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Nonprofits: Why Digital Growth Needs a Strategy

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The post-pandemic future is digital. A key reason why nonprofits should develop a sustainable digital growth strategy.

Non-profit organizations that understand digital growth as a strategic initiative can expand their impact more effectively in the next normal. COVID-19 has not only fundamentally changed the world we live in but has also made it more digital.

Digital has become mainstream in many areas. And this also has a significant impact on the areas of philanthropy and nonprofit.

In my conversations with non-profit organizations around the world, however, it becomes clear that many NPOs are still inadequately adapted to the new situation in mid-2021. This mainly affects the smaller ones among them and less the well-known names.

As a striking example, the figures from the Independent Sector study show that there is no time to rest. 83% of NPOs saw revenues and contributions decreased compared to 2019, and by April 2020 they combined saw a 47% job loss.

These are gloomy numbers, even if driven primarily by the state of shock to the situation at the time. Nonetheless, I am convinced that fundraising as the well-known evergreen among the challenges will continue to be anything but easy in the future. But let’s get into the topic more specifically in the following.

Digital growth remains a hurdle for NPOs

Most non-profit organizations are present in the digital world. Websites, digital donation forms, or social media presences are already part of their everyday lives. But as the saying goes: a bunch of instruments doesn’t make an orchestra. It is crucial that NPOs succeed in aligning all activities with a clear strategic growth target and implementing them based on key performance indicators (KPIs).

To be fair, however, I would also like to point out that in nonprofits it is certainly not a question of understanding. Rather, most of them lack the experience to develop a strategy with a view to sustainable scaling. Or, quite simply, it is a lack of resources, such as time, budget, or the like.

Nonprofit workforces often have a heterogeneous team structure based on a mix of part-time workers, flexible hours, and full-time volunteers – all with different skills and talents.

Going digital — hesitation is not an option

Despite or perhaps because of this, a digital growth strategy that goes hand in hand with the digitization of the entire organization is an important foundation. According to the 3rd Nonprofit Trend Report published by Salesforce.org, 71% of nonprofits that had high digital maturity in 2020 met or exceeded their program delivery goals. In comparison, only 44% of organizations with low digital maturity achieved this.

Fundraising and marketing processes are also more digitally shaped in the next normal. That doesn’t sound particularly new at first. Nevertheless, I think it is important to raise awareness of this again and again.

An example: In an exchange with leaders and organizations, I hear the argument from time to time that the actual donors are older and do not use the Internet as often. Depending on the target group and measured by the respective duration of use, this is certainly the case in comparison with younger people. Nevertheless, it is worth thinking outside the box at this point.

Younger target groups, who belong to the so-called sharing community, can bring in more donations by simply sharing content on social media, raise awareness, and reach a network of otherwise untapped new supporters.

Creating brand awareness and spreading the word will continue to be one of the major issues of non-profit organizations in the future.

Growing digitally with a roadmap

Regardless of whether a non-profit organization is just starting or has been in the digital world for some time. In both cases, aligning all activities with a strategic digital growth target is an important building block for success.

A clear vision, strategic positioning, and a KPI-based roadmap including sub-goals and quality gates are important components for this.

It makes sense to take a holistic view of the digital maturity level of the NPO – also against the background of significant areas such as fundraising, marketing, program delivery as well as organizational and team development.

If you we our donors and supporters to be involved in our cause, the key to creating emotional and lasting relationships with them is essential. And the majority of this journey takes place digitally today and in the future.

Mike Flache is an entrepreneur, business angel, and philanthropist. Onalytica’s analysts named him one of the top-10 global thought leaders in digital transformation. Mike spends much of his time helping build high-tech startups in Silicon Valley, Europe, and Asia. He is also a strategy partner of Fortune 500 companies and non-profit organizations. Mike has worked with executives from companies such as the Silicon Valley Innovation Center, Google, Huawei, Fundment, and Mercedes-Benz, to name a few.

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