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A framework for establishing a strong not for profit digital ecosystem

By October 30, 2019 November 8th, 2019 No Comments

We’ve never had more data, communication channels and technology processes than we do now. However, the rapid evolution of technology in the not for profit sector means often these systems aren’t working together, are driving fragmented internal processes and teams, and are costing a lot of money. But the good news is that it’s entirely possible to build a digital ecosystem that’s connected, comprehensive and most importantly drives positive outcomes for the business.

They don’t call it ‘digital transformation’ for nothing; it’s a big job to get all your systems talking to each other, but when they are all working together, your digital systems can drive exponential impact through people, process and technology.

So how do you optimise your digital ecosystem?

Our framework for building the perfect digital ecosystem starts with building a strong foundation, consolidating the tools at your disposal, growing your reach through digital and evolving your capabilities across the organisation. In this article, we outline how you can roll it out in your organisation.

Your Digital Strategy

The three key components of our framework for establishing a connected digital ecosystem are a vision (purpose), a roadmap (method), and a set of roles and resources (the people) to drive the social impact at the heart of your organisation.

1. Start with a Digital Vision

It all starts with ensuring you’ve got a clear digital vision. What do you want to achieve as an organisation from this digital strategy? Why is it important? Why should the whole organisation prioritise it, putting both time and money into your digital strategy?

Your vision should be a simple, clear and empowering statement that is owned by your organisation and present in everything it does. Get it right, and it will drive your digital strategy and motivate everyone involved. Get it wrong, and you might find that at the end, you’ve something different to what you really wanted or needed.

Here are some great digital vision examples:

  1. “IT will drive $45M in annual value by adopting a cloud-only strategy and moving all of our non-business critical systems (e.g., procurement, HR, finance) to to cloud by the end of 2019 and moving all other systems by the end of 2022.”
  2. “We will be a truly modern, nimble workplace where decisions can be made quickly and efficiently, team members feel connected and involved in all facets of the business and are always learning from each-other.” 
  3. “This digital ecosystem will drive increased donations and engagements by streamlining business processes, reducing operational costs and allowing enhanced real time data analysis to pinpoint exactly where our donors are.”
  4. “Our vision is to be the world’s most customer centric not for profit organisation; where donors have access to all the information they need to make the decision to support us, and our team is able to respond quickly across all channels to customer questions and responses.”

Every not for profit is different, and every digital strategy project has a unique set of challenges, systems to incorporate and outcomes they are driving. This means your vision will be unique to your own digital strategy.

In the third example above, the business might have a digital strategy that involves developing a service app where their supporters and service delivery teams can both log in. Their supporters rely on the app to obtain information that’s relevant to them and your teams are on the other end to provide that info. The business might set up the app so engagement, donations and other donation activities are all tracked, so they know where donors are coming from and how they interact with the organisation.

2. Digital Discovery

The next step in your digital strategy is to get the lay of the land, and understand what you’re working with in your digital ecosystem, by completing a Digital Discovery. This means taking stock of your current systems and programs, so you can compare your current state to your vision, and wider digital trends, innovations and opportunities. This will allow you to see clearly all of your different systems and tools, and work out what you need to connect to each other and establish a unified digital ecosystem. For example, ensuring that leads and enquiries are going directly into your CRM, that your CRM and email provider are in sync so that your lists are always up to date, and connecting to your social media advertising so the right messages are targeting people in those lists.

In practical terms, this means that when someone first enquires, they are automatically served up messaging in emails and digital ads that are appropriate for their lifecycle change, but as soon as they become a donor, they are served different messages that reflect that change in status.

Want to see what your Digital Ecosystem can look like?

Download our simple diagram here.

3. Digital Roadmap

You know where you are, you know where you’re going, now it’s time to work out how to get there. It’s time to turn the vision of your digital strategy into a set of attainable goals via a Digital Roadmap.

One example of the Digital Roadmap Frameworks we use has four distinct phases:

  1. Foundation
  2. Consolidation
  3. Growth
  4. Evolution

This is one of many frameworks we use, (depending on a client’s needs) and can be adopted by any not for profit, of any size to establish a digital strategy that builds a strong digital ecosystem.

The Foundation Phase 

Getting the foundations right is crucial to being able to build out a strong, digital strategy. In this phase, you’ll need to focus on building out key digital properties (or where they already exist, upgrading them) to ensure you can deliver on the Digital Vision and successfully implement all phases of the roadmap to a unified, connected digital ecosystem. This might mean building or redeveloping the website to meet new digital demands, developing an early prototype or MVP for a new service delivery program, or designing EDMs in preparation for future digital communications.

Having strong fundamentals is essential to driving consistent digital strategy success. The people and resources required are also vital to consider at this stage. This is where you will establish key working groups and encourage each team to prepare their content for the website, both of which will drive internal process improvement and growth of internal digital awareness/capability.

The Consolidation Phase

The next step builds on the Foundation Phase by supporting the tools developed and consolidating them into a high performing digital ecosystem. Completing the Digital Discovery is essential to launch this phase, as you’ll have identified which existing tools are at your disposal, and you can assess which ones you’ll need to add to your arsenal to keep up with the latest digital trends and stakeholder expectations.

For example, in this phase you may set up an integration between Salesforce and your email marketing system, or an SEO/SEM strategy to drive organic traffic to your campaign page or website.

The Growth Phase

With the foundations set, the tools in place, it’s time to grow. The Growth Phase focuses on building a significantly higher level of engagement using digital with your organisation, the core programs and your planned events. This allows you to run advanced, digital first campaigns which will greatly expand the reach of your organisation. You’ll also uncover key feedback for future program development and digital strategies. 

Examples in this phase might be selling merchandise online or integrating online ticket registration into your events.

The Evolution Phase

Now that your digital strategy is growing, you can begin to evolve the infrastructure and processes of your organisation to become inherently digital, and continue to support the strategy as it grows. This means working on the digitisation of many if not all programs, employing innovative technology in specialised applications and making sure that every single part of the organisation has a well-understood direction, metrics and KPIs for digital – all in line with your original Digital Vision and working together to create a world class digital ecosystem.

Using the roadmap example above, carefully fill in the key steps in the 4 phases of your Digital Roadmap. In each phase, you need to map every task within each phase to a digital outcome, which should be deeply entwined with the organisation’s success metrics and in line with your agreed digital strategy.

4. Roles & Resources

You’ve got the Digital Roadmap clearly outlined, so now it’s time to get the right resources on board for a successful implementation.

In this stage, your organisation needs to recognise and allocate the correct human and financial resources to your digital roadmap. You need each role to become digitally active. This means that both internal and external communications require structures and champions to guide their development.

If budget permits, we recommend dividing the responsibilities into externally focused communications and internally focused communications. This allows the externally focused group to focus on messaging that relates to each of the external stakeholders, whilst the internal team is focused on driving efficiency and working smarter within your digital ecosystem.

Both teams are responsible for separate areas of the digital strategy, and together must meet on a regular basis to ensure progress towards key milestones is being achieved and to revise estimates and targets as necessary.

Wrapping Up

An organisation that lives and breathes ‘digital’ has an essential competitive advantage, internally and externally. By outlining your clear, empowering Digital Vision for your organisation and completing a comprehensive Digital Discovery, you’re then able to map a 2-5 year long digital strategy, and can allocate internal and external champions to get there. A well executed digital strategy is attainable, if not essential in today’s technology driven landscape.

If you have any questions in your journey to achieving your Digital Strategy and establishing a digital ecosystem for your organisation, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Ready to get started?

In our next edition, we will take a deep dive into Digital Discovery, as this step is crucial in rolling out a high performing digital ecosystem for your organisation.