Why the CEO is the changemaker of digital transformation

Third Sector Promotion Blackbaud

Research from Blackbaud’s Status of UK Fundraising Report 2021 shows that digitally mature organisations are more likely to be retaining more supporters, growing their income and acquiring new supporters

(Photo by Canva Studio/Pexels)
(Photo by Canva Studio/Pexels)

What stands in the way of an organisation on their path to digital maturity? And what role do CEOs need to play to help their charity get there? Blackbaud put these questions to a roundtable of charity leaders at the Third Sector CEO Summit on 30 March. 

The Blackbaud Status of UK Fundraising Report 2021, which surveyed more than 1,000 professionals from across the sector, found that 79 per cent of non-profits believe it’s important for the sector to develop digital maturity. Yet, the sector only rates itself as a five out of 10 for digital maturity and only 12 per cent of non-profits described their organisation as digitally mature.

As more functions within organisations rely on digital tools and skills to achieve their goals, digital projects are no longer just an IT responsibility. Creating true value from digital transformation requires different functions across the organisation to work together in new ways. Because of this, the role of the chief executive is pivotal in helping shape, guide and create sustained change.

The CEOs were asked to introduce themselves and rate their organisation’s digital maturity on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest score. Most people around the table rated their digital maturity as low to just above average, with one saying that they felt their organisation was in the infancy stages.

One chief executive said their charity was quite digitally mature from a fundraising perspective but lagged behind in other parts of the organisation. They remarked that in order to progress, they know that they need to embrace the pace of change, yet balance that with what is achievable and realistic. 

Another discussion point was how there are so many different interpretations of digital transformation and what it actually means. It was agreed that, while digital transformation can seem scary, in essence it is a journey that you just need to start.

As Craig Shackleton, commercial director at JustGiving, said: “There’s potentially an endless list of things that you could do. Often charities see digital transformation as a big project, but rather it can be small, incremental changes.”

In response to that, one chief executive said: “Digital transformation can be as simple as looking at your data and making informed decisions. It’s about enabling internal systems and processes to help you make better decisions for your donors and supporters.”

A key message was that digital transformation is not about new, shiny things such as TikTok or Twitch, the interactive streaming platform, but rather it’s about stripping it back and asking what is important to your charity, donors and stakeholders.

Digital transformation could be simply about enabling your internal systems to be able to provide you with data, trends and insight to better understand your audiences and how you can best serve them. 

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