Why Now is the Time for Nonprofits to Shift to Digital

By Susan Mahon | July 20, 2020 | | Nonprofit

As the global crisis and subsequent rapid shift to digital force us to re-imagine how we live our everyday lives and do business, it’s also changing how we step up and give back to our communities. Particularly for nonprofit organisations seeking to look after the most vulnerable members of society, it’s vital that the readiness to put values into action is matched with the capability to adapt digital technologies, and transform business models and practices.

Where nonprofits previously relied on face-to-face engagement to raise funds, deliver events, and provide vital services, we’re seeing more and more stakeholders coming together online. The imperative to shift to digital has never been greater for remaining relevant now and driving positive change well into the future.

Improving Transparency

In a rapidly changing landscape, whilst the demand for more nonprofit programs and services is rising, so too are the demands that nonprofits face to provide transparency in how they spend donations received, and to provide constituents with more personalised experiences. In Salesforce’s own Nonprofit Trends Report published in February, we found that 85% of 725 nonprofit leaders surveyed said that technology is the key to the success of their organisations. At the same time, 93% stated that the lack of IT or technical staff is a challenge to their organisation’s adoption of new technologies.

In a recent Salesforce Leading Through Change webinar, John Slator, Associate Director of Infrastructure, IT and Informatics at the Concern Group in the UK, showed just how crucial technology is to the nonprofit industry. “We could not just pause people’s therapy [during the pandemic]; we had to shift the way we delivered services,” he said. With cloud and artificial intelligence-powered tools, Concern was able to build dashboards to transform how they record key data and respond to requests for their services. This also improved the quality of information they shared with the National Health Service (NHS).

Mission Delivery in Crisis

We’ve seen nonprofit organisations across the world go to incredible lengths over recent months to pivot their operations entirely to ensure continuity of care to their communities. Shifting call centres to provide confidential counselling remotely, re-imagining black tie dinners as virtual events, and delivering meals to vulnerable members of their community provides a glimpse of the ‘next normal’.

Take the efforts of Age UK Hythe & Lyminge, for instance, in the coastal town of Hythe in Kent, to stay connected with thousands of ageing and vulnerable people in their community. Originally volunteers used only spreadsheets, pens, and paper, which was slowing them down as well as causing security issues. Now, with Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud, Platform and Mobile technologies, they’ve been able to centralise contact details from lists provided by local health centres, create a flow-based call script for volunteers to make calls and automate follow-up tasks, and effectively report insights to stakeholders. Within five days, over 2,000 calls had been made and over 80 volunteers had been trained.


An Age UK volunteer goes grocery shopping

In Poland, Wsparcie dla Szpitala (WdS), known as Hospital Help, provides a free social support platform for hospitals to share information on what equipment they need and to facilitate community donations. As the pandemic evolved, they totally transformed how donations of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), from individuals and companies, are coordinated. Local support groups began tracking donations using spreadsheets, but were quickly overwhelmed. Stepping in to assist was Clorce, which leveraged the Nonprofit Cloud to build a system to gather information on what donors could supply and allow hospitals to select the items they need. They achieved all of this in just five days. Having trained up 30 volunteers and 195 local coordinators, they’re now working with two-thirds of all Polish hospitals.

Finally, in the UK, youth programme NCS Trust has shown the power of technology to bring us together and collaborate for the benefit of others. By offering a number of their technical resources and digital architects to other NGOs, they’ve equipped nonprofits to navigate the inevitable digital transformations that lie ahead. By sharing best practices related to Salesforce Marketing Cloud and other Salesforce technologies, they’re empowering other organisations in the sector to make strategic decisions on which cloud tools to implement and to learn best practices.


NCS Trust shows the power of teamwork

The Shift to Digital is Now

The NGO sector, like so many others, is undergoing changes of seismic proportions with many challenges afoot. The urgency to shift to digital has heightened–it’s now an imperative to remaining relevant and functioning as a nonprofit.

Listen to this Leading Through Change webinar to hear from other organisations which, with the help of technology, have shown resilience during the crisis and continue to drive positive change.


About the Author

Susan is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at Salesforce.org, the social impact centre at Salesforce. Susan has been working in this role for over three years and plays a key role in the EMEA marketing function. She is passionate about how nonprofits can use technology to do more good and works with Saleforce.org customers to share their inspiring stories of success.