Is your charity ready for digital transformation? 10 examples of non-profits doing it well

Is your charity ready for digital transformation? 10 examples of non-profits doing it well

A revolution in the way business is being done, digital transformations are improving processes, increasing productivity and bettering communication with stakeholders in different ways all over the globe and charities are starting to take notice.

Following a digital transformation survey last year, three quarters of the organisations that took part didn't have a true grasp of how they could interact digitally with their service users. Yet 88% of them said they were working on a digital transformation strategy. So what does digital transformation actually mean and how should your charity approach it?

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation requires a big shift in focus: from approaching digital as a strategic aim, to digital being one of the central ways you achieve your aims. A radical, top down rethink of the way your organisation is using technology, not just to interact with service users but also to add value to their experience in innovative ways.

This sounds like a lot of work, but actually it's all about finding ways of making digital work for you. Through reaching and supporting clients, donors, customers, volunteers and staff in new and better ways, to simplifying and improving processes to empower teams to achieve their aims; it's about identifying the problems unique to your organisation and your service users and seeing if technology can deliver better solutions than other methods.

Benefits of a digital transformation

Digital transformation opens up a world of possibilities for improvement. He're just a few ways it could add value to your organisation:

  • Improving engagement with staff, volunteers, donors, trustees and other stakeholders
  • Increasing organisational efficiency
  • Joining up different departments on a common goal
  • Leading to higher client satisfaction
  • Integrating services to create a smoother online and offline user experience
  • Delivering services more effectively

Who's doing digital transformation really well?

Here are 10 ideas for valuable digital transformations from some inspiring examples in the not for profit sector:

1. Make it easier for mobile users to support you

In May 2015, Christian Aid teamed up with the PowaTag app to make it even easier for donors to give during their annual Christian Aid Week. An interactive TV advert linked to the PowaTag app allowed millions of people across the UK to donate immediately using their smartphone. Eleanor Ledesma, Head of Christian Aid Week said "We may be marking our 70th anniversary this year but like all charities we need to move with the times and embrace new technologies in order to make it easier for people with busy lives to donate at a time convenient to them."

2. Improve services and resources by making them digital

We worked with Ovarian Cancer Action to create a mobile app version of their paper symptoms diary as a discreet way for women to track potential symptoms of ovarian cancer when on the go. Women can now be notified based on their symptoms that they should visit their GP and can show them a report to help with diagnosis. Nearly 50 women have received this notification since launch. As Nadine Woogara, Digital Manager at the charity describes it, this is "an easy-to-use tool that will hopefully help to save lives."

3. Share access to resources to reduce costs

The RSPB use our BrandStencil asset management tool to centrally create online, editable templates of their artwork. This prevents the need for dozens of departments across the country to separately engage dozens of print designers to create their own marketing materials.

4. Make it easier for service users to communicate with you

The Forget Me Not Children's Hospice recently developed an app to make it easy for families to offer immediate feedback after a visit and to communicate any care enquiries. This provides an effective way for the organisation to better listen and respond to the needs of the families using the hospice.

5. Manage client data smartly to improve organisational efficiency

As one of the largest voluntary youth organisations in the UK, the Army Cadet Force faced a challenge in ensuring that volunteer applications made via the main website were followed up locally. To address this we created an Application Management Tool which allows local volunteer recruitment officers to record the actions they carry out following a contact with a potential volunteer. All data is recorded and tracked by the central marketing team. There is a reporting function for ongoing analysis to ensure volunteer recruitment KPIs are met.

6. Improve access to your services

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation carried out research to find out what brought people to their website and used this to make the whole site much easier to navigate. They learnt that people either want to find out information on lung cancer or make a donation – the new website reflects these two key journeys, providing users with two straightforward entry-points, either ""How we can help you" or "Make a donation".

We recently re-launched the National Housing Federation's website after their user research showed users were interested in browsing content by their topic area of interest. Content is now aggregated by topic area and their new homepage also includes links to popular searches and a decision tree, providing users with faster routes to the information they're looking for.

7. Think about donation currency in new ways

Cafédirect Producers' Foundation (CPF) recently launched a campaign asking people to donate twitter followers instead of cash. Their aim? "To grow a tweet so big we can auction it for charity." All their supporters had to do was click a button, allowing CPF access to auto-retweet their '#OneBigTweet' from their account when it's been auctioned. So far, 593 people have donated 2,420,774 followers, making the powerful little tweet already worth $36,611.61! Not bad for a click.

8. Join-up your digital experience

The British Heart Foundation recently rebuilt their website to incorporate a single sign-in for all external BHF sites, making the whole visitor experience smoother and all pages easier to access.

9. Find more relevant ways to engage with your service users

Berneslai Homes is an organisation managing 18,800 homes on behalf of Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council. They were struggling to engage with younger tenants so turned to social media as a means of engagement. Using twitter and facebook can be easier, faster, more private and cheaper for many than picking up the phone and means tenants can get in touch for a range of reasons, from asking for a repair to giving feedback on the service provided.

The Robertson Trust also found that a private Facebook group was the most successful way to keep in touch with the students they support through their scholarship programme.

10. Make it easier and increase opportunities for people to give

Pennies, the digital charity box, gives individuals the option to donate a few pence to charity when paying for goods or services by card, a simple and extremely innovative technology driven solution, to increase funds raised for charity. Alison Hutchinson, CEO of The Pennies Foundation told Charity Digital News, "When Pennies launched in 2010, the period of technological change presented a unique opportunity to revolutionise the way donations are made to charity."

What we've learnt

An ongoing process which can be applied to the whole organisation or one small area, a true digital transformation will fundamentally change the way an organisation works, whilst allowing for further adaptations and changes to be made as the world transforms around us.

What next?

We hope you've found some inspiration here on how charities and not for profits are radically rethinking their processes and embracing digital. If you're about to embark on the process yourselves, or you have an idea for improving your processes or services through digital, let us know and we will help you achieve them. 

We have lots of experience of helping our clients think through their challenges and coming up with innovative, digital tools to address them. Get in touch today on 01273 677557 or email