How digital engages customers in the not-for-profit arena

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on June 19, 2015

No matter what industry you are in, engaging with your customers, members or audience is vital to the success of your organisation. In today's technology-driven society, this means far more than having an aesthetically pleasing website or a mobile app. Placing digital at the heart of an engagement strategy will be vital in keeping your audience informed and up-to-date, according to Benno Wasserstein, managing director for software consultancy Box UK, who here explains discusses how the not-for-profit sector can not only go digital but be digital, and evolve its engagement model to put digital at its heart.

For those organisations in the not-for-profit sector, community engagement is key to long-term success, so a well planned and executed digital strategy is vital. No longer is it enough to take an ad-hoc, quick-fix approach; digital transformation needs to be strategic, measurable and accountable in order to add real value.

The story so far
The not-for-profit (NFP) sector is known for taking small steps when it comes to embracing technology, but we have seen this start to gather pace in the last few years as members demand more accessible and responsive interaction. The power of social media in the sector has made headlines, as evidenced by the Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 which saw donations to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Association skyrocket as the viral campaign became a global phenomenon. While this type of campaign shows how digital channels can successfully engage supporters and members, this is only the tip of the iceberg and there is so much more organisations in the third sector can do at a local level to engage with members in a relevant way.

Budgets and time constraints have typically been a barrier to implementing a digital strategy, but as the sector comes under increasing pressure to drive efficiencies, digitisation will play a key role in delivering content, information and updates to members in a way which builds long-term engagement.

Underlying framework
No matter the route an organisation takes to evolve its digital strategy and engagement model - be it through social media, video casts, live web chats or an easy-to-navigate website - the underlying principles of delivering it effectively, on time and budget need to be rooted in Agile methodologies. By taking this approach to delivering digital strategies, efficiencies can be maximised and risk reduced, which is often a critical factor when implementing change in the third sector.

The key principles of flexibility and collaboration embodied by Agile ensure any change is carried out in an iterative way, with progress assessed and tweaked as necessary at regular milestones to ensure the outcome is fit for purpose. By breaking down development into bite-sized chunks, change can take place effectively, with communication and collaboration occurring at every step of the way.

This approach is vital in upgrading the legacy systems and age-old processes that have been in place within the sector for years, making digital transformation a less daunting and more effective task.

Digital transformation in action
For the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), nearly a century of membership involvement had resulted in a disparate system. "We are responsible for representing the nursing sector while promoting best practice and shaping health polices and it is therefore crucial our online platform reflects this," explained Paul Newman, head of IT at the RCN. "Our current portal is built on old, fragmented legacy systems. Over time, the site has become cluttered and difficult to navigate. We want our members and other visitors to be able to find content easily and to be offered news, policies and clinical information that match their interests. Box UK has already carried out a 'quick start' process to determine performance and prioritise the digital transformation."

Utilising an Agile approach, Box UK helped the RCN understand motivations of users, helping to ensure the membership portal is more aligned to their requirements. Due to the amount of content on the system, Box UK and the RCN agreed on a 'define and refine' approach to creating an interesting, accessible and informative platform, resulting in a better online journey.

Working on such an influential, digital transformation project to create a cutting-edge platform has been an exciting prospect for Box UK. Ahead of the official launch at the end of 2015, the software development consultancy continues to seek input and feedback from users to ensure the site encourages a vibrant, active and engaged community.

What comes next?
"It is clear that in order for NFP organisations to remain relevant, and continue to inform and represent their members effectively now and in the future, digital strategies need to be at the centre of an engagement evolution," concluded Wasserstein. "Agile processes can not only provide the basis for this change but will underpin future strategies to ensure digital remains a valuable part of the engagement model moving forward."

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