Digital Transformations: The Bells and Whistles You Don't Need

by Matt Scott Matt Scott | 4/6/21 11:17 AM

When I was in your shoes, leading the development operations for a multi-million-dollar non-profit, I wish I had the insider knowledge I have now about digital transformations, so I could avoid some of the pitfalls. 

Most likely you’ve been sold the idea that technology can fix everything. It’s tempting to bite that carrot when you are already experiencing change fatigue: apathy, stress, and lethargy in the wake of massive uncertainty during the pandemic.

I get it. Fathoming a transformation for your organization right now is daunting. That’s why I want to help demystify this concept for you. I’ve seen nonprofits get the recipe wrong too many times and suffer loss of revenue for years as a result. 

You want exponential growth and the resources to achieve your nonprofit’s mission. My goal is to help you reimagine what a digital transformation can look like so you can get there quicker and more effectively. (Hint: it doesn’t look like what your peers are doing).

How do I know there’s a better way to transform and scale?

Because I’ve tested it. Before launching CauseMic, I helped Team Rubicon build a team and a process for scaling from $250K to $40M in annual revenue in just seven years. Since then, I’ve coached dozens of organizations to use our Rapid Growth Framework to double or even triple their revenue in as little as three years or less.

This post is the first in a 3-part series, so be sure to check back to cash in on the full value of this discussion.

 

Let's debunk some myths about digital transformations.

# 1 - Technology is the most important ingredient in my nonprofit’s transformation, so that’s where I should focus.

False. Technology is important, but it’s far from the most important. Transforming your organization to rapidly scale starts with a change in mindset. Your people are the most important ingredient.

 

#2 - As the leader of my organization, I should decide what digital systems to implement.

False. You know a lot, but you can’t possibly know enough to make a decision before understanding the pain points of each team across your organization. 

You should invite representatives from each functional area of your organization to the table so you understand all of their needs and use cases before making a decision. Make sure to include people from Finance, Marketing, Donor Relations, Program Management, etc. This not only ensures that you make a wise selection, but also that your employees across functions feel a sense of ownership for the transformation. They’re invested and that’s huge, because remember, people are the most important ingredient, and they will determine your success.

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The universal adoption of new technologies is critical to a digital transformation.

One way to drive adoption is through stakeholder alignment. The trick is to gain “critical mass” or the minimum amount of participation required to start and maintain a transformation.

Leaders should be thinking about how to align stakeholders across the major functions: marketing, fundraising, finance, programs, and operations. If there is a shared understanding of system requirements and ownership across the organizations, it’s far more likely to be a successful transformation.

 

 

 

#3 - Once we select a new tool, we should launch it with as much functionality as possible. Bigger is better and leaves room for us to grow.

False. Implementation partners are incentivized to sell you the most complex system with every functionality under the sun because that’s going to rack up your hours and ensure your dependency on their assistance. 

I’m here to tell you bigger is NOT better right out of the gate. Your nonprofit will waste time, dollars, and employee morale by investing in a Ferrari only to drive it like a Honda. 

Every functionality you enable in a system should have a purpose and a use in the present. So a better strategy is to get the right tool that functions like a Honda the way you need it to now, and then gradually build how much of its capacity you use as your organization grows.

 

#4 - Organizational change management is a luxury, not a necessity. 

False. A digital transformation entails a whole new way of thinking, operating, and making decisions. Oftentimes nonprofits fail to consider how their teams will absorb change, learn to use new tools, and adopt the new roles, policies, and processes that are required to effectively operationalize a new way of working. 

Change management is not only necessary, but critical to the success of your transformation. In fact, it’s the hidden cost that I guarantee your implementation partner won't discuss during their sales pitch, but knowing better, you should plan for ahead of time.


This may be stating the obvious, but CauseMic doesn’t win a lot of digital implementation pitches. That’s because we’ll tell you what you don’t need, as much as what you do need to invest in to transform your nonprofit to a million-dollar organization.

That said, what we do win a lot of is reconfigurations. We help nonprofits plug leaking budgets and unravel huge headaches that result from launching a system with bells and whistles they frankly never needed. Along with overly souped-up tools, we course-correct change management efforts and proper alignment of roles, processes and behaviors so organizations can keep the lights on while they scale. Yes, you read that correctly. Keep the lights on...because that’s how critical it is to get the “people” part of your digital transformation right.

You don’t have to make these same mistakes. You can get it right from the beginning and avoid a reconfiguration altogether. That’s where I can help you with a one-on-one conversation.

Before you risk investing in the wrong systems or failing to properly plan the cost of getting the “people” part of your transformation right, schedule a complimentary tech stack consultation with CauseMic. We’ll help you identify the right platform to scale your organization based on your size, business phase, and goals. Moreover, we’ll give you a sense of what your next steps are so you feel prepared and supported to uplevel your nonprofit for maximum return on investment.

 

CauseMic has a best-in-class understanding of the tools, tactics and the technologies that power modern revenue generation. They have a road-tested process of testing, learning, iterating, optimizing and scaling that simply finds its way to success. And they are embedded thought partners...really internalizing your organization’s goals, constraints and nuances as if they were their own.” — Mark Barker, Cofounder and Strategy Lead, Craft & Commerce

 

Stay tuned for the next two chapters of this blog series for more real talk on what it really takes to digitally transform your nonprofit. 

Additional Reading