talenTtrust CEO Tess Mackean shares how the not-for-profit sector can embrace digital transformation as a tool to overcome the challenges of fundraising online.
By Tess Mackean
Given the current challenges facing the world, charitable organisations are being pushed to think of new ways to be resilient and creative. This is the case for charities here in Singapore. As fewer Singaporeans choose to make charitable donations this year, there is greater urgency for nonprofits to creatively pivot their model and remain sustainable.
One way that charities are doing so is by developing digital transformation strategies to engage donors and beneficiaries in new ways while also adapting business-as-usual to a new normal. With consistently high levels of government support and incentives to investigate new ways of working, this is arguably a great opportunity for charities in Singapore to modernise and reinvent themselves for years to come and send a positive message to charities across Asia.
Digital transformation goes beyond fundraising. It is an opportunity to invest in programmes and processes that allow Singapore’s non-profits to support the most vulnerable members of society: the elderly, the chronically ill and low-income families. Recognising that Singapore, and the wider world, will be fundamentally altered as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, charities are embracing the new normal and ensuring that their support remains available and effective.
One of the most obvious changes that we are all getting used to is spending less time in the company of others. Social distancing has been a necessary tactic in controlling the spread of COVID-19 but has meant that charities have had less opportunity to provide critical support and services to beneficiaries in person.
Video conferencing has become a part of day-to-day life in the last 9 months and charities are now utilising it daily to engage with those they serve. Filos Community Services, for example, now conducts virtual online tuition for its students from lower income families, ensuring they retain access to educational support without the risk of having to attend a class in-person.
Advances in telecommunications have also meant that traditional in-person events like AGM’s can still go ahead over a digital platform which is essential when ensuring good governance and support to management staff during these challenging times. With more innovation likely to be introduced in the remainder of this year it is a great sign that charities will be more agile in future. As the world opens up and people find themselves on the move again – greater digital literacy and flexibility will mean less disruption to organisations.
Online fundraising and the delivery of programme outputs have been another focus for charities across Singapore. With charities so rightly focused on serving their beneficiaries, many organisations face a resource gap in key areas like communications, finance, revenue growth and long-term strategy. This extends to a general lack of representation in full-time roles for HR, finance and marketing functions, for which charities don’t generally have the resource or capacity.
Despite the lack of specific personnel, charities are still responsible for maintaining high standards in these areas and organisations such as talenTtrust are also going digital in order to provide additional support to charities navigating challenging circumstances. Industry-leading corporate experts are able to login to video-conferencing platforms and provide advice and expertise in critical areas such as communication, team dynamics and practical problem-solving.
By matching highly successful mentors from the business world with local charities, our fundraising online programmes have seen charities make gains in fundraising and volunteer attraction. Our partners have reported an increase in confidence when positioning themselves externally thanks to the help of communications and messaging volunteers. This clarity also transcends inwards, to charity operations. With clearer messaging and understanding of strategic objectives, charity leaders are able to communicate more effectively with their staff and board. In particular, charities report that they have more confidence in pitching ideas to board members and better understand the dynamics of their board.
On digital transformation, charities who have adopted management tools have reported greater ease in setting impact driven goals, making decisions and staying focused on long-term objectives. The collaborative work tools introduced by skills-based volunteers help charities plan, remain on track and allocate resources effectively across organisation, regardless of size.
We live in uncertain times and the challenges facing charities tasked with supporting a wide range of beneficiaries are many. But as we have hopefully highlighted, there are causes for optimism. And we are proud to be helping charities on the front line here in Singapore adapt, digitalise and continue to deliver essential services to those who need it most.
Adoption of technology is critical, to view this time of crisis as the moment to innovate and change takes bravery – but we find that the rewards are worth the perceived risk. To succeed, charities must continue to prioritise strategic initiatives – mapping their resources and capabilities onto achievable goals for the organisation.
Charities that are able to maintain open communication with both their beneficiary communities and their donors will go a long way to nurturing relationships that will stand the test of time. Nurturing a giving spirit across digital platforms will pave the way for great things when ‘normality’ returns.