The Australian not-for-profit sector faces unprecedented challenges. The future looks very different from the past, and many NFPs are at risk of extinction if they fail to contend with nimble new start-ups, disruptive technology, declining funding, and increased government regulation.
According to a report by The Australian (report available only for subscribers), approximately 3,000 new charities emerge across the nation each year, all chasing a limited pool of funds. Many NFPs are struggling to adapt in this increasingly competitive landscape. Not-for-profits are faced with strong competition from challengers in sectors like disability, health and ageing. Organisations that still operate under out-dated models, with boards that are averse to change, will find themselves left behind in this modern marketplace.
So what can not-for-profit leaders do to ensure they remain competitive?
1. Board members must prepare their organisation for the future
Firstly, change should begin with the board. It’s no longer practicable for board members to act as passive overseers, focused entirely on operational concerns and internal matters. Boards must stand up and take the lead, embracing change and driving the technological evolution that will prepare their organisation for the challenges of the future.
Forward-thinking NFPs must carefully examine the outside world to determine what must be done to ensure success. This includes activities such as coordinating resources, aligning people with best practices, developing an effective engagement platform, and building the capability needed to manage the diverse challenges presented by our increasingly interconnected digital world.
2. Ensure your marketing plan is adopted and acted upon
We live in an era in which marketing and communications are critical to success. And in an age of declining funding with extreme competition, NFPs rely upon marketing more than ever. By devising a strategic marketing plan, board members will build the roadmap they need to steer their business in the right direction.
A good NFP marketing plan must consider digital marketing as a focal point and should be clear and concise, with input gathered from key stakeholders to ensure the plan is adopted and acted upon. Avoid overly long documents that lack stakeholder buy-in. It is essential that your CEO is fully invested in the plan. Business leaders are often over-worked, with endless meetings and demands, but if your CEO doesn’t have time to support the marketing plan then execution of the plan will suffer and your NFP will feel the impacts.
3. Be strategic when adopting technology
Strategic adoption of technology is one of best ways to drive change. Your NFP can’t promote and embrace all changes in one go. Change is a slow process and needs employee buy-in, which includes a fair bit of investment in education and training.
An IT strategy is the best way to ensure the right adoption of new technology. A good strategy will guide you through an IT transformation journey rather than focus on a one-off big flashy digital transformation project that will confuse your staff and impact on productivity. It will also avoid Adhoc changes, for example introducing new apps without a plan, which can have a long-term impact on your NFP, such as lack of system integration and costly IT solutions that might become obsolete.
By harnessing the right hardware and applications, you can enhance your organisation’s performance and improve competitiveness. Technology can be used to boost productivity, reduce operational expenses, increase brand awareness (for example, through social media channels), and improve your NFP’s accountability and transparency. By strategically digitising the business, not-for-profits can take advantage of the limitless growth opportunities offered by technology.
4. Invest properly in marketing and technology but also don’t forget your staff
Employee capabilities shouldn’t be forgotten by NFPs that want to thrive in today’s market. To attract and retain staff with the appropriate financial acumen, marketing skills, and business development experience, not-for-profits will need to pay competitively and provide an attractive working environment for their employees.
Marketing and technology also don’t come for free, and NFPs must be prepared to invest strategically to survive. An investment of up to 20% of gross income may be an appropriate marketing and technology budget. It will often be more cost-effective and efficient to outsource some of these functions to a professional agency or IT provider, rather than attempting to manage all your marketing and technology activities in-house. For efficiency and best outcomes, a balance between in-house and outsourced capabilities is key.
To find out more about how to future-proof your not-for-profit organisation, call Bremmar today on 1300-991-351 or email email@example.com.