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How Has COVID Changed Nonprofits Digitally and What’s Next?

Digital transformation in nonprofits is in a difficult place, both because of longstanding factors that go back years—decades even—and more recent factors; primarily the COVID pandemic in 2020.

When states first went into lockdown, it was a significant test to small and midsize organizations in terms of their capabilities to adjust to remote work and its digital-first nature.

For those who had previously established digital initiatives and policies as part of a wider transformation strategy, the effects were diminished.

For others, they weren’t so lucky, and instead found themselves playing catchup by hastily putting together remote work policies.

An estimated 57% of businesses had no formal work-from-home policies at the onset of lockdown restrictions.

Nonprofits, more than most, saw the impact of this firsthand. The unfortunate reality for most nonprofit organizations is that many of them lack the digital tools and capabilities to be able to function as well as they should when disruptions occur.

In fact, nearly 9 out of 10 nonprofit organizations don’t believe that their digital technology implementation is of a high enough standard.

This should be cause for concern for any nonprofit operating today. We’re going to be taking a look at where the industry is, where it’s headed, and what nonprofits need to do to improve their digital capabilities.

The Business Continuity Obstacle

With 90% of nonprofits lacking a high standard of technology implementation, much of the emphasis on the industry has been leveled on the ability of nonprofits to simply remain operating to a satisfactory degree without running into major operational difficulties.

Considering nearly half of businesses had no work-from-home policy, and the vast majority of nonprofits are lacking in digital capabilities across the board, the lockdown restrictions instantly put many of them in an incredibly difficult position.

The issue for many, then, was an inability to continue business operations in response to a setback as drastic as the pandemic.

Establishing the means to continue the functioning of the organization has become one of the key takeaways to learn from the events of 2020.

Are nonprofits digital-ready?

How Is It Fixed?

This obstacle is fixed by adopting the right technology and implementing a strategy should normal operations be interrupted.

Digitally astute organizations which have already spent years putting digital transformation initiatives in place were in a good place to respond to the remote-work effects of COVID.

These initiatives would have included technologies that cover a range of activities:

Communication

The rise of Zoom in the wake of lockdown is perhaps the best example of organizations rushing to get their digital capabilities up to speed, even in spite of the various security concerns that caused issues.

A good platform for communication is a necessity for nonprofits operating with remote workers, and a necessity for ensuring business operations continue as normally as possible.

A UCaaS platform, like Teams or Slack, is a common component of many modern organizations, and should be considered in order to maintain effective communication channels across departments and with remote workers. 

Collaboration

In a similar vein, workers need the ability to be able to work together as seamlessly outside the office as in it.

Do they use tools and applications that are easily used remotely, or are they locally installed onsite?

Many SaaS platforms today offer flexibility as their main consideration, which is one of the reasons they’ve increased in popularity among businesses recently—the flexibility to pick up work wherever you happen to working, and on any device of your choosing.

Related Post: Do You Need an MSP for Your Software-as-a-Service Apps?

Security

Then we have security, which is an issue that gains more traction among organizations year after year.

Can employees work remotely and securely?

When lockdown began, many quickly transitioned to a remote workforce but failed to adequately prepare themselves and protect their data sufficiently.

Related Post: Why You Need Remote Work Endpoint Security Now

It’s no coincidence that phishing emails spiked by over 600% between February and April in 2020—where cybercriminals see an opportunity, they will attack.

Nonprofits, being less digitally mature than organizations of other industries, are uniquely susceptible to security risks, along with other issues in continuing operations in difficult times.

Mobile is getting bigger for nonprofits

Fundraising

Of course, much of these operational concerns bleed over into fundraising, which naturally has become a lot more difficult in 2020.

As with any of these concerns that nonprofits have, the conversation has shifted in recent months from how to deal with the pandemic to how to deal with long-term uncertainty, particularly given many of the “new normal” conditions of life under lockdown will continue long into 2021 for many.

One-on-one interactions for fundraising have suffered enormously, with technology having to replace it—primarily through video-conferencing software and other communication methods.

This cannot replace door-to-door fundraising, however, and so nonprofits must improve their use of digital tools to adjust.

We know that online fundraising has seen a big increase over the last few years. Here are some stats to illustrate the worth of online fundraising:

  • From 2018–2020, online donations saw growth of 24%.
  • Mobile traffic on nonprofit sites accounted for half of all traffic.
  • The number of transactions taking place on mobile increased 50% last year.
  • 54% of consumers used a digital wallet to make a donation.

The indications here suggest that utilizing digital methods for fundraising purposes isn’t the future, it’s right here today.

Nonprofits should then ask themselves whether the digital tools they have at their disposal are up to the task of reaching out to patrons online.

For example, is the CRM platform up to the job to take advantage, or is it an old legacy system which lacks integration?

Are other online channels, like social media and email marketing, being pursued as vigorously as they could be? Is your website fully optimized for mobile users, and is it optimized for search engines to encourage searchers to visit your website?

These are all questions that can be addressed by implementing the right technology solutions that can make it happen and develop the organization into a digital-first nonprofit company.

Outlook for Nonprofits

2020 has provided a shock to nonprofits by catching unprepared organizations off-guard and putting up obstacles getting in the way of traditional fundraising.

How they react to these disruptions in the coming year will likely determine future success. The need to have an organization that’s implemented technology where necessary will be a huge factor for nonprofits.

From an industry perspective, nonprofits tend to be far less prepared than other industries—of course, budget concerns can be a large factor. This is something that should be addressed in order to meet the operational needs of the organization and ensuring that employees can still continue their work unabated and efficiently.

Furthermore, using digital channels to their fullest extent will be a pressing concern. As consumers look to use mobile and digital platforms more and more in order to make donations, it’s important for nonprofits to meet them in the middle and operate with the technology that can provide the outreach they need to find them across multiple channels of communication.

For more information on how our managed services have helped nonprofits, download our case study on the partnership between Campanga Academy and Impact Networking.