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Thoughts & Musings

The Beginning And The End Of Your Digital Transformation


There is no doubt the nonprofit sector is feeling the pressure of “digital transformation”

With experts warning the fourth industrial revolution is coming, and many saying it’s already here - the fear is real, that if we don’t act fast...we’ll be left behind.  And in the nonprofit sector, the ramifications of “being left behind” go far beyond investors losing money or executives losing their jobs. It means that organizations that cure diseases and fight poverty are unable to scale or are simply unable to thrive.

As a result, nonprofits are investing heavily in technology projects to take advantage of all the digital era has to offer - cloud computing, analytics, artificial intelligence, IoT, mobility, and robotics to name a few.

But in all the expert analysis and white papers written on digital transformation, there is a key component that is hardly mentioned, yet the success or failure of your transformation depends on it...your data.

Some of you may remember Microsoft’s 2016 experimentation in to Artificial Intelligence through its Chatbot called “Tay” (Thinking About You).  It was designed to delve in to “conversational understanding”, whereas the “the more you chat with Tay”, said Microsoft, “the smarter it gets.” The chatbot hoped to engage people through "casual and playful conversation.”  Tay also had a "repeat after me" feature that would allow anybody to put words in the chatbot's mouth. And that is where the dark side of the internet surfaced, with the chatbot tweeting misogynistic and racist comments. I’ll spare you the specifics (feel free to Google it), but 16 hours after its official launch, Microsoft suspended the Twitter account - and that was the end of Tay.  The lesson learned here is it that no matter how advanced and innovative your technology is, if the underlying data is not right, your technology can do more harm than good.

As more AI players enter the nonprofit market, I wonder…are we ready for bots to mine our data to find major giving prospects, and automatically serve them up custom communications? Are we ready for algorithms to track giving patterns and donor interests and automatically send invites to fundraising events? My guess is, your comfort level with these suggestions are directionally proportional to how confident you are in your data.  And in most nonprofits I walk in to, it’s not very high.

Regardless of what technology your digital technology takes on, the real power is in your data - whether it is about donors, beneficiaries, programs, or impact - it is one of your most valuable assets.  In the end, it’s the data that will help tell your story, connect with donors, and help move your mission forward - so if you want your data to serve you in the end, it is the most logical place to start your digital transformation.  Invest time, resources, and effort in cleansing, de-duplicating, and ensuring the data is meaningful and accurate. And while you're it, take stock of these 4 pillars to ensure you’re creating a responsible data culture for your nonprofit.

Let’s face cleansing is not the sexiest topic out there. It will not pack rooms at speaking events, it will not fill up webinar registrations, and there’s surely nothing new and shiny for vendors to sell. But I am convinced, if time and effort is invested upfront in data cleansing and regular data hygiene checks are put in place, your nonprofit will truly be able to reap the rewards digital transformation has to offer. ~

Rubin Singh (@RubinSingh) is the Founder and CEO of OneTenth Consulting.  OneTenth has a full range of services exclusively for nonprofits - from fundraising strategy, to CRM selection, to CRM implementation and change management.  OneTenth empowers nonprofits by aligning their organizational, fundraising, and technology strategies - providing the tools and insight they need to meet their goals and achieve their mission. Check out OneTenth’s services and schedule a “no pressure” phone consultation today!