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Using technology to build more resilient not-for-profits

  • Posted on April 19, 2021
  • Estimated reading time 4 minutes

This article was originally published in Third Sector, Australia.

While 2020 was a tough year for most organisations around the world, the not-for-profit sector in particular faced considerable challenges at every turn, from operational limitations, to severe imbalances in fundraising to taming their legacy technology systems.

The economic uncertainty brought about by the pandemic meant many not-for-profits saw their traditional fundraising sources tighten up or disappear altogether—as donors shifted the funding to more local causes. High-profile signature fundraising events were cancelled or had to find ways to adapt. At the same time, there was increased demand for services around supporting the homeless, food services, health, mental health and practical goods due to the pandemic.

As workforces were sent to work from home and try to shift their services online, many not-for-profits found their aging technology systems were not up to the task. Many teams struggled to adapt hastily designed workarounds which impacted productivity, and often left company and donor data in less than secure environments.

Despite all the challenges faced, the not-for-profit sector has one major benefit in common that no other sector has. Every single charity and not-for-profit organisation only exist because they saw a need or a problem, and then came up with a solution to tackle it. The challenge of learning from this period and becoming more resilient from it, is one that every not-for-profit already has built into their DNA—and in fact, we are now hearing that the pandemic has actually accelerated digital transformation for many not-for-profits.

Upgrading for the greater good
Not-for-profits have learnt that they can become more resilient by taking a longer-term view around their technology systems, similar to how they do for their funding reserves. Charity reserves or foundations are built around the same idea of long-term sustainability. During this period the contraction of funding to support the mission and impact has been affected, which in turn has stretched resources and the ability to rapidly pivot.

To create maximum impact across a not-for-profit organisation, technology systems should be thoughtfully considered and designed with their specific needs at heart. Every solution should help not-for-profits return to doing what they do best, creating meaningful impact for the people and communities they serve.

Avanade Technology for Social Good is a program that helps not-for-profits find ways to make genuine human impact through repeatable solutions tailored to the specific needs of the not-for-profit sector. Technology can be used to optimise costs across the organisation, ensure business continuity, create new efficiencies and help with long-term solutions for remote working—thereby enabling the not-for-profit to have more impact upon their beneficiaries.

They have partnered with organisations like The Smith Family to help them digitally transform their business and develop a modernised data platform that is secure, scalable, accessible, and efficient. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the platform gave The Smith Family the operational flexibility and resilience to keep them making a difference to disadvantaged children across Australia.

The Grant Making Lifecycle Solution from Avanade is another example of how technology can help streamline processes for not-for-profits. The platform manages the entire lifecycle of grants, from the initial letter of inquiry and application through to the grant close-out. The system saves time, has more effective processes, supports new ways of working and increases transparency around a core business need of most not-for-profits.

The COVID-19 pandemic may have been a reminder for many organisations that their systems need to be improved. The more resilient organisations will be using this time to plan ahead, before the next major disaster or crisis, to transform their organisation and find new ways of working together for the greater good.

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