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Creating a great non-profit strategy

Nonprofits have endured huge challenges through the last year and now is a good time to take stock of where we are at with a recent report published by Salesforce entitled Nonprofit Trends Report 2021 - Digital Maturity Index.

In this report 867 nonprofit professionals were surveyed in 6 countries across Europe and North America. What came through very clearly from the report was the greater the digital maturity of an organization the better it was able to navigate the challenges of Covid. Digital maturity meaning an organization's ability to leverage data to inform decision-making, reach new audiences, personalize communication. It also ensures that you can successfully manage fundraising for nonprofits.

Here are some highlights from the report that might help you to think about nonprofit software in your organization.

What is digital maturity for nonprofits?

This means they score 3 or 4 out of 5 when asked to rate their ability around:

- Data driven decision making

- Digital methods of communicating and engaging supporters

- Accurately forecast fundraising revenue

- Finding data within the organization

- Tailoring messaging for specific audiences

Nonprofit fundraising and digital strategy

High digital maturity nonprofits were nearly twice as likely to say that revenue from foundations increased during the pandemic. This is in contrast to the general trend in nonprofit fundraising during the pandemic – a third of nonprofits said they saw a decrease in grants from foundations.

What is your organization's digital maturity?

Take the test. Scores below 15 indicate Low, between 15-22.5 indicate Medium and anything above is High Digital Maturity.

Leading Nonprofits are Confident in Fundraising

Across the board, nonprofits with high digital maturity were leading the way in marketing, while low digital maturity nonprofits were behind in key areas. Leading nonprofits were confident about nurturing relationships and gaining support, which is impressive given the numbers of changes nonprofits have experienced as a result of the pandemic.

- Nearly half (48%) of high digital maturity nonprofits said they were “Likely” to gain support for their cause over the next six months, versus nearly one in five low digital maturity organizations

- A similarly stark gap exists between high and low digital maturity nonprofits when it comes to confidence in nurturing relationships with supporters digitally, which is especially important as so much moves online: 55% of high digital maturity nonprofits said they were likely to be able to nurture and strengthen relationships with supporters digitally, versus 31% of low digital maturity nonprofits

- 81% of leading nonprofits said they met or exceeded their goals in marketing and communications, compared to 62% of low digital maturity nonprofits

High maturity nonprofits are strengthening relationships with supporters digitally

With more people relying on nonprofit services, fundraising is more important than ever. Unfortunately, the cancellation of many in-person events, along with donors losing disposable income has made it more difficult to meet fundraising goals. The good news is that leading nonprofits are more likely to have confidence in their fundraising abilities – even in the midst of the pandemic.

- 44% of leading nonprofits rated their organization as “Excellent” at offline fundraising, versus just 10% of low digital maturity nonprofits

- 85% of high digital maturity nonprofits were more likely to have met or exceeded their fundraising goals, compared to 66% of low digital maturity nonprofits

- When asked to describe their level of optimism for the next 6-12 months, 38% of high digital maturity nonprofits said it was “likely” that they could grow major giving in the next 6-12 months, versus just 9% of low digital maturity nonprofits

- When asked to describe their level of optimism for the next 6-12 months, 39% of leading nonprofits said it was likely that they could grow planned giving over that time period, compared to just 13% of low digital maturity nonprofits

The choices you make matter

The clear correlation between the organizations with high digital maturity and those with the most positive response rates illustrates the digital imperative for nonprofits. In an increasingly digital world and with the vital role nonprofits play, it’s more important than ever for organizations to have the modern digital tools necessary to be efficient, effective, and successful. Leading organizations were significantly more likely to exceed their goals, even during the pandemic. Digitally mature nonprofits were also better able to understand their environment and plan for the future. Higher digital maturity among nonprofits is associated with success and confidence, even amidst rapid and unprecedented change. Leading nonprofits were less anxious about financial viability, less concerned about retaining staff, and less uncertain about making long-term impact. Digital maturity is affected by the choices an individual organization makes. That means that the choices you make matter. Navigating change means getting comfortable with technology and empowering staff with the best tools to do their work effectively. As the saying goes, the best time to plant a tree for shade is twenty years ago; the second best time is now. The same is true of digital transformation: the best time to have the digital maturity to handle change is before a crisis; the next best time is now.

What you can do to improve your digital maturity this year  

To make decisions based on data, data has to be collected in a standardized format in one place. To find and share data across departments, colleagues across departments need to be able to use the same system for their work. Thus, a platform with a common data model that can power marketing, programs, and fundraising is especially helpful here, rather than having multiple systems for each department. Designing programs and services using information about and engagement with recipients involves incorporating input into a system of record that can then be shared among staff. Personalizing messages to subgroups of supporters means going beyond “batch and blast” emails to communicate with supporters on the channels they prefer, and having relevant messages where they want to receive them. Forecasting income from fundraising campaigns also requires having a single source of truth about your fundraising, whether it’s from online donations, major gifts, or digital events, along with analytics tools to identify trends. When information about your programs, donations, grants, volunteers, and impact data are all in separate places, it takes a lot of time to create simple reports, and even it’s harder to show ROI on your programs. And when it comes to having some data on paper, you know it can take days to get information that should take just minutes. By making the shift away from data silos towards what we call an Impact Platform, organizations can improve their digital maturity

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