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Why not-for-profit CFOs need to implement digital transformation

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Digital transformation is sweeping through Australian organisations, driving efficiencies, speeding up processes, cutting costs and helping them focus on what they do best.

New technology is sometimes associated with a reduction in headcount. However, organisations – including charities and not-for-profits – are finding it can free up staff to focus on the jobs only humans can do.

Meanwhile, there’s increasing pressure on not-for-profits and charities to justify their budgets and spending by demonstrating that they’re having a real impact on their mission.

Among other benefits, new and rapidly evolving technology allows them to assess their performance and decide where and how they should focus their attention.

Read this article to learn why digital transformation and adopting new technology is vital for not-for-profits and charities. Here are five ways it can benefit your organisation:

  1. Adopt flexible working and better collaboration

There are vast benefits of new technology for not-for-profit organisations, including increased efficiency and productivity.

It allows staff to work flexibly and remotely, which a growing number of talented people expect from the charity sector, as they would in other industries. It also enables teams to collaborate more effectively and work smarter.

  1. Stay compliant with regulations

New technology makes it easier for charities and not-for-profits of all sizes to ensure they’re complying with laws and regulations. Very importantly, for this sector, it enhances their ability to raise income.

It enables organisations to adopt more efficient and effective working practices and optimise management information and insight, so they have a better understanding of their fundraising, expenditure and donations.

Ensuring compliance and transparency will be critical to attracting younger donors. Senior manager at Deloitte Consulting LLP James Qua writes in the Wall Street Journal that millennials are now the fastest-growing potential donor base – a demographic that demands more transparency from not-for-profits.

He said: “Millennials typically express a strong desire to understand the impact of their contributions both at the time of investment and in the future, so they typically demand increased transparency from organisations to which they contribute, whether their gifts take the form of time, money, or expert advice.”

According to a recent survey by Philanthropy Impact, a membership organisation working to inspire philanthropy and social investment, funding was the top concern for 84% of charities, while GDPR was cited by nearly two thirds (65%).

As we enter the new decade, new technology and digital transformation could bring multiple benefits for not-for-profits and charities, including new income streams and more secure and transparent communication with supporters and beneficiaries, allowing them to operate in a more agile and efficient way.

However, these advances will not be without risk or barriers for organisations to overcome. Finance leaders must be at the heart of breaking down obstacles, empowering teams to think and deliver in more creative ways.

How can Sage support your not-for-profit’s mission?

Discover how Sage Intacct can help simplify financial management and drive your mission forward with a cloud accounting solution that caters to the specific needs of not-for-profits.

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  1. Make accurate predictions using data

One of the most significant opportunities technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and big data offers CFOs is the ability to make accurate predictions. In the charity and not-for-profit sector, this is more important than ever.

In a recent report by Sage, CFO 3.0: Digital transformation beyond financial management, Kerry Agiasotis, executive vice president for APAC at Sage, says: “While today’s CFOs have been tasked with analysing the past, tomorrow’s CFO is expected to be a visionary.”

“They will be using and analysing data to predict the future direction of the organisation, uncover hidden opportunities and close information gaps. As the gatekeepers of data and analytics, the CFO of tomorrow will drive digital transformation throughout its business.”

The particular challenge for not-for-profits and charities looking to implement this change is that unlike most organisations, their focus is helping others rather than making money for themselves.

  1. Work more efficiently after investing time on implementation

Many charities and not-for-profits can find technological change daunting. It’s often perceived as expensive or even unaffordable – so it’s important to understand which technology is right for your business and budget.

However, recognise that investing in the right technology can save money in the long run due to better productivity and more efficient ways of working.

Organisations will have to invest time. It’s critical the right level of internal resource is put to this change – either in terms of project management or staff training in new systems.

Technical implementations often fail due to internal culture not being considered or staff not being taken on the journey.

Leaders of charities and not-for-profits should scope out the digital transformation project thoroughly before embarking on it, as time invested upfront will reap rewards later and save some of the pain.

Walk the talk, too. Ensure the top of the organisation gets stuck in and acts as champions, advocates and doers – not just desk thumpers when things become challenging or go wrong, which they will.

  1. Acquire new talent

Digital transformation and talent acquisition can form a virtuous spiral for many not-for-profits.

In finance teams and other departments, talented people will be attracted to organisations benefiting from digital transformation and similar technology rather than those struggling with ageing, legacy systems.

And you can use this new talent to drive further technological benefits.

There’s one asset not-for-profits and charities have that’s not available to commercial organisations: volunteers.

“Something else that we learned along the way was that this new reality that we were starting to adopt within our non-profit was attracting the very thing that we needed: volunteers who had digital skill sets and who were excited to help us transform,” Dr Gloria Horsley, founder of the Open to Hope Foundation, an open community where people can find hope after loss, writes in Forbes magazine.

“Many had even led their own companies’ transformations and were eager to help other organisations do the same, so they didn’t have to reinvent the wheel or experience setbacks.”

“The transformation assistance we received included showing us how to migrate our files, selecting the optimal software for our processes and training the organisation on how to think digitally.”

The sector needs to invest in the best people with recent, first-hand experience of delivering impactful digital transformation and fundraising innovation. Not-for-profits and charities must now have one eye on this ever-changing landscape, as the pace of change is due to ramp up even further.

Following thought leaders on social media and partnering with disruptive and socially conscious companies will become even more essential.

The 2020s will present a challenging and ever-changing fundraising and technological environment. Still, not-for-profits and charities should be energised by these opportunities and the chance to have a more significant impact on their supporters and beneficiaries.

Watch our virtual event: ‘Leading through the COVID-19 crisis’

On 26 May, we held our first Sage Advice Live virtual event. Watch our video to hear from our panel on how their businesses have navigated the challenges of COVID-19, what the future business landscape will look like, and tips on how you can survive and thrive.

You'll hear from:

  • Cindy Nicholson, CEO, Braintree
  • Mark Chapman, Tax Communications Director, H&R Block
  • Danielle Wood, Program Director, Grattan Institute
  • Kerry Agiasotis, MD & EVP APAC, Sage
  • Mark Jones, Chief Storyteller & CEO, Filtered Media (Host)
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