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Apr 2, 2023 | Blog

Digital Transformation:
Using Data to Make a Difference

By Michael Ip MSocSc, RSW, Non-profit Strategist

It was a recent story from a non-profit community service center. The team in charge of education programs for married couples noticed that the program participants were mostly middle-aged couples and wanted to extend their reach to younger couples. They landed on Instagram as the main promotional channel to use. They thought this made perfect sense since Instagram users are typically younger.

Now, this is where it gets interesting. For the past few years, the teams have been using online forms for program enrollment, which means they have gathered a ton of user data in digital format. I spent some time sorting out the data and ran a simple Excel calculation to see if I could learn anything. What I found was surprising. The team serving parents, in fact, had previously reached out to several younger couples. My question was, why did they not then attend the programs? I raised this question to the two teams and together we came up with a conclusion that young couples with kids, who joined the parenting programs, were full-time mothers who could attend during the day while their kids were in school. However, they could not attend the marriage enrichment program with their spouses at night as they had no childcare resources to relieve them. The discussion shed light on the issue for the team and shifted their mindset. The promotional effort could reach out to young couples with kids, but they would not be able to attend the couple’s program anyway. They needed to redefine their target audience for the couple’s programs to people who were married without kids or those with access to childcare support. For those unable to afford childcare service, the team may have to work out alternatives for them to include them.

This story is not just about rethinking our target audience. It is about three important concepts of organizational change: digitization, digitalization, and digital transformation.

Digitization means converting our data into digital format.

Digitalization refers to using digital tools and platforms to make our operation more efficient.

As the team in my story above previously adopted online registration; they had already received users’ profile in digital format. Then they could more easily use the data for the digital process of program registration and follow-up communication.

Digitalization enhances our filing systems and makes our work more efficient as users’ data can be stored and retrieved in a breeze. However, that data remains underutilized until we dive in and use it to gain a better understanding of our work. We still rely on our personal impressions and assumptions until we take advantage of the data for a holistic profile.

Lacking a deeper understanding of their users through the data, the team had jumped to a premature conclusion deciding quickly to shift their resources to a new strategy.

Digital transformation can help organizations gain a better understanding of their users and adapt their programs to better serve their needs. Digital transformation is a mindset change in which we intentionally make use of data analysis as a significant input in ourdecision-making, strategic planning, and monitoring. Digital data is not only for making our filing system more efficient. It should be used to provide insight into our target communities, and the process and outcomes of their engagement journey.

By utilizing data analysis and adopting a digital mindset, we can make better decisions and provide more effective services to the non-profit communities we serve.

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Building from a strong foundation of excellent governance, leadership, planning, and people practices, Abundant Not-For-Profits create meaningful o…

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