Author: Jenna Ash


We are all aware that the fast evolving innovations in technology have transformed the business landscape, and entire industries, particularly over the past five years. We have technologies like 3D printing; artificial intelligence; virtual reality –3D images that can be interacted with as if you were there; and holograms – which essentially place an overlay on real environments. The reality is that in just a few years, we could be all sitting around one board room table together – as holograms – hologramed in from our own office anywhere in the world.

There is no denying that technology is changing the face of business as we know it, but what about the non-profit sector? How are we going to be impacted?

Recently, Strategic Grants was privileged to be a sponsor of the TechSoup New Zealand Conference in Auckland. Its Australian equivalent, the Connecting Up Conference, will be happening 18-20 May in Melbourne. Themed ‘Advance: 2020’, the concept of digital disruption was the main topic of discussion.

Andrew Culley, Managing Director of Deloitte in South Australia, spoke about the fact that technology is going to disrupt every industry, and the non-profit sector is not immune to that. A 2012 report by Deloitte mapped every industry against the impact of technology to the industry, and the timeframe. What it seems to show is that, unless you are in the manufacturing or mining sector, digital disruption certainly needs to be front of mind. For 65% of the industries in Australia, Deloitte are picking digital disruption to have more than a 15% impact on the way they do business.

So, how do we respond? How do we maximise the opportunity?

According to Andrew, there are certain learnings for non-profits:

1. Donors now expect organisations to engage with them through multiple channels, both digitally and traditionally/personally.

It is important that you ensure consistency of message across all channels.

2. Valid causes are entering the market with innovative business models.

We are seeing this more and more often. Some non-profits are looking to hybrid models of social enterprise to move away from reliance on traditional fundraising. We are also seeing organisations that just ‘do’ technology better than others.

Charity: Water, for example, was established in 2006 to provide clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations; not a new cause, but they certainly bring a different approach to their fundraising. In 2015, Charity:Water released a virtual reality movie, that allowed them to engage donors on a whole new level. The movie followed the life of a young girl in an Ethiopian village, and the viewers were transported with virtual reality – as if they were actually present in that village. What a fantastic way to engage donors with the power of their donor dollar.
This demonstrates the importance of having ‘digital natives’ working within an organisation to spot these opportunities, and implement them!

datatablet3. Data should be used by non-profits to improve evaluation & influence your outcome.

If you’ve worked with Strategic Grants, or attended one of our workshops, you will know that we love evaluation. For a reason. Donors need to know that your activities are having an impact.

Technology and data now gives you the ability to be more confident in your outcomes. Many organisations are reviewing their data collection – how it is done and what it means. As Andrew suggests, it is a good time to be thinking about how to collect information that will help you improve your outcomes.

We are just at the beginning; but it is certainly time to turn our minds to how technology will disrupt the non-profit industry. How can we harness its power to have better outcomes for the communities we serve? That’s a question that poses more questions than answers. But I will leave you with a final word from Andrew about questions: “Technology is a strategic question, not a technology question”. How do we use technology to make our organisations better?


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