Non-Profits Need More Digital Competence

If they want to take advantage of the opportunities digitalization has to offer, non-profit organizations must undergo considerable changes. In many German non-profits, digitalization still has not gained the level of priority it needs. Many organizations also lack the necessary skills for a holistic digital transformation. This is shown by the recent study, “Digitalization of Non-Profit Organizations – Strategy, Culture and Skills in the Digital Transformation,” which surveyed more than 160 non-profit organizations. The study is a joint project of the WHU Foundation, the Haniel Foundation, betterplace lab as well as Capgemini, the CXP Group and fibonacci & friends.

The results of the survey show that many non-profit organizations are aware of the need to evolve in the face of the digital transformation. And yet the pressure to act is apparently not considered urgent enough to marshal resources adequate to the changes required. This is true not only of small organizations with limited resources but also of large, established ones: 88 percent of respondents from large organizations with annual budgets in excess of 10 million euros are seeking additional funding to help digitalization work more effectively.

While some 80 percent of non-profits surveyed have invested in classic IT applications and infrastructure such as networking, security, and hardware over the past two years, only 26 percent feel well-prepared to use digital tools to more efficiently handle administrative tasks as well as project development and control. In this connection, the authors of the study call on the IT industry in particular to fulfill its social responsibility and to help the non-profit sector make targeted use of digital technologies.

The skills that successful digitalization requires are also scant to date among many non-profit organizations. This is why the majority of respondents consider it important or very important to receive training in digital solutions and online tools (67 percent) or data handling (63 percent). In the authors’ view, a particular effort should be made to strengthen the capacity for change in the non-profit sector. Large, established organizations in particular often characterize themselves as less flexible and adaptable and have considerable need for further training in the design of change processes (80 percent) and in agile approaches to work (67 percent).

A significant conclusion of the present analysis: the pressure to act that results from increasing digitalization, the scope of the need for change, as well as the opportunities that arise, often go underestimated in the non-profit sector. Digitalization requires organizations not only to invest in technology, but also to effectuate sweeping changes in processes, structures, work techniques, culture and strategy. Only in this way can the opportunities of digitalization be tapped for added social impact and social change be successfully shaped.

About the study:

The study, “Digitalization of Non-Profit Organizations – Strategy, Culture and Skills in the Digital Transformation,” surveyed more than 160 senior staff members from German non-profit organizations of different sizes, legal forms and ages. The study is a joint project of several organizations seeking to sharpen the focus on the opportunities of digitalization in the non-profit sector. The study project was initiated by WHU Foundation, the Haniel Foundation and Capgemini; it was carried out by betterplace lab, WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management, the CXP Group and fibonacci & friends. The Association of German Foundations and the German business-community initiative known as the “Stifterverband” accompanied the study in terms of content.

The study can be downloaded here free of charge. [German version only]