What Not-For-Profits Need to Consider when Undertaking Digital Transformation

What Not-For-Profits Need to Consider when Undertaking Digital Transformation

Published 15/04/24 under:

Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.” And that rings true now more than ever given how fast technology is advancing.

All charities have a duty of care to protect their resources and not-for profit organisations must ensure value from investments, especially as donations are hard to come by and more people than ever are relying on the services of charities.  

As a leader at a charity or not-for-profit (NFP onwards), you may be grappling with the challenges and opportunities that digital transformation presents. 

Firstly, it is important to realise that successful digital transformation is not about adopting modern technologies; it’s about fundamentally changing how your organisation operates and delivers value to your stakeholders. It’s about using technology not just to replicate an existing service in digital form, but to use technology to transform that service into something significantly better. 

For NFPs, digital transformation can enhance efficiency, improve service delivery, and foster greater engagement with donors, volunteers, and the communities they serve. However, it requires a strategic approach, with careful consideration of the unique needs and constraints of the sector. 

In this blog post, we will explore the necessity of digital transformation for NFPs, the role of people and cultural change, key considerations for undertaking this journey, as well as how to overcome common challenges and avoid key risks.  

The necessity of Digital Transformation 

Today the need for NFPs to undergo digital transformation is more pressing than ever. According to a report by McKinsey, organisations that have embraced digital transformation are 23% more profitable than their less digitally mature counterparts. 

Digital transformation is no longer a luxury, but a necessity. It’s critical to stay relevant in a rapidly changing landscape and to harness the power of technology to drive social impact at scale. 

Digital transformation can help NFPs streamline their operations, improve efficiency, and reduce costs. For instance, by automating routine tasks, organisations can free up resources to focus on strategic initiatives and mission-critical work. 

Moreover, digital transformation can enhance service delivery and stakeholder engagement. By leveraging technology, NFPs can provide more personalised, responsive, and effective services. They can also engage donors, volunteers, and beneficiaries in more meaningful and impactful ways. 

However, the journey towards digital transformation is not without its challenges. It requires NFPs to rethink their strategies, processes, and even their culture. But the rewards are well worth the effort. A recent PWC article noted not-for-profits that have successfully undergone digital transformation have seen a 20% increase in donor engagement and a 30% reduction in operational costs.  

Our own experience reinforces this as during a recent engagement, we helped a charity quadruple throughput related to one of their key business solutions by delivering localised digital transformation.  

In essence, embracing digital transformation is imperative for NFPs. 

People and Cultural Change: The Heart of Digital Transformation 

While digital transformation is often associated with the adoption of recent technologies, at its core it is about people and cultural change. As a CIO or IT Director at a not-for-profit, you should understand that this is crucial to the success of your digital transformation journey. 

Digital transformation is not just about implementing shiny new software or embracing Cloud; it’s about changing the way your organisation thinks, works, and interacts. It’s about fostering a culture of innovation, agility, and continuous learning as well as empowering your people to leverage technology to drive social impact. 

Successful digital transformations are those that prioritize people and cultural change. For instance, a study by Gartner found that organisations that focused on culture were 5 times more likely to achieve breakthrough performance than those that neglected culture. 

‘Citizen developers’ are users in your team who embrace the tools available to remove friction from your organisational processes. Not-for-profits that successfully transform their service delivery model do this by embracing cultural change as well as technology. Success is rarely seen solely by the adoption of a new digital platform, but instead requires a shift in organisational culture. You should foster a culture of innovation, encourage staff to experiment with ideas, and provide them with the necessary training and support. As a result, you will be able to improve service delivery, engage stakeholders more effectively, and drive greater social impact. 

As you embark on your digital transformation journey, remember that technology is just a tool: the real transformation happens when your people start to think and work differently. It happens when your organisation becomes more agile, innovative, and customer centric. You must create a culture that embraces change, values learning, and empowers your people to be effective. 

Webinar: Unmasking Transformation in Not-For-Profit: Is ‘Digital’ just a Distraction?

Join us for an insightful webinar where we will explore a fresh perspective on Digital Transformation to help gain buy-in and commitment from organisational leadership, staff and volunteers!

Register now!

Key Considerations for Digital Transformation 

Embarking on a digital transformation journey is a significant undertaking, especially for not-for-profits. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind: 

Start with “Why?” 

The first step in any digital transformation journey is to understand what you are trying to achieve. Before you even consider technology, set a clear vision and define how it will be measured e.g. % growth in members or improved volunteer satisfaction survey results. You should select technology which helps you achieve your goals, not set your goals based on the technology.  

Understanding Stakeholder Needs 

It is vital to understand the needs of your stakeholders. This includes your beneficiaries, donors, volunteers, and staff. Use surveys, interviews, and focus groups to gather insights about their needs, preferences, and expectations. This will help you identify the areas where digital transformation can have the greatest impact. 

Choosing the Right Tools 

Not all technology is created equally. It’s important to choose the right tools that support your organisation’s mission, culture, and operational needs. You must not solely consider cost but also factors such as ease of use, scalability and security. Also, consider the level of support and training available as you will not realise value from your technology choice if your team do not embrace and use it. 

Fostering a Culture of Innovation and Adaptation 

Digital transformation should not be thought of as a one-time project, but a continuous journey of innovation and adaptation. Foster a culture that encourages experimentation, embraces failure as a learning opportunity, and rewards innovative thinking. This will help your organisation stay agile and responsive in a rapidly changing digital landscape. 

Building Digital Skills 

Invest in building the digital skills of your staff. This includes not only technical skills, but also skills related to digital literacy, data analysis, and digital project management. Provide training and development opportunities and consider bringing in external expertise if needed. 

Ensuring Data Privacy and Security 

With digital transformation comes the responsibility of ensuring data privacy and security. You are the custodians of a large amount of data about your donors, volunteers, beneficiaries, staff and others. Many charities also support vulnerable people and so hold not just personally identifiable information but sensitive personal information which entails much stricter handling requirements. If you mishandle this information, you risk hurting the people who rely on your support. 

Remember, digital transformation is a journey, not a destination. It requires ongoing commitment, leadership, and a willingness to change. But with careful planning and consideration, it can help your not-for-profit thrive in the digital age. 

Challenges and How to Overcome Them 

Digital transformation is a complex process that comes with its own set of challenges. Here are some common ones faced by not-for-profits and how to overcome them: 

Resistance to Change 

Resistance to change is natural and should be expected. To overcome this, communicate the benefits of digital transformation clearly and consistently. Involve your staff in the process and support them with well-considered training and support. 

Limited Resources 

Not-for-profits often operate with limited resources. However, digital transformation doesn’t have to be expensive. Start small, prioritise initiatives that deliver the most value, and leverage cost-effective solutions like cloud-based services. 

Lack of Digital Skills 

A successful digital transformation requires a range of digital skills. Invest in training and development to build these skills within your organisation. If necessary, consider partnering with external experts. 

Data Privacy and Security Concerns 

With digital transformation comes the need to handle sensitive data securely. Develop a robust data governance framework, comply with regulation, and educate your staff about best practices in data privacy and security. 

Unclear Digital Strategy 

A clear and well-defined digital strategy is crucial for a successful digital transformation. Ensure your digital strategy aligns with a sharp vision, underpinning your organisation’s mission and strategic objectives. Regularly review and update your strategy to keep pace with technological advancements. 

Remember, every challenge is an opportunity for learning and growth. With the right mindset, strategy, and resources, you can navigate these challenges and successfully transform your not-for-profit in the digital age. 

The Future of Not-For-Profits in the Digital Age 

As we look towards the future, it’s clear that digital transformation will continue to shape the not-for-profit sector. The advent of recent technologies and digital platforms presents unprecedented opportunities for not-for-profits to enhance their service delivery, engage with their stakeholders, and drive social impact at scale. 

However, the journey towards digital transformation is not without its challenges. It requires not-for-profits to rethink their strategies, processes, and even their culture. Yet, as we’ve discussed, these challenges can be overcome with the right mindset, strategy, and resources. 

At the heart of digital transformation lies people and cultural change. It’s about empowering your people to leverage technology to make a difference and fostering a culture that embraces change, values learning, and prioritises innovation. 

As a CIO or IT Director at a not-for-profit, you play a crucial role in leading this change. Your leadership, vision, and commitment to digital transformation can help your organisation thrive. 

In conclusion, digital transformation is not just a trend, but a fundamental shift in how not-for-profits operate and deliver value. It’s an exciting journey that promises to shape the future of the not-for-profit sector. And as we move forward, one thing is clear: the future of not-for-profits who embrace technology is bright. 

What Next 

The journey may be complex, but the rewards – improved efficiency, enhanced service delivery, and increased stakeholder engagement – are well worth the effort. 

At Kerv Consult, we understand the unique challenges and opportunities that digital transformation presents for not-for-profits. Our team of experts is ready to support you at every step of your digital transformation journey, from strategy formulation to technology implementation and beyond. 

Don’t let the digital revolution pass you by, contact us today to learn how we can help your not-for-profit or charity thrive. Together, we can drive social impact at scale and shape a brighter future for our communities. 


Organizations that have embraced digital transformation are 23% more profitable than their less digitally mature counterparts.” This statistic is supported by a study conducted by MIT 

Not-for-profits that have successfully undergone digital transformation have seen a 20% increase in donor engagement and a 30% reduction in operational costs.” While I couldn’t find the exact statistics, there are numerous reports and articles that highlight the benefits of digital transformation for not-for-profits, including improved operations, increased donor and volunteer interactions, and enhanced organizational impact

Organizations that focused on culture were 5 times more likely to achieve breakthrough performance than those that neglected culture.” This is supported by a study conducted by BCG

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