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Digital First Thinking Now

publication date: Feb 3, 2021
author/source: Marina Glogovac, President & CEO, CanadaHelps

2020 was a year that Canadians really stepped up for charities, with people giving back in whatever way they could on GivingTuesday and online throughout the year. Through CanadaHelps, Canadians donated more than $480M online to charities in 2020, an increase of 116% from the year before. These numbers are incredible, and we are grateful for all the support shown by Canadians this year. But for charities across the country living this crisis, we know that online giving growth is not equal to overall donation and revenue growth.

We are still grappling with a crisis in this country and we are all anxious about what 2021 will bring. There is still so much uncertainty. One thing that I am sure of is that charities that aggressively adapt to digital, build their digital capacity, and integrate a digital mindset into their operations will be more successful than those that don’t. This crisis also represents a unique and urgent opportunity for organizations to significantly update their technology profile and pursue opportunities for innovation and change.

Adapting to Digital The very idea of digital transformation can feel overwhelming. The good news is that the pandemic forced everyone online overnight and, while it was a bumpy transition, society didn’t collapse! We adapted. And as we move forward into 2021, focusing on digital will hopefully feel increasingly like a more manageable task.

Digital fundraising tools are a critical place to start. Ensure you have a mobile-friendly donation form, and also consider creating customized donation forms for different fundraising initiatives such as monthly gifts, gifts of securities, and different campaigns. Email marketing is also essential, including building capabilities to segment your donors and steward them with personalized, relevant messages. Finally, investing in a donor management system to get a full view of your donors’ activities over time, identify stewardship opportunities, and easily communicate with them.

Digital First Thinking

But of course, digital transformation is beyond just software and hardware. To be successful, digital first thinking must be embedded seamlessly across all parts of your organization, from culture to donor engagement.

  • Digital must be part of your donor experience, integrated with every touch point. These digital touchpoints will produce data that you can harness to steward and engage donors.
  • Digital needs to be woven into your culture, processes, and operations. How do you currently communicate internally and externally? What digital tools would enable better ways to communicate? How can work that must be done offline, such as service delivery, be enabled by technology tools? How are you collecting, storing, analyzing, and reporting data to drive your decisions?
  • Can digital enable different business models? With the onset of the COVID pandemic, some organizations have discovered that some form of remote work (a hybrid workplace) is productive, and has potential for resource sharing and efficiency — from staff to office space. Digital can also enable broader service delivery options and new revenue streams. For example, some charities have taken service delivery like counselling or cooking classes online as a temporary measure, but it may be an opportunity to reach a wider audience in the future as a complement to in-person delivery. We’ve also seen arts organizations host performances online and treat them as donation and engagement opportunities instead of a ticket sale.

One of the biggest lessons of this pandemic for charities is the need to transform. This includes looking at systems-level changes your organization can, or must, make to be sustainable moving forward. Charities cannot postpone a more committed and holistic approach to digital anymore — all around us we are witnessing the acceleration of digital tools, services, and delivery. The world, including donors and consumers, are now far more entrenched in the digital economy ecosystem and this is where we need to meet them.

Marina Glogovac is President & CEO of CanadaHelps, a leader in providing powerful fundraising and donation technology to charities and donors since 2000. Marina has been a technology and media executive for more than 25 years, including roles at Kobo, Lavalife Corp. and St. Joseph’s Media.



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