The role of digital in organizations has grown significantly over the last decade, and it has only accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic began. With strong social distancing and stay-at-home measures in place, organizations have had no choice but to embrace digital to enable and optimize their organizational mission.

Many nonprofit organizations have found themselves underprepared for the digital shift. With service demand rapidly increasing and a lack of capabilities to navigate in the new digital economy, nonprofit leaders are becoming increasingly concerned about the capacity of their organizations to carry out their missions amidst and following the crisis.

Getting digital right

With social missions at their core, nonprofits are inherently different than private and public corporations. Engaging and meeting the needs of key stakeholder groups, including beneficiaries, donors and employees, is critical. With stakeholder needs having rapidly changed since the start of the pandemic, getting digital right involves a tailored approach that can elevate impact for all.

Nonprofit executives should explore three focus areas to effectively amplify the use of digital technologies and carry out the organization’s mission in this uncertain environment.

Create a digital donor strategy

Understand how to reach donors more effectively, enable seamless donations and sustain donor loyalty.

Empower employees and beneficiaries to use digital

Enable employees to effectively operate in new digital organizational models and use digital to increase impact.

Develop strategic partnerships

Build strategic partnerships to respond, recover and rebuild using digital capabilities.

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What this means

Digital donor strategy: In-person fundraisers make up a large portion of nonprofit organizations’ revenue. With most organizations moving fundraising events online, many are anticipating or are experiencing a reduction in fundraising activity. Permanent revenue cuts of this size will not be sustainable for long periods of time. It is important for nonprofit organizations to develop meaningful virtual fundraising and community building events, as the nature of these events will likely change to respond to consumer behaviours. This investment will ensure nonprofits receive enough revenues to deliver against their mission.

Empower employees and beneficiaries to use digital tools: The COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the way in which many nonprofit organizations operate. As nonprofits begin to recover from the crisis, embracing new operating models will become critical for organizations. Nonprofits must consider the right digital tools to support staff, and train employees to effectively use digital tools to optimize performance and embrace the new ways of working.

Develop Strategic Partnerships: Traditionally, nonprofits have benefitted from corporate partnerships in several ways, including increased funding, greater marketing exposure, shared resources and the ability to attract new volunteers. The role of nonprofit and for-profit company partnerships has shifted amid the pandemic. Several technology companies have offered free services for a limited time to help nonprofit organizations survive in the current environment. Although many of these offers are temporary, this presents an opportunity for nonprofits to plan ahead and develop futureproof strategies considering the role of partnerships.

It is important to approach digital with an outcome- and impact-driven mindset. Nonprofits must understand the outcomes their organization is trying to drive and the factors influencing their ability to achieve these outcomes and, ultimately, impact. This understanding will allow nonprofits to be strategic about their investments, maximizing the value created through each dollar spent.

Getting started

Every nonprofit’s digital transformation will look different depending on the specific characteristics of the organization. There are four key steps nonprofit executives can take to get started:

Reflect and recalibrate strategy

Understand your vision, mission and current state of digital capabilities before choosing your digital path.

Identify impact areas

Define the outcomes and impact that your organization aims to drive within the community and the factors that influence your impact.

Digital decision

Evaluate challenges in achieving your mission to identify and assess where digital technologies can support achieving the organization’s objectives.

Invest in the future

Changes in skillsets, processes and tools must occur in an integrated, coordinated and purposeful way driven by strong leadership.

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Developing a digital strategy embedded in the organization’s strategic priorities can benefit all stakeholders and elevate any nonprofit’s mission. Organizations that embrace everything digital has to offer now will survive the hardships of COVID-19 and find new ways to carry out their mission that accelerate impact.

About the Authors

Nadine Abdallah​​

Strategy Manager & National Pro Bono Practice Lead

Oren Singer

Strategy Consultant

Alessandra Zuccon​

Strategy Consultant

Elena Svetenco

Strategy Consultant​

Deborah Swartz

Corporate Citizenship Lead, Canada​

Stephen Gardiner​

Senior Managing Director, Strategy and Digital Transformation


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