Creating Operational Excellence in the Third Sector

A charity’s ultimate aim is to reach a level of sustainable funding, but predicting industry changes, donor behaviour and what your organisation’s income will look like next year isn’t the most straightforward task. You can’t control what donors do, but you can create an agile organisation ready to adapt to whatever’s around the corner – creating a culture of operational excellence is key to achieving this.

The enforced pivot to digital that many organisations had to make during the pandemic has brought new challenges, but has also opened up opportunities for new ways of working and delivering on mission.

How is the Third Sector Coping?

Those who could adopt digitally led and modern ways of working are not only better shielded than most against the impacts of the pandemic, but are also now better prepared to build on this digital transformation to future proof their organisation.

The concept isn’t a new one – the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) recently issued the fifth edition of their Charity Landscape report, which captured the views of charity leaders about the key challenges they face. The report has tracked technology and digital transformation for several years, and change is starting to take place.

Many charities are changing their processes and organisational set-ups in response to the pandemic, although this has been more of a challenge for some than others. When CAF asked charities how they have adapted to the crisis, only 39% said they had found an alternative or innovative way to deliver a service.

“39% of charities are finding innovative ways to deliver their services during the pandemic”

Charity Landscape Report, Fifth Edition

A quarter reported that they had found a new way to reach their beneficiaries, largely by relying on tech to keep in touch. But the Charity Digital Skills report also showed an increase in the share of those charities felt they were ‘fair to poor’ at digital service delivery. Looking at digital donations and fundraising, fewer than one in five (18%) told CAF that they feel they know how to effectively fundraise online.

"77% of charity leaders believe technological change is relevant to their organisation but only 40% have a strategy for dealing with this..."

Charity Landscape Report, Fifth Edition

So, looking at the adoption of technology across the sector and preparedness for the future, the picture is very mixed – organisations need more guidance on how they can start building on digital skills and toolsets to adapt to new ways of working.

So how can you effectively use tech to transform your charity and achieve operational excellence? What could this look like for third sector organisations?”

How Can Digital Transformation Help?

I’m a cat person, so naturally I’ll be providing you with an example from my favourite charity, Cats Protection.

Cats Protection is a national charity dedicated to protecting the welfare of cats across the UK. They knew that to remain agile and future proof their organisation, they needed to embed a culture of operational excellence into everything they do. The best way to achieve this? Digital transformation.

The team started by looking at ways to enhance their operational efficiency across IT when it came to serving their end users (the human kind, not the furry kind).

They had some key goals here; better engagement with their volunteer community, support their staff working remotely during lockdown, and free up their IT team. Like a lot of IT departments, too much time was spent working as a triage function and the delivery of strategic projects was taking longer because of it.

Modern Management Approach

They realised that moving to a modern management approach could help them achieve all of this. They started looking into their device management and how best to support the permanence of hybrid working. They also explored how best to deploy devices and keep them secured, patched and up to date – allowing their staff to securely access resources wherever they are.

Another key goal for the charity was to achieve their Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation – their move to a more modern way of working would actively support that and help them meet the stringent requirements to receive accreditation.

They also had the additional consideration of their vital 11,000-strong volunteer community who they wanted to bring into the organisation digitally, in a managed, secure and compliant way that allowed them to utilise personal devices.

It’s All About Mindset

The operational benefits from adopting a digital-first mindset can and will have a profound effect on any charities ability to deliver its mission, as you can see with Cats Protection. Charities will clearly need to invest resources, and to make digital transformation a priority when it comes to developing their own resilience. 

In order for any change to happen it all starts with mindset, and digital transformation is no exception. Whilst there may be the desire from organisations and their respective leaders, there needs to be demonstrable support for charities engaging with technology coming from government, grantmakers, the private sector and tech companies themselves.

As we know, technology can be a powerful tool to help address the world’s most challenging issues, driving productivity, innovation and ultimately, to greater societal impact.  

At PowerON we’re big believers in using technology for good and work closely with some of the UK’s leading charities and non-profit organisations, enabling them to harness the benefits of Microsoft technologies. 

Start Your Own Digital Transformation Journey

If you’d like to hear more about digital transformation in the third sector and the problems it can solve for your organisation, join our next webinar! Tony Gamble, Head of IT at Cats Protection, will be talking through their digital transformation journey and the benefits they’re seeing – find out more here.

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