Five reasons why charities need to go digital

Posté sur by Carina Flückiger

Charities have been around for centuries and charitable organisations have endured many crises. The current pandemic, however, is a test that does not have its equal in history. While the need for charities’ services has only increased, funding has dried up as many traditional donation mechanisms such as sports events or fundraising activities have had to be cancelled. Sector umbrella bodies suggest UK charities may lose a staggering 4 billion pounds income this year. Digitising processes and implementing new fundraising mechanisms is a must for charities. But there are plenty of other good reasons why charities are up for a digital transformation.

Segmenting target groups

At many charities, paper-based processes still form the basis of daily operations. Information on donations is not entered into a database. Lacking a database of donors, supporters or volunteers makes it difficult to know what messages to send to what audiences. “People are not the same. People have different tastes,” explains Sema Gornall, Head of Fundraising & Alumni Engagement at the Florence Nightingale Foundation during a recent 4C webinar (you can listen to the recording of the webinar here). The Florence Nightingale Foundation offers research, travel and leadership scholarships and bespoke leadership programmes to nurses and midwives across the UK. “You have generation gaps, you have background, location, etc. You need to be able to serve different meals to different people.” After the Florence Nightingale Foundation implemented Salesforce, they were able to send out the first e-newsletter in the foundations’ 90-year history – with an amazing opening rate of over 45%. “Our audience was waiting for us to engage with them,” said Gornall. In a second phase, the foundation started segmenting the mailing list based on behavioural science. Being able to segment donors based on consumer behaviour allows you to eliminate communication that is not applicable to certain donors. This helps build a better reputation with your sponsors.

Build long-term relationships

Understanding supporters and donors better, helps nonprofits make smarter decisions on how to address these different groups. It is time consuming to build relationships with donors and charities don’t want to lose them by sending messages that don’t resonate with them or using channels that don’t fit their behaviour. An older demographic group will respond well to fundraising through magazines for instance, but younger demographic groups prefer digital channels. By sending the right messages through the right channels, charities can increase brand loyalty.

Better customer service

Having all the information in a database means everyone in the organisation has a clearer view on what is going on and what colleagues are working on. “Even if you are working in an open space, you will not know the details of operations,” said Gornall. “This makes it difficult to ensure follow-up if a colleague is off sick or on holiday. After we digitised, we found that we were able to help anyone calling us, no matter what the inquiry was about. We are now working better together and we increased our impact and interest in the foundation by delivering better customer service.”

Improve quality of data, saving time in the process

A database serves as a single source of truth when all information is entered correctly. By digitising processes, the quality of data can be significantly improved, especially if you also automate the input process. The Florence Nightingale Foundation receives thousands of applications a year. Until recently, the application process was paper-based, taking up a large part of the staff’s time. The foundation automated the entire process and implemented online forms so that applicants can fill out their information immediately. This increases data quality and completeness, and saves considerable time.

Connecting people

Digitising processes allows charities to connect with their stakeholders in times when mass events and face-to-face meetings are less likely to happen. “We are now able to connect our alumni members and it’s like a big family,” said Gornall. “We wanted to be connected to people who had the same scholarship journey.” What’s more, more junior nurses and midwives are now connected to more experienced colleagues, thus allowing for continuous professional development. The Florence Nightingale Foundation was also able to increase its followership on social media, effectively doubling the number of followers of its Twitter account.

Plenty of good reasons, then, to start digitising a charity. But as we experienced at 4C4U, our business unit that focuses solely on nonprofits, digitising is not about technology alone. Introducing digital processes represents a huge change, not only for the employees of a charity, but also for the donors, volunteers, partners, etc. Change management, making sure every stakeholder knows what is in it for them, will help ease the transition to a new, digital way of working. Digital transformation is a journey that does not end when the implementation is done. Maintaining and running the system is just as much a challenge as designing and implementing it. Interested in setting up a conversation with our 4C4U team? Feel free to contact us.