Role of digital key for NFPs to advance their agendas

By: Vishy Narayanan   |   Chief Digital and Information Officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia

Maintaining pace with technological change is an ongoing challenge for Not-for-profits and one that COVID-19 has only accelerated. PwC’s recent survey found that 61% of Australian NFP CEOs cite a lack of resources as the biggest barrier to digital transformation yet the outcomes of such projects include stronger organisational culture, growth and improved employee and volunteer engagement. NFPs can enjoy the benefits of digitisation while keeping costs sustainable. Here’s how:

The first step towards any digital upskilling or transformation programme is to be clear about the objectives you are setting out to achieve. What problem are you trying to solve, or what opportunities are you targeting through a digital approach? Taking stock of where your organisation is at when it comes to digital is a good place to start.

Due to COVID-19 a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to where and how we work is no longer sustainable. Flexible work needs to be enabled and technology plays an even more important role in allowing teams to collaborate and operate efficiently online. NFPs need to make sure they have the technology and infrastructure to support this new way of working. Employees need the right tools to collaborate digitally and gain secure access to their remote working environments.

Digital transformation is not just about adapting to new technology, it’s about preparing organisations to be more adaptive to change. NFPs should consider whether their employees have an open and curious mindset about how digital skills can improve ways of working.

When it comes to learning new technology at home people rapidly acquire new skills, for example using Smart Phones and Smart TV’s but often that same attitude doesn’t transfer as readily to the workplace.

Creating foundational digital skills and the right mindset is an important first step not only for employees but also volunteers. NFPs often work with large groups of volunteers with a wide range of digital skills and unfortunately we know that the digital divide in Australia is increasing.

As a board member of Good Things Foundation Australia, we’re helping equip all Australians with the infrastructure, skills and confidence to be able to participate online. Business leaders play a critical role in enabling digital change by providing direction and empowering employees. However, a top-down approach alone won’t work and digital innovation needs to be driven on the ground for it to be sustainable and energise employees and volunteers. Tap into your employee or volunteer communities who are keen to engage by demonstrating a digital mindset and transferring their skills and knowledge to others. At PwC we call this citizen-led innovation.

A key ingredient for future success will be the ability to work with data and to use it to tell impactful stories. Understanding data and using data tools will allow NFPs to solve problems more efficiently and provide greater insights to donors, communities, partners and government.

For example, quality data management and using data effectively will help NFPs conduct more effective fundraising programmes. Employees increasingly consider working with data a key component to career success and are excited by the opportunity to build these skills.

NFPs are typically nimble and are able to make quick decisions and take advantage of opportunities with less bureaucracy. They should look for collaboration or partnership opportunities with corporates, government and technology providers to fast track digital upskilling. For example, many corporate organisations offer dedicated days for their staff to use their skills for the benefit of the community including working with NFPs. Technology providers also offer software and hardware free of charge or heavily discounted and include training support.

The good news is that 60% of NFP CEOs say they are starting to make progress or are making moderate progress in establishing an upskilling program that develops a mix of soft, technical and digital skills. That’s compared to 68% of their corporate counterparts.

No organisation, including an NFP can wait for the right time to start this change. That moment is now, and for most it will mean starting with incremental changes and building from there. I wish you all the best in your digital transformation and upskilling journey and remember that you are not alone.

Vishy Narayanan is the Chief Digital and Information Officer at PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia. In this role he leads a team that drives organisational change to strengthen PwC’s innovative culture and digital mindset and deliver value for clients. He is also a non-executive director on the board of Good Things Foundation Australia and a board member at Innowell.

PwC Australia is committed to helping the workforce recover from COVID-19 and has a free digital fitness assessment app to help organisations start to digitally upskill their employees.

Oct. 28, 2020

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