People. Process. Systems.

Ryan Feely
24th June 2020

Header image for Digital Transformation 4 tips for charities

Digital transformation for charities is in a strange place. Reports, such as the Charity Digital Skills Report have highlighted that the charity sector wants to embrace new technology and digital ways of working, but each year the numbers who are working towards these goals remain very low. This comes down to a number of factors, such as not knowing where to start, unclear goals, and a fear of failure within a charity.


At Optimum PPS we have shown how digital transformation journeys can deliver real benefits to charities and greatly improve their efficiency. Here are 4 tips for charities who are looking to embrace digital within their ways of working.


“Having the new system implemented, at the time of the coronavirus outbreak, has enabled us to keep our HR, Finance, Payroll and Fundraising staff safe, by giving them the freedom to be able to work from home. Our previous systems were server based, in the office, and had no remote access capability. We would not have been able to work from home.”

Joanne Mayne, Director of Corporate Services, Penumbra.


Tip 1 – Blueprint

When it comes to digital transformation for charities it is important to understand where you are currently with a business blueprint. This step is often overlooked and is one of the main reasons that companies in all industries run into trouble when implementing new business systems and software.


A blueprint should be a deep dive into how your charity currently works, looking at every function team members carry out to deliver your services. By creating an “As Is” picture of how current operations are run, it ensures that no step is missed when implementing new systems. If you skip this step then you run the risk of ending up with software that is not fit for purpose, which often leads to expensive custom configurations from the provider.


Once you have your current ways of working understood you then need to look at how your charity should look in the future. This step is about surfacing improvement opportunities and mapping out what good ways of working look like for your charity. This “To Be” view should be what you are striving to achieve. It can then be referred to when it comes to selecting what systems to implement. This deep understanding of what you are looking to achieve helps fully assess solution options and ensures you get a product that meets the needs of your charity.


Tip 2 – Prepare for Resistance

Change within organisations is always going to be faced with resistance from team members. This is caused by a variety of reasons but the most common is fear. People fear the new, believing that their job or status within the charity could be in danger.


It is important to work with team members to avoid this as their buy-in to a digital transformation project will make the whole process much smoother. They are the people who will use any new systems that are implemented so ensuring they are onboard with the changes is a key part of getting the most out of the new ways of working.


There are multiple ways to alleviate the resistance to change but the most effective is open and honest communication from the start. Explain the reasons for change and make sure you listen to any feedback that employees provide, they’ll often bring up points you never considered yourself.


Tip 3 – Talk to Others

Although digital uptake has been slow across the charity sector, we are now at a point where the number of charities that have some experience of moving towards digital ways of working is growing. These charities have already been where you are now, and probably had many of the same questions and concerns.


That is why we recommend reaching out to those charities that have been through it. They can give reassurance and guidance, but they are in the best position to tell you any pitfalls to avoid and share their lessons learned.


Tip 4 – Be Realistic

Our final tip is that you need to be realistic in your expectations. Digital transformation really is a journey with no silver bullet that fixes everything overnight. But with robust project management and a committed team on the journey with you, lasting benefits can be delivered.


Problems arising are part of the journey and overcoming them helps build an understanding of solutions implemented as well as how your charity functions. While they can seem like a mountain at the time, the truth is many are little more than a molehill that have been experienced countless time before.



While all industries are seeing digital impact on them, this is especially true in the charity sector. The opportunities that exist by embracing digital transformation means every charity should be looking at how they can start to integrate digital into their everyday business lives.

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