Charity digital transformation is a much-abused buzzword. The fact is, charities who are focused on improving their digital maturity are better able to plan, meet strategic goals, increase donations, be more productive and have more resilience against risk.
But digital transformation can sound like a daunting concept for organisations focused on delivery and driving their impact. But while digital transformation can seem like a big mountain to climb, with lots of distraction in the form of shiny and expensive new tech, the path to success can be paved with smaller efficiency-driving ’quick wins’ that can kick start your organisation into embracing a digital mindset without a huge investment.
The Outward Bound Trust is an educational charity that helps young people to defy limitations through learning and adventure in the wild. They develop the attitudes, skills and behaviours young people need to make positive changes in their lives. Rob Sharpe, Digital Transformation Project Lead, joined the charity just a few months ago, with the remit to bring in a new CRM project. But first he decided to identify these quick wins where digital can be brought into play.
Sharpe says: "There’s a general ambition across The Trust to make things more efficient for everyone. Rather than sending out all the board papers and documents in printed format, the idea came about to create a portal that could be a ’one stop shop’ for trustees to go on and find all the information they need and documentation relevant to them, such as the minutes of meetings, dates for the diary, upcoming board meetings and contact details."
The charity has built an Outward Bound branded portal using its existing Sharepoint setup, with a document library that all trustees can access. "We’ve invited them into our SharePoint environment as guests, so they can use their existing email addresses or Office365 accounts if their organisations have them already," says Sharpe. "They don’t have extra login details to get into the portal, they just need the link to access it, and are restricted to that area on the portal, so for security reasons they can’t access the wider Outward Bound SharePoint for instance and can only get to the documents that are relevant to them."
Outward Bound’s trustee information platform has been made live as a soft launch ahead of September’s board meeting, when there will be a dual run to test it alongside printed documents. If successful, paper documents will then be eliminated altogether. Trustees can now get full oversight of the information they need from any laptop, tablet or a smartphone so they can access the data whenever they need to, instead of waiting for the next board or committee meeting.
"The platform uses existing technology and has been a fairly short sharp win in terms of pulling the technology together - maybe a couple of day’s effort," says Sharpe. "Because we’ve built it on existing infrastructure there is no additional cost to The Trust in doing this, but it will hopefully make a big impact in the way we engage with trustees moving forward."
There is also the benefit that many of the trustees are already using and are familiar SharePoint in their everyday work, so they are able to pick up the system without a significant learning curve - a big benefit in a sector in which digital skills in the boardroom remain stubbornly low. As the charity takes further steps on its journey to digitise, such as eliminating paper-based expenses with the use of smartphone cameras, it will continue identifying these low-cost and even free quick wins that focus on making life easier one step at a time.