Published on the 06/11/2019 | Written by Heather Wright
Infoxchange report highlights the manual process pain the sector faces meeting stakeholder demands…
While many local businesses are feeling the strain of keeping up with technology demands and digital transformation, for not-for-profits, that pressure can be even greater.
Now, new research aims to show just how much of a struggle it is to harness new technology to help achieve social missions, find better ways to communicate and engage with stakeholders and conduct effective online promotion.
The fourth annual Digital Technology in the Not-for-profit Sector report, from Connecting Up, shows NFPs across Australia and New Zealand are spending an average of six percent of their operating budget on technology – but if you’re in disability services, that spend is likely to be 50 percent less.
“The success of any NFP in the future is going to be largely dependent on how well they are able to embrace technology.”
Either way, 64 percent of NFPs aren’t happy with the way they’re using digital.
The report, which is the result of a survey of 492 organisations across Australia and New Zealand, also notes that 54 percent of staff say they’re either ‘not confident’ or only ‘a bit confident’.
Youth services in particular are struggling, recording the lowest average score across organisational approach, staff capability and satisfaction.
Connecting Up – itself an NFP – it’s a subsidiary of Infoxchange and was created in late 2018 when Infoxchange, Connecting Up and TechSoup New Zealand joined forces to create a NFP dedicated to how technology can be better used to improve the lives of the disadvantaged.
David Spriggs, Infoxchange Group CEO, whose 150 staff advocate for 30,000 NFPs across A/NZ, says having the right technologies means organisations can save time and money, deliver their services more effectively and better understand the impact they’re having.
“The success of any not-for-profit in the future is going to be largely dependent on how well they are able to embrace technology,” he says.
It’s not all doom and gloom, however, with the report finding that 48 percent of the NFPs surveyed are embracing new and emerging technology such as mobile apps, assistive technology, data-driven solutions and AI.
Interestingly improving their website was the top ranked priority (50 percent) for the year ahead, ahead of making better use of social and/or digital marketing (42 percent) and upgrade IT infrastructure (27 percent).
Implementing a new client, stakeholder or member information management system (24 percent) also features high on the priority list.
While 66 percent of NFPs use a system that enables them to capture valuable client information, just 37 percent use the system to understand the impact of their services and outcomes. And seven percent are still using paper documents to store client and stakeholder information.
Improving digital capabilities of staff (23 percent) rounded out the top five priorities, with improving data and security narrowly missing out at 22 percent.
As to what’s holding the NFPs back, unsurprisingly 55 percent said budget/funding was one of the biggest challenges, followed by lack of staff capacity and capability (49 percent), with 36 percent noting a struggle to access affordable, skilled technical resources.
Keeping abreast of technology changes and identifying where to put their spend was an issue for 23 percent, while making the most of cloud also featured highly at 20 percent.
So what is Connecting Up recommending for NFP’s who are feeling the pain?
Many of the guidelines they offer up go back to basics, including having an IT plan, with the report noting organisations without an IT plan are twice as likely to rate their technology as ‘basic’ or ‘challenged’ compared to those with an IT plan.
Greater investment is also advocated, with Connected Up saying NFPs who are leaders in technology invest nine percent of operating expenses in technology, while increasing staff skills and capability is also flagged as important in all technology change programmes.
“Our sector is under increasing pressure to do more with less, but we know that not-for-profits that put in the time and effort now to develop staff capability and improve systems will see enormous benefits to their service delivery and impact in the future,” Spriggs says.