Written by: Jay H.
Most Canadian charities cannot respond to the digital expectations of Canadians, according to a new report released by CanadaHelps. Despite the urgent need for digital transformation, nonprofits lack both the funding and skills necessary to maintain relevancy and raise essential funds.
This survey pool consists of 1,114 charity partners from CanadaHelps’ database and 328 other charities from a list obtained from Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
The survey’s notable findings unveiled a low digital skills rate, funding challenges, and a low digital adoption rate for Canadian nonprofits. In fact, only 42 percent of small charities (with annual revenues less than $100,000) have or plan to integrate digital technology into everyday activities.
Despite the low rates of digital adoption, Canadian charities have high aspirations. The majority of small organizations believe that greater use of technology is essential for operations. Larger charities were also more likely to value technology.
Despite these high ambitions, most organizations have more significant priorities than digital transformation. Nonetheless, 54 percent of respondents said they would soon find it harder to maintain current operations if they do not improve their digital capabilities.
“We are perpetually understaffed, so researching and implementing new technological tools, even though I know they are important and a priority, just doesn’t happen,” said one respondent.
Skills and Usage Gaps
Among the software used by Canadian nonprofits, most respondents reported that they serve two purposes: general office operations and financial reporting. Far fewer charities used software for other digital tools, such as marketing, websites, and event hosting.
Furthermore, while most (86%) CanadaHelps respondents use online donation forms, only 40 percent of CRA respondents reported using these forms. This is a significant issue since many Canadians use computers and phones to donate to their chosen charities.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw massive funding losses for Canadian charities for those without digital tools in place. However, those with online donation tools had donations skyrocket.
The study also revealed that many organizations are laggards despite needing a website and email marketing. Only 26 percent of CRA respondents and 43 percent of CanadaHelps respondents rate their knowledge and skills with websites as “very good” or “good.” Similarly, 18 percent and 46 percent respectively rated their knowledge and skills with email marketing as “very good” or “good.”
Barriers to Digital Transformation
The most significant barriers to digital transformation for Canadian charities are a lack of funding, expertise, and training.
Approximately 55 percent to 60 percent of all respondents say they don’t have enough funding or don’t have the skills, expertise, and knowledge for greater use of digital tools.
Next, the lack of priority for digital transformation is a significant hurdle. Approximately 37 percent to 39 percent of respondents say that digital transformation is not as great of a priority as other activities. Many even believe they do not need digital tools to achieve their objectives.
“Our nonprofit is staffed fully by volunteers, and so is the executive board. This makes it challenging to find time for other projects outside of our main objectives of supporting our mission,” said one respondent.
What Canadian Charities Need
According to respondents, non-profits need the following:
- More funding for digital tools, including support from the government and funders.
- Better understanding to develop digital strategic plans.
- More internal staff with information technology (IT) expertise.
Board members can play a vital role. According to the findings, only one-quarter of respondents rated their boards’ knowledge and interest in digital tools as “good” or “very good.”
Priorities for Canadian Charities
Respondents ranked digital transformation tools to better use in the next couple of years. Online donation forms, event hosting platforms, and social media management are the priority digital tools non-profits now need. For the lowest priority for these organizations, respondents ranked search engine optimization (SEO) software, website analytics tools, and digital accessibility/inclusion software. However, we should note that all of these tools are essential components of an organization’s digital strategy.
Advantages of Digital Tools
The respondents ranked the potential benefits of using digital tools. The top picks included:
- Increasing their reach to find new donors, volunteers, and supporters.
- Improving their communications among the current community of supporters.
- Increasing their reach to more of the people they serve.
- Spending less time on administrative tasks.
- Better serving their current beneficiaries.
Certainly, most Canadian charitable organizations have digital ambitions. However, they have hurdles to overcome in implementing these tools. Our managed IT services for nonprofits can help your organization achieve its mission while remaining within your tight budget. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help your nonprofit organization undergo the digital transformation it needs to succeed.
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