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Impact of Digital Transformation on the Nonprofit Sector

Posted on February 07, 2023 by Deb Sakellarios, consultant with The Patterson Foundation
As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and reflect on the many changes in workplace practices over the past two years, one clear significant evolution has been with technology, often referred to as digital transformation. Digital Transformation is the adoption and integration of digital technology by an organization that focuses on advancing hardware, software, and connectivity. Common goals often focus on improved efficiency and cost reduction with clients, donors, board members, and staff. The Patterson Foundation’s Digital Access for All team has spent the past few months exploring the impact of digital transformation on both the private and nonprofit sectors. Based on research, we learned that:
  • 63% of leaders believe that COVID-19 has made their organizations embrace digital transformation sooner than they had expected, and they were making greater investments in technology on account of COVID-19
  • 49% of leaders indicated that digital transformation was not a strategic priority before the pandemic’s onset, but it’s become one since then.

In summary, leaders were enthusiastic about investing in tech at the start of the pandemic, largely because it was the only way to preserve business continuity while ensuring employee safety.

In addition to this research, The Patterson Foundation conducted an internal digital transformation assessment to understand how its own staff, consultants, and leadership feel about its hardware, software, and tools across the organization. Interestingly, TPFers identified similar benefits as cited in a recent article by Ensync, which includes:
improvement with communication and collaboration among staff clients/participants, board members, donors, and other key stakeholders

  1. increase in overall efficiency and effectiveness and reduction in operating costs; and,
  2. ability for more flexible work schedules (remote work), which often leads to improved staff recruitment and retention.
  3. Considerations for a Successful Digital Transformation.
Although there are clear benefits of modernizing software and hardware on the overall health of a nonprofit, it is essential to consider the following elements when considering a digital transformation:
  • Cyber security risks are real, and nonprofits must ensure they are taking the right precautions as they upgrade fully to the Cloud;
  • The digital divide still exists, and therefore, nonprofits must consider supplying devices to those without access;
  • New technology takes education and ongoing training to reap the benefits of upgraded systems and tools, which is often more challenging for certain populations (i.e., older populations, etc.);
  • Ongoing connectivity is often challenging for varying reasons (i.e., storms, power outages, etc.), and nonprofits should consider contingency plans for these outages; and,
  • Zoom and digital communications tools can never fully replace the meaningful connections from in-person interactions, so nonprofits need to consider ‘Moments that Matter” for in-office meetings.

If you or your organization is considering a Digital Transformation, check out our Frequently Asked Questions for a list of resources and tools.

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