Why not-for-profit organizations have a momentous opportunity and how to capitalize on it

Posted by  Rob Gethen Smith

Despite huge challenges facing the sector, NFP organizations have a momentous opportunity to boost productivity, engagement and impact. Unit4’s global head of not-for-profit, Rob Gethen Smith, explains how it’s done.

It’s no secret that not-for-profit (NFP) organizations are behind the digital curve. The sector as a whole is being held back by a lack of technical leadership and an absence of aligned digital strategy.

This might not have been a problem a decade or so ago. But it is now.

NFPs are faced with more competition for funding, escalating donor expectations and increasing operational complexity. Also, compliance demands are rising and there’s a greater need than ever to deliver and demonstrate impact.

Yet, most NFP organizations are still fragmented in the back office. Highly skilled people are tied up in admin, and NFPs lack organization-wide data insight. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are in “dire need of modernizing” as outdated IT and processes hinder their ability of to be “efficient, data-driven organizations.”

The need to modernize

This situation — and the extra effort needed to cope with these new demands — is taking its toll.

It’s stretching financial controls and technology systems to the limit; it’s worsening employee satisfaction, engagement and retention. It’s killing staff productivity and reducing organizational efficiency. It’s diminishing agility at a time when NFPs need it most. Worse of all, many are finding it hard to retain supporters while valuable resources are being kept from efficiently reaching the frontline.

Momentous opportunity

So, as our planet and the people on it evolve, how can NFPs break through all these barriers to help solve the world’s biggest problems?

Luckily, in the Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) economy, opportunities abound. More than three quarters of organizations that have adapted their business model for the XaaS economy have increased income, customer retention and personalization of services.

But, only part of the solution lies in the technology itself. In fact, many employees are feeling overloaded by their digital tools, and organizations have too “much technology and not enough time”; only one in three (38 percent) of workers are satisfied with their work-related tools and technology.

Fundamentally, every NFP needs to challenge its own status quo. This starts with elevating the importance of technology within their organizations by developing strategies for integrated, business-wide systems which streamline processes, deliver data visibility, automate processes and augment experiences for customers as well as staff.

The best of today’s cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution suites do exactly that. They are industry focused, deliver comprehensive business process support and integrate seamlessly with performance management solutions. Furthermore, they create a positive employee experience (EX) which in turn delivers a better experience for customers.

The effect of this is four-fold.

Exploiting a digital future

1. Today’s ERP platforms can help your organization deliver more impact by enabling frontline staff to access and capture real-time information and approvals. Non-technical staff can also tailor these systems at the user experience level, allowing you to adapt to change faster, at a lower cost and in a more self-sufficient, less disruptive manner.

2. An ERP system designed specifically for NFPs allows you to not only meet audit requirements and donor reporting demands but also free up precious, unrestricted funding. This ultimately helps you raise more money to help you deliver on your mission by developing stronger relationships with donors and growing your organization.

3. An integrated ERP solution can transform your business into a data-driven organization by presenting a single version of truth across all data and organization entities; consolidating IT, aligning systems and unifying databases. This means greater insight on data direct from the field, which drives better, more timely decision-making.

4. The latest digital ERP platforms deliver robust, transparent, end-to-end financial management. In this way they help you improve compliance and accountability, restoring public trust and meeting rising demands from regulators. Your organization can do this by demonstrating increased spending on mission delivery while reducing overheads.

An opportunity to create space for your people

The challenge for NFP organizations like yours is to capitalize on the opportunities of the digitally-enabled XaaS world. The industry leaders are using technology to do just that.

They know that staff want to spend their time doing something meaningful, contributing to progress and helping others. They are aware that a positive experience at work is essential for an engaged and fulfilled workforce.

So, they realize it’s never been more critical to create space for staff by liberating them from repetitive, manual, administrative tasks. The right systems change how tasks are done, how people interact with technology and how they use information.

Today’s vendors put EX at the heart of ERP to help organizations build employee journeys, develop apps, create and monitor workflows and add conversational user interfaces.

Done well, this boosts employee engagement, job satisfaction and productivity, ultimately enabling staff to spend more time on work that delivers social impact.

To discover why your organization should embrace the right technology, and how it can capitalize on the opportunities of a digital future, download the industry brochure: A MOMENTOUS OPPORTUNITY IN THE NOT-FOR-PROFIT INDUSTRY — why the NFP industry has a golden opportunity and how the leaders are capitalizing on it.


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Rob Gethen Smith

Rob is a digital technology and business change specialist having worked in the NfP sector for the last 20 years. Prior to Unit4, he was a partner at charity and membership specialists, Adapta Consulting, where he advised charities and non-profits on the effective use of information systems. He is also a trustee for the international animal welfare charity SPANA. Rob has worked as CIO at Anthony Nolan, Southbank Centre, Tate and Macmillan Cancer Support, and as Customer Engagement Director at Blackbaud, developing business and technology strategies and leading change initiatives.

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