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Not-for-profit digital innovation

10 May 2019

Innovation adopters

Australia’s not-for-profit (NFP) sector is taking a leading role when it comes to adopting innovation. According to the 2018 CommBank Not-for-Profit Insights Report, of NFPs surveyed, 95% of organisations in the sector are implementing an innovation or improvement strategy. NFPs who are investing in technology, are far more likely to invest in emerging technologies than the average Australian business. Investment in chat apps (29%), video assistance (16%), augmented reality (11%), and the Internet of Things (11%) are all well above the national average.


Likewise the NFP Innovation Index measures a community organisation’s capabilities across areas including technology, internal and external collaboration, their openness of culture and vision, and stakeholder centricity. In 2018 the most innovative NFP based on innovation index score was Burn Bright – which runs leadership and wellbeing programs for teenagers in schools across Australia – followed by Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and Culture At Work. There is a clear link between innovation and employee engagement in not for profits, according to new research, which identifies some of Australia’s most innovative NFPs. One area the sector could improve in, according to the report, was around rewarding and recognising innovation as reported by ProBono News.


Compiled by digital fundraising platform GiveEasy it seeks to help organisations shift from charity to change maker. Now in its fourth year, the innovation index provides a year-on-year assessment to track and measure the innovation progress of the NFP sector. The 2019 NFP Innovation Index is now open so take part today.


NFP sector by numbers 

The Australian not-for-profit sector (NFP) - sometimes referred to as the community sector, third sector, or social sector - encompasses a broad range of organisations that are neither commercial nor governmental. They are all pursuing a range of charitable purposes through service delivery, grantmaking and other activities which advance health, education, social welfare and religion. It includes entities of all sizes - hospitals, community services, universities, sports clubs, religious groups, day care centres, recreation clubs, environmental groups, job-training centres, family counselling agencies, and many more.


The number of Australian NFP organisations was most recently estimated at around 600,000 (Productivity Commission, Contribution of the Not-for-Profit Sector (2010)). Some 440,000 are smaller unincorporated organisations. According to the ACNC's Australian Charities Report 2014, the sector reported income totalling $103 billion in 2013-14. Of this, $42 billion came from government grants, $6.8 billion from donations and bequests and $54.5 billion from other sources.


The direct value that NPFs add to the economy is measured in gross value added (GVA). Output that is sold in the market is valued by sales, whilst the non-market output is valued at cost. In 2012-13, NFPs accounted for 3.8% of total GVA. NFPs contribute significantly to employment, accounting for 1,081,900 employed persons and almost 3.9 million volunteers. Volunteers contributed 521 million hours to NPIs, equating to an equivalent of 265,600 full time employed persons. The economic value of these hours was estimated at $17.3b. ABS Australian National Accounts: Non-Profit Institutions Satellite Account, 2012-13 


Tech support 

According to the latest Digital technology in the not-for-profit sector report February 2018, organisations that use digital technologies effectively are better placed to respond in a challenging environment. They have better control over their investment and funding sources, better infrastructure that enables staff to be productive in changing conditions and an established online presence that maintains continuity in client and supporter engagement.


Managing the systems and resources that provide support to the community sector is a challenge. Melbourne based social enterprise Infoxchange and Connecting Up  joined forces to create Australia and New Zealand’s leading not-for-profit dedicated to using technology to improve the lives of people experiencing disadvantage and the organisations that support them. The tech sector is supporting NFPs through Connecting Up with over $500 million in technology donations to over 18,000 Australian not-for-profits and charities since 2007. Eligible NFP organisations can access donated and discounted technology from Microsoft, Cisco, Symantec, Flickr, SAP, Citrix ad others.


ImproveIT Digital Capability Quiz

One initiative specifically designed not-for-profit and community organisations to measure their digital capability across six areas helps to identify organisation's IT strengths and opportunities for improvement:

  1. IT Management- technology management, governance and planning

  2. Technology- PCs, infrastructure, servers, hardware software and email 

  3. Information management - Client information, service delivery, supporting members

  4. Online presence- websites, social media, search engines & online communications

  5. Staff IT skills- digital literacy, productivity tools & professional development

  6. Security & risk- securing your information & disaster recover


Capacity building matters

It is estimated that each year, non-for-profits spend $4.8k (AU) per full time employee on digital technologies. Needless to say, it is an important resource that has to be well managed to deliver the much-needed benefit to the communities they serve. Training on the ground staff is one focus on capacity building but senior management needs to be digital leaders to harness the potential that tech offers their organisation.


ICT expertise on NFP boards are failing to keep pace with the digital world according to research undertaken by Our Community's data intelligence initiative, the Innovation Lab. The study reviewed more than 2700 board vacancies advertised on to test the demand for ICT expertise relative to other types of expertise. Across all board vacancies advertised since 2008, less than 16% list ICT as a desired skill. So, there is still more to do to build the digital capacity at all levels of the NFP sector.


The annual Connecting Up Conference (May 8-10) brings together NFP organisations from across Australia to be educated and inspired to have a powerful impact into the future. CU2019 encompasses the theme of ‘’Transform” to inspire and empower NFPs and charities to transform their organisations through technology and 21st century best-practice to fulfil their missions. The conference is an opportunity for not-for-profit organisations to learn from inspiring international and local speakers, engage and share with other delegates and walk away with new insights to help their organisation drive greater social change.


Popular topics include Social Media for NFPs with Kate vander Voort and Digital Transformation and IT Strategy. How to use technology to drive sustainability and social impact with  Ian Patterson and George Liacos from Human IT.  How NFPs can lead the world and reap the rewards of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning with Gus Quiroga shows the relevance of emerging technologies. Connecting Up also runs free or low-cost events and webinars via their Learning Centre.


2019 NFP Tech Awards 

Connecting Up is thrilled to announce the winners of this year’s Australian Not-for-Profit Technology Awards at Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on Thursday 9 May. A full list of finalists is available and the winners are listed below and the happy faces are featured above.

“Technology Volunteer of the Year”
Priyanka Ashraf from She Loves Data
“Best Accidental IT Person” 
Kate Fazio from Justice Connect
“Best Digital Storytelling by an Indigenous Australian”
Brett Leavy from Virtual Songlines

“Best Social Media Campaign of the Year”
This Life Cambodia
“Not-for-Profit Technology Innovator of the Year” 
Feros Care and Orange Sky (draw)

See the full list of finalists...

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