Every philanthropic organisation or charitable trust in today’s digital world has a huge responsibility for its public image and the way it is perceived by people who are directly affected by its activities and the wider community in which it operates. The key challenges such organisations face are:

  • Need for transparency and accountability in the way funds are collected and distributed
  • Need to identify and optimise every penny that is handled by them
  • Need to demonstrate the outcomes of their activities and the changes their efforts have brought to the local community, society, country or environment
  • Need to align their activities with their own organisational goals

In order to address these challenges, these organisations have to ensure that the right processes and tools are used to manage expectations and deliver value. IT is a key enabler in this regard to deliver on business process efficiency targets and the choice of appropriate technology.

The important criteria that needs to be considered in the choice of an ideal platform to address business challenges are:

  • Scalability in terms of technologies and functionality
  • Accessibility for All and Device Agnostic
  • Ease of use and manageability
  • Analytics capability for quick and comprehensive reporting

Scalability (hardware and software)

Modern day demands lead to constantly adapting requirements, like need for online solutions and use of social media which are disruptive in nature and have profound impact. Any new platform has to have strategies in place to cope with such disruptions quickly without affecting day-to-day operations.

Accessibility

The solution needs to be accessible for everyone (including differently abled users), due to the nature of operation or business. On global definitions, the applications that these organisation use need to be at least AA-WCAG compliant. This important aspect has to be considered in the choice of software.

Another aspect of accessibility is the ability to access information from anywhere, anytime, and on any device. The application needs to be compatible for any operating system and device, anytime.

Usability

Business users are becoming habituated to ‘consumer grade’ user experiences in their personal lives, and there is an expectation of similar user interfaces for their business applications. These user interfaces are expected to be simple, intuitive and easy to operate without much guidance. The system must also be intelligent to use minimal input while automating processes, thus reducing the dependency on manual activity. Management of Grants appears like a simple business, but there is a large degree of complexity in the processes.

Analytics Capability

Reporting is a key factor in defining success for a philanthropic organisation. Any system that is used to manage the business processes must be capable of making information available easily and quickly to its users, the way they want it – sliced and diced. The reporting tool needs to be dynamic and should be able to provide ‘real-time’ or ‘near real-time’ information. The law of ‘Right To Information’ makes reporting more important, as every citizen who contributes, wants to know how his money is making a difference to the society or environment. A comprehensive reporting tool helps in giving a transparent picture to those who approve and provide the fund. The tool also provides a clear view of the benefits as also the decision making processes.

Need for an Integrated Solution

In addition to the above critical factors that need to be part of any platform evaluation, there are other parameters which also need to be considered for identifying the right IT Platform. A few of these additional factors are:

  • Managing Operations: In order to deliver outcomes that improve the life of individuals and communities, organisations incur significant operational costs. There are constant pressures to meet targets of reducing operational costs while providing better service, so that operational savings can be better utilised for better causes. What is required is a platform which provides the ability to integrate ‘grant making application’s to ‘day-to-day operations’ (Payroll, Marketing, Procurement, and other expenses for running operations) in order to reduce TCO and provide a more integrated environment.
  • Managing Donations/Generating Fund: In addition to granting money to applicants, certain organisations also generate funds. In order to manage this complex process, they need to adhere Anti-Fraud processes as per the government regulations. These processes get further complicated when individuals want to donate through direct debit or when the funds are collected through a donation box. The organisations need to keep record of every penny they receive and report on its usage. As various payment methods possible, suitable integration with the main applications are to be catered for.
  • Managing Events/Projects: Some organisations also execute projects themselves either completely or partially. This entails additional challenges like planning, preparation, execution and monitoring activities to manage the projects. Processes and operations may vary from project to project and the chosen solution needs to provide the functionality to manage this and integrate back with the main application.

Conclusion:

Although philanthropic organisations are non-profit businesses, the expectation from these organisations in terms of service is just the same as with any other business. Hence, the IT platform and technology are equally important for them as for any other industry or business. In fact, philanthropic organisations have additional challenges and responsibilities, and the right platform and technology will enable them to meet the complex challenges listed above. They would do well to keep these points in mind as they decide on any IT spend.

Watch this space for more details on the impact of disruptive technologies to your organisation, and how you can combat these new challenges to keep your business successful.

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