The next frontier of transformation in the nonprofit sector | Unit4
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The next frontier of transformation in the nonprofit sector

Digital transformation accelerated significantly during the pandemic – and has permanently changed the way charities and nonprofit organizations operate.

Behind the obvious changes – such as remote working and the rise of digital fundraising and events – collaborative technology is enabling everything from internal operations and financial management to recruitment and employee engagement.

These digital systems and cloud operations are the next frontier for nonprofits. Many are turning to joined-up, purpose-built digital solutions for finance, planning and HR to help manage projects, programs, grants and funding in order to maximize their resources, to reduce costs, increase transparency and accountability. 

Tools and best practices to help you survive and thrive

Nonprofit organizations need an affordable, scalable, easily deployable Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform that can adjust to the changing needs of their business. These solutions can help nonprofits streamline and improve their financial management, workforce management, process management, and other capabilities.

The ability to provide your people with solutions designed for their industry that enables flexibility through workflows that work for them, and that can quickly adapt to changing internal and external expectations, conditions, or priorities, is essential in today’s changing world.

But back-office functions such as HR, finance, and planning often lag in terms of innovation – relying on legacy software that doesn’t make use of valuable data sources housed in other systems.

Today the investment in the right systems is no longer the sole responsibility of IT leaders; all department leaders and system users have a stake in its success.

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits you can derive by doing so.

Reducing the admin burden

The average worker spends more than a third of their time keeping on top of admin and performing repetitive tasks. In the charity sector, rising funding pressures and donor expectations – combined with mounting regulatory demands and the challenging realities of a post-pandemic world – are creating operational complexity. And as that complexity grows, people often lose more time to paperwork.

When your people aren’t bogged down by heavy administrative workloads, are empowered to take control, and can trust transparent organizational data, they have more energy to collaborate and innovate to help your organization run efficiently, and will deliver more impact in the communities you serve.

Automation streamlining processes and improving visibility

Cloud based ERP systems can make data easily accessible from any location, boosting visibility dramatically. They also make the automation of processes much simpler, taking low-value tasks off the table and allowing your people to focus on more important strategic responsibilities. One of our customers, the National Oceanography Centre, is using Unit4 Cloud ERP to do just that; reducing the volume of their peoples’ outstanding tasks by 20%.

Innovation measuring success

A cloud-based ERP solution also means that new systems and ways of working can be road-tested with minimal disruption and rolled out to other regions or departments as needed.

The Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI), an inter-governmental international development organization, also standardized operations across more than 30 countries with its suite of ERP systems, including finance, HR, payroll, costing and procurement. The technology has allowed GGGI to road-test a new self-service module for managing expenses, requisitions and absence.

The combined measures resulted in the time needed for finance approvals being reduced by 70% while financial-close processing time was cut by 50%. The new systems also gave proven scalability for the organization’s continuing expansion, and the vital ability to adjust to different country requirements and the changing demands of stakeholders.

Data-driven insights and proactive planning

It’s no longer enough to make a budget, forecast or financial plan at the beginning of the year based on the best numbers available. The pandemic and changing regulations have meant nearly two years of disruption to income, profit and services – and organizations that have updated their financial planning processes are able to be more agile and responsive as circumstances change.

Cloud-based systems and better access to more frequent data mean targets and project spending limits can be quickly redefined – as the National Trust has found. The largest conservation charity in Europe, the National Trust has 5.6 million members, 65,000 volunteers and 13,000 staff, and a complex funding structure with income from subscriptions, donations, investments, entrance fees and commercial services.

The trust recently rolled out a new ERP platform spanning finance, procurement and asset management to enable faster, better-informed decision making. Stakeholders can drill down into individual project funding and issue purchase orders to suppliers, while ‘gates’ alert teams when budget thresholds are about to be reached.

Creating a great people experience

With good people harder to find and keep than ever, talent management should now be a top priority for every charity. Word-of-mouth referrals, trial-and-error job listings and traditional engagement tracking (such as annual surveys) can no longer be relied upon.

Organizations that have functioned well during the pandemic have strategies for measuring employee engagement and are investing in technologies to monitor and improve employee wellbeing as well as fully support remote working. The mission is no longer the main attraction for charity employees: Non-profits need to create a great People Experience that unites and better connects the organization with its people – the drivers of success.

Ready to learn more?

To discover more about the next frontier of digital transformation in nonprofits, check out our new whitepaper Coming Together: Digital transformation creating permanent positive change in the not for profit sector here.

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