Think about the past 20 months and the times you’ve seen your organization make enormous strides in how you work and how you serve your constituents. You found new ways of delivering programs, collaborating with external partners, not to mention new ways of working. A global pandemic became a forcing mechanism for reinventing the way you carry out your mission, how you serve, and how you work. What allowed for that?
Digital transformation – the integration of technology into the fabric of the way you work.
As you contemplate aspects of how you served your constituents pre-pandemic, what are the ways in which technology has changed the quality and impact of your work? How do you leverage the innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity developed since the start of the pandemic? How do you nurture new ways of thinking and moving forward?
It’s clear the answer can’t be “Wait for the next global event.” So, what can your organization do to build momentum around digital transformation?
Meet constituents where they are
One of Gartner’s Top Strategic Technology Trends for 2021 was “people centricity.” Many nonprofits who once viewed digital service delivery as inferior to in-person service delivery. We’ve learned that many constituents are better served digitally, or with a hybrid delivery model. As a result, many nonprofits have been able to grow their audiences we’ve learned that nonprofits can greatly expand their reach, and impact, by leveraging technology.
For example, by introducing digital programs, The Lymphoma Research Foundation increased the number of patients and caregivers attending their first program by more than 192%. The pandemic was an instigator in changing how programs were delivered. Patients and caregivers across the United States were suddenly able to partake in programming from their homes – serving local and underserved communities.
A key question, as we emerge from the pandemic, is how to build programs that meet the needs of constituents that prefer digital engagement and programming versus those who may get more value from in-person programming? How are you going to shape or reshape your offerings so that participants can choose what works best for their learning style or life circumstances?
Create spaces for entrepreneurial/future thinking
Steve Jobs, of Apple, famously said that “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow’, and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.” In a digital/hybrid environment, bumping into someone is nearly impossible. It’s important to create the space to cook up ideas with your colleagues. From open-door meeting times to dedicated future visioning sessions, there are ways to nurture thinking about what may be possible in the future.
James Detert, from Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management made the point that future visioning is more than just waiting for your team to share their ideas. It requires you to proactively seek them out and make time to connect with them, individually and collectively.
How does your organization create space, and devote time, for those with diverse talents, perspectives, and ways of thinking to surface ideas? How can you be intentional and value time spent in pursuit of the ideas of the future?
Implement frameworks for action
The speed with which nonprofits had to pivot to work and serve constituents digitally, helped accelerate change that many organizations had only begun to consider. Seemingly overnight the imagined and real impediments to trying new ways of working disappeared. Urgency beget innovation.
With these changes came the need to evaluate old ways of working and the governance, operations, and processes that underpinned our work. New “markets” opened. Higher quality data was being generated. Many of these changes are here to stay and we are just now beginning to ask critical questions about how to best sustain these gains.
A framework, like the Build Information Strategy, can be used to help give your organization the ingredients for digital transformation. It guides you through a set of considerations ranging from technology governance to how to capture and leverage high-quality data. A framework like this can create order out of your technology ecosystem. Then, it can identify opportunities and challenges with your information and technology systems when many of these systems were urgently and hastily acquired and implemented. This can help as your organization thinks about new ways of working and your organization may need to look at how technology is supported and leveraged.
Digital transformation is here. The organizations that can move from reacting to acting will deliver impact in new ways, create indelible constituent experiences, and lead the nonprofit sector. What was, for many, an overnight transformation can turn into a lasting one. If you are ready to build on the digital transformation your nonprofit can find opportunities for stronger connections and deeper success.