By Andrea Espinola Wilson and Adam B. Cole
2021 was undoubtedly a challenging year. Between drops in funding, canceled events and programs, the onset of the “Great Resignation” and other hurdles, nonprofit organizations had to reimagine operations and prioritize financial health to sustain mission-driven work. Now, they’re faced with a pivotal moment to turn crisis into opportunity. Despite COVID-19’s toll on health and the economy, disruption drove positive change for many organizations and, according to BDO’s Nonprofit Standards Benchmarking Survey, organizations plan to carry this momentum into the new year.
Some of the positive changes nonprofits experienced include:
- Accelerated investments in technology (60%)
- New service or program offerings (43%)
- Faster decision-making (43%)
- Increased awareness of mission (43%)
- New partnership opportunities (39%)
- Improved workforce culture and unity (33%)
- Increased donations (31%)
How do nonprofits plan to capitalize on these positive changes and turn them into opportunities for future growth? Technology has been a critical element in the nonprofit response to COVID-19, helping enable remote work and streamline program delivery. Organizations have come to realize that, in today’s digitally connected environment, investing in the right technology can be the difference between success and failure. In fact, 64% of organizations say they are planning to invest in new technologies this year, and 40% plan to automate operations in the next 12 months.
By making the most of their investments in technology, nonprofits can drive more cost-saving efficiencies across the organization. Automation can take on the monotonous and redundant tasks while nonprofit leaders, board members and stakeholders take the time needed to think strategically about how to deliver critical mission work. While 43% of organizations have found opportunity to strengthen the connection with their mission and purpose, 57% are still attempting to harmonize the two. And though investments in technology can bring numerous benefits, a critical component of their impact is change management. Realizing the full advantage of technology boils down to an organization’s people and the extent to which they know how to apply it. The most successful organizations will be those who continually innovate, accelerate employee adoption of new technology and processes, and consider new opportunities in the market.
As nonprofits find solutions for innovation in technology, they’re also turning to new service or program offerings to diversify revenue and address the evolving needs of the communities they serve. Funding volatility was a major hurdle for many nonprofits over the course of the pandemic. In fact, nearly half (45%) of organizations reported decreased revenue or funding as a top challenge stemming from COVID-19. As a result, nonprofits are learning the importance of having a clear understanding of organizations’ revenue mix and exploring opportunities to invest in services and programs that are working well and eliminating those that aren’t driving growth. By expanding offerings, nonprofits are also better equipped to adapt to the environment, maintain a culture that inspires impassioned talent and lean on partnership opportunities with like-minded organizations.
COVID-19 has permanently reshaped our lives and the way businesses operate. Looking ahead, success is no longer defined by a return to pre-pandemic norms, but by forging a new future. The positive change stemming from the pandemic has the potential to become lasting pillars for nonprofit organizations, if realized effectively.
For more information on how nonprofits are reimagining operations for 2022, read BDO’s full benchmarking survey report.
This article originally appeared in BDO USA, LLP’s “Nonprofit Standard” Blog (January 4, 2022). Copyright © 2022 BDO USA, LLP. All rights reserved. www.bdo.com