,” Spriggs said.

In order to succeed in a digital age, Spriggs suggests hiring executives to the board that have digital and technological experience – such as social media, website design and data storage – and to make use of the best available practices.

Spriggs also mentioned that one of the most effective strategies to manage the digital world is to collaborate with similar NFP groups on technology strategies.

“We often find that it’s a very useful way for organisations to collaborate and go on that journey together rather than being fearful and thinking it’s a problem they need to solve within their organisation,” Spriggs said.

One of the more recent Infoxchange initiatives, Digital Springboard, was created in partnership with Google.org and has the support of The Australian Red Cross, The Smith Family, The Clontarf Foundation, WISE Employment and the Australian Neighbourhood Houses and Centres Association (ANHCA).

“It’s kind of indicative of the types of audiences we’re trying to reach, which is those that are often missing out on the benefits of the digital economy today,” Spriggs said.

The free program will offer courses to provide digital skills to Australians through community groups and NFPs to give participants skills on how to effectively engage with and use social media, how to code and various productivity skills.

President of ANHCA, Jane Chilcott, said: “Every day we see the consequences of digital exclusion and are committed to addressing barriers to participation.”

Spriggs suggests that NFPs looking to work with the digital world should seek advice, adding: “Sometimes that needs to be paid advice, some paid consulting time, but don’t be fearful to ask for that advice and guidance from outside the organisation.”

Organisations that operate with either no IT plan or a minimal strategy are over four times more likely to report that their systems are incapable of retaining client information. The survey suggests NFPs use technology to maintain engagement with supporters.

“In the past, many organisations looked at an ICT plan as a separate part of their planning activity and we very much encourage organisations to look at IT as a critical enabler to their strategies,” Spriggs said.

“So going back to what is the vision and mission of the organisation and what are the strategic objectives and how can technology support and underpin those objectives.”

 

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