As a subject matter expert in the not-for-profit (NFP) industry, attending industry specific events is critical. It gives the RSM team opportunity to discuss upcoming trends, issues, and network within the industry. With this industry insight we gain the ability to help guide our clients to success and create awareness. Below is review of the key themes and highlights that emerged from participating.
There are a few general themes and topics that emerge as concerns in the NFP space at these events:
Associations, charitable organizations and companies of any size are susceptible to cyberattacks. Several events focus on typical phishing and cyberattack schemes and how NFPs could be proactive in protecting themselves against one.
Marketing / Branding
Multiple marketing consulting firms represent at these events. Interesting highlights include how to utilize videos and visual mediums for marketing and member engagement and how to build an efficient and effective website.
One of the events had an entire presentation about a particular organization’s adoption of the Microsoft 365 platform. More than a technical talk, this was a lesson in change management, user adoption, and forming a good partnership.
Using Data Effectively
A consistent message is that the machine learning and data analytics capabilities used by corporations like Amazon can be harnessed on a small- and middle-market scale. There are platform demos and sessions on harnessing third-party data and website traffic data for actionable insight.
There are many fascinating use cases, enlightening stories, and cautionary anecdotes from these events. If I was asked to synthesize everything together, I would call attention to three broader takeaways:
1. Good leadership encourages organizational change
It should come as no surprise to anyone working in the professional space that organizational change is hard. Getting an entire team to adopt a new process or technology is a notoriously difficult undertaking. Especially for a team set in their current ways, digital transformation can be tricky. A common solution to this problem in many of the sessions was simply to lead by example.
During an enterprise implementation of, say, Teams, a VP consistently using that new platform of communication with a group that may have historically used Jabber can have major impacts on the broader audience of users’ willingness to adopt the new technology. Or, learning that a manager is reading up on how to identify a phishing email and where within your organization to report one can motivate that manager’s direct reports to do the same.
Even if your organization isn’t undergoing a major tech implementation at this moment, what are ways you can set an example at the leadership level now to begin shifting your culture in a direction that could make a future implementation easier? How do we effectively and efficiently communicate across our internal teams to standardize our processes and create transparency that will eliminate redundancies that gives us more time (time to analyze, help others, or time to ourselves?) In what way(s), would this change “move the needle” to align with your overall future vision?
2. Finding the right partner is crucial
Perhaps something that sets the workforce of the not-for-profit industry apart from others is the culture that each individual organization cultivates. By nature, NFPs are mission driven and looking to have maximum impact on the communities they serve. When looking to collaborate with a partner, it’s not only important to consider the quality and delivery of the final product but how they will fit with the culture and values of the organization.
If a new partner walked into your organization today, what qualities do you hope they would have? What kind of attitude do you hope they would bring to the engagement? In what ways would their work in your organization improve or enhance the current culture? More importantly, would they seek to understand your organization and provide advisement and/or support that cultivates your mission and vision?
3. NFPs are multidimensional
A piece of advice our Data and Digital Services offerings often give to not-for-profits and associations is to understand the multidimensionality of their organization. Although members and donations are central to the organization, they need to be supported by all other dimensions. How does your cyber infrastructure, brand and social presence, data and reporting governance and analytics practices, and internal efficiency and operations support your mission and core values? How does this affect your digital footprint and where do you stack up alongside your cohorts?
Use the exploration of a new technology implementation as an opportunity to identify potential gaps. Ask questions like: have we unlocked the full potential of our website? Are we proactively preparing for a cyberattack to ensure our information is secure? Are there optimizations and efficiencies we can implement to streamline internal communication? Are we able to quickly use our data to turn what we know about our organization’s capabilities into actions?
And at the end of the day, it bears repeating: NFPs are multidimensional organizations. Your organization’s mission and broader impact to the communities you serve depend on all these dimensions being supported and maintained. You owe it to your organization and your mission to make sure your NFP is functioning at its most secure, efficient, and technology forward.
If you need assistance in exploring how to unlock your organization’s full technological potential, start by reaching out to our nonprofit- and education-focused professionals at RSM here!