Technology has revolutionized the way non-profits and charities work. From social media outreach to online fundraising, technology has become an integral part of every business, including non-profits and charities.
However, implementing technology without a clear strategy can lead to chaos, inefficiencies, and increased costs. In this article, we explore why non-profits need an information technology (IT) strategy and how it can help align technology with their business goals.
Without guidance, problems arise
NFPs may struggle to align their IT systems with the overall business objectives, resulting in inefficiencies and wasted resources. Without a clear understanding of how the technology supports the organisation's goals, individual business units may develop shadow IT – selecting and managing their own systems without the awareness of leadership – leading to multiple systems that are mutually incompatible and acquiring significant technical debt.
Moreover, a lack of a comprehensive ICT strategy can lead to reactive decision-making, often based on opinion, sometimes based on guesswork. Not-for-profits may find themselves organically growing their tech stack without a guiding hand, resulting in an increasingly complex and inefficient system. This can also create a treadmill of reporting obligations that can become overwhelming and detract from business goals.
Security and reliability can suffer without an overarching IT strategy in place. While some businesses may not warrant a high level of security or reliability, most will benefit from having a clear framework in place to govern their IT systems. Without this, businesses will be vulnerable to cyber-attacks or other technical issues that could disrupt operations and damage their reputation.
Alignment with business goals is key
Having an IT strategy helps to align all programmable works, tools, systems, and processes, supporting business needs while taking advantage of technology. This alignment helps to reduce costs, improve efficiency, and achieve business objectives. All IT strategies must aim to help achieve the future business goals with forward focused technology.
One size does not fit all
The size and complexity of the organisation will dictate the structure of the IT strategy. A 19-page technology strategy for a rural community services organisation with five staff is unnecessarily complex and may be ignored. On the other hand, a one-pager for a state-wide healthcare network is similarly useless.
Looking forward, planning ahead
A well-designed IT strategy should take a future-facing approach, allowing the organisation to anticipate potential threats, issues, and opportunities. By doing so, they can be better prepared to adapt to changes in technology and the market.
For example, a sudden shift in donor preferences or a cybersecurity breach that compromises sensitive personal information could be catastrophic. With an IT strategy in place, the organization can proactively identify potential threats and develop contingency plans to mitigate their impact.
On the other hand, an opportunity could be the emergence of a new technology that allows a charity to reach a wider audience or streamline its operations. A strategy can assist with quickly identifying and taking advantage of such opportunities, positioning the NFP as a leader in the sector and increasing its impact on the communities it serves.
In Australia, charities and non-profits are required to comply with various reporting and regulatory requirements, depending on their size, structure, and activities.
These include the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), and the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to name a few.
For instance, a charity that operates a fundraising campaign may need to register with ASIC or obtain relevant licenses, while a non-profit that employs staff must comply with the Fair Work Act and other workplace regulations enforced by the ATO.
An IT strategy can help charities and non-profits identify and understand their compliance reporting obligations, including deadlines, formats, and relevant legislation. By having a clear understanding of these requirements, organizations can avoid penalties, maintain their legal status, and uphold their reputation with stakeholders. Furthermore, an IT strategy can help automate and streamline compliance reporting processes, reducing the administrative burden and freeing up resources to focus on the organization's mission and goals.
IT Architecture and Operations
IT architecture and technology are related, with architecture designing and specifying how technology works together. Enterprise architecture takes into consideration all aspects of the enterprise. IT functions must align with the business, with governance necessary to lead, control, and direct. The right systems are the ones with the right features for the organization, not all features.
IT architecture and technology are critical to the success of an NFP. A well-designed IT strategy will help to align technology with business goals, leading to increased efficiency, reduced costs, and a more effective charity. IT operations are inextricably linked to IT architecture, with governance necessary to ensure that the right investment is made, and that delivery matches the plan.
Strategy before delivery
While an IT strategy lays out a high-level roadmap – providing a broader brush that identifies strategic capabilities and systems – a delivery plan itemises the tasks and activities to implement them. The IT strategy should identify key initiatives, but it should also leave room for flexibility and adaptation. Technology and the market can change quickly, and an IT strategy that is too rigid can quickly become outdated. By separating the IT strategy from the delivery of key initiatives, organizations can adjust their plans as needed, ensuring that they are always moving in the right direction.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to develop a robust IT Strategy for your organisation, give us a call on (03) 9403 5700. Alternatively, fill in your details below and we’ll get in touch with you directly.