The digital weaknesses holding charities back

In a period of intense disruption, playing to an organisation's digital strengths can be key to unlocking potential.

The charity sector, just like any other, is being disrupted by various technology innovations. However, charities – relatively inexperienced in tech implementations – might be held back from unlocking their full digital potential if they don’t embrace the technologies, like the cloud, effectively.

To find out more about how charities can take advantage of the digital revolution and unlock their full potential, Information Age spoke to Mark Dewell, MD, Commercial and Third Sector at Advanced.

Can you reimagine your charity in the cloud to unlock its full potential?

In a period of intense disruption, playing to your digital strengths can be key to unlocking your potential. Yet recent research from Tech Trust, looking into the attitudes and plans of over 1,200 non-profits around digital technology, has revealed that while 63% of charities have at least one of their core applications in the Cloud, most are not using it to its full capabilities. Could this be holding charities back from overcoming many of the challenges they are facing today?

For example, according to the Tech Trust research, 79% of charities surveyed claim they have the infrastructure in place to allow staff to work remotely, yet a significant proportion (41 per cent) don’t allow staff to use their own devices nor have applications in the cloud.

>See also: Delivering much needed tech to the charity sector

Their customer relationship management (CRM) systems and associated data is saved to physical servers or in offline records, rather than providing access to real-time information. So if remote workers are dealing with data that is potentially out-of-date, what are the risks? Can they operate in an efficient manner and ensure they are compliant?

Tech Trust’s findings mirror the results of our own research, which also found that many charities still need to become fit for the digital era. Advanced’s Trends Report 2017* revealed that while 65% of charities use cloud-based technology, nearly one in four (26 per cent) do not have access to real-time data and 40 per cent do not have the right tools to do their job effectively.

Why is the cloud so important now?

Many charities and not-for-profits are facing the ongoing challenge of transformation – providing services to employees, volunteers and donors on multiple channels, from any device at any time – whilst juggling rising costs and the threat of falling incomes. Amidst immense pressure, not only do they need to be streamlining administrative tasks to save costs but they also need to be communicating more effectively – and with consent – with donors to maintain and grow revenues. So why aren’t more charities making the most of the available IT resources to enable benefits such as remote working, given the gains of volunteer and staff recruitment, cost savings and productivity?

>See also: Tech transforming the charity sector

Industry commentators also agree, for example, Allen Reid, director of Client Projects at Hart Square – an independent not-for-profit consultancy – comments: “It’s fair to say that charities know the time is ripe for transformation as the digital era impacts every aspect of life – for members, supporters and stakeholders, as well as staff.”

“But not-for-profits want to be confident they are making the right technology choices. Getting on board with cloud technology is without doubt the right choice for many charities wanting to harness the value of their data to drive engagement whilst ensuring the change process is successful – we’re definitely big advocates for moving to the cloud.”

So what are the three questions that charities need to be asking themselves?

1. Could your charity benefit from providing staff real-time and secure access to relevant data for engagement – whether working from home or whilst out and about?

Cloud tools can be hugely beneficial for organisations looking to enable staff to work from anywhere, be more efficient and save money. Getting on board with Cloud technology enables everything from IT infrastructure, software, storage and security to be delivered as a service over the internet to users, wherever and whenever they need it.

In addition, allowing staff to access data securely from their own devices that they pay for themselves could present a big cost-saving opportunity.

>See also: Scandal: 11 UK charities breach data laws 

2. Does your charity waste time managing different elements of fundraising with various applications that perhaps aren’t available remotely nor provide a single view of real-time budgets?

Cloud solutions can overcome these challenges immediately, for example, CloudDonor, Advanced’s new donor relationship management system, helps charities process fundraising income, build marketing campaigns and manage merchandising and Gift Aid – all the core elements of fundraising management – ensuring they have a unified, accessible view of their financial affairs at all times.

3. Do you suffer from FoMo – a fear of missing out of charity donations made online and from mobile devices?

Moving to the cloud doesn’t just boost efficiency, it can increase charity donations, too. Some 86% of online donations are made from a phone or tablet.

For out of office stakeholders – donors, members, local representatives, volunteers – engagement needs to have a mobile capability. Advanced’s research shows that 66% of its customers believe social media, overwhelmingly mobile-based, has improved engagement, while a similar proportion have invested in Cloud technology to underpin mobile access to key applications.

>See also: Can tech help reshape the public’s negative view of the charity sector?

Although many charities are already embracing Cloud and seeing the benefits it offers, the reality is that charities need to have the confidence to reimagine their organisation and embrace Cloud technology fully – to be ready for real and present challenges around GDPR and be better prepared to address threats such as cyber security, which remains an ongoing concern.

Note that although encouragingly, Tech Trust’s survey found that 45% of charities are highly confident in their ability to protect themselves from cyber attacks, 55 per cent do not share this belief.

In short, charities will be held back from unlocking their full digital potential if they don’t embrace the cloud effectively.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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