Part three of our three-part series examines why charities need to choose the right platforms to enhance their digital strategy
This is part three of our three-part series. Our article on planning focussed on how charities can chart the journey to becoming more digital. The people instalment touched on the skills needed to lead programmes. In our final piece, we discuss how you can make digital platforms work for you.
Digital infrastructure is the foundation of an organisation’s digital programme. This infrastructure is the totality of your digital work – encompassing processes, roles, and, of course, platforms.
Digital infrastructure doesn’t need to be overhauled when new technologies or platforms are brought onboard. Being more digital can simply mean enabling new technology by assessing what infrastructure works well and what doesn’t.
Choosing the right platforms is an essential part of that process. It can be quite daunting, though, as there are so many options available.
We are here to offer a simple and easy guide to help you make the right decisions.
Charity Digital Marketing Manager, Chris Hall, explains why charities should keep up-to-date with the platforms on offer: “These technologies improve performance, speed, user experience, and generate better reporting, which leads to an improved understanding of how current programmes and products are performing. Most of the established technology in non-profits is not able to support all this, so new technology is needed.”
New platforms can deliver a personalised experience, which benefits staff and users. Charities can tailor platforms to work to specific needs. This will save time and costs, leading to greater efficiency. “Business process change will ultimately lead to more efficient ways of working,” Hall claims. “For example, when a team’s time is released from manually uploading data into supporter or client database, they can spend more time with supporters or clients.”
Security is also an important feature to integrate in any new digital platform. New technologies come with new risks and cybersecurity has become a must.
Tools like Skurio can help protect charities from new threats. Skurio searches layers of the web for any information that may have been inappropriately leaked. The software even sifts through the dark web, looking for stolen information that hackers might want to sell. The benefit here is that, if detected, charities can take steps to make sure breaches don’t happen again.
Charities taking the leap into new tech are seeing benefits. The American Red Cross of Chicago & Northern Illinois (ARCCNI), for example, took various steps to improve operations.
ARCCNI responds to three to four incidents a day. Speed is of the essence when responding to emergencies. So ARCCNI improved the communication process by automating the system checking in on volunteers. The automation resulted in a 50% reduction in response time.
There have been other advantages, too. Because the digital platform checks in with volunteers, supporters have more opportunities to pitch in.
Of the new system, Jim McGowan, Director of Planning and Situational Awareness, says: “Volunteers really like it. They can schedule themselves, do what they need to do, and communicate effortlessly with our dispatchers.”
The Devon Air Ambulance Trust (DAAT) has also integrated a new digital tool to increase team efficiency. Microsoft Teams is the product of choice. The digital platform is enabling the charity to keep operations going despite the COVID-19 disruption.
DAAT chief executive Heléna Holt says: “We were already going to do this but the pandemic has enabled us to move things along more quickly as people realised remote desktopping to the server is inefficient and having documents in their Team channels means they can work together more collaboratively and effectively.”
While many digital platforms come with free trials or special deals, most involve some quantum of spend. For charities looking to tighten purse strings, ensuring that they meet return on investment (ROI) aligns operational teams and those controlling the budget.
To get on top of ROI, capturing data to measure how the digital platform has impact is essential. For example, in ARCCNI’s case, the reduction of response time by 50% may help justify spend on automation. To support the investment even further, information around how many more emergencies are responded to could also be valuable.
Looking ahead, the kinds of data that digital platforms capture is important from a strategy perspective. Summarising, Hall says: “Data on how different digital products are performing is essential for future planning. It can show how well the organisation is delivering its programme and/or services and can inform day-to-day decisions.”