31 Aug 2017

NFPs embrace digital to help Australians most in need

Australia has a thriving NFP (not for profit) sector supporting a diverse range of communities and causes that touch all of us.

It’s often exhausting and thankless work, with the perennial gap between funding and the needs of their many stakeholders looming as a constant challenge, made worse by the rapid move towards cashless payments.

Australians are among the most likely consumers to tap for payments under $10, with local charities reporting a 50 percent decline in the amount of small change being collected from people on the street.

In response, a number of forward thinking NFPs have started using mobile payment solutions on the street meaning it’s just as easy for someone to tap and give $3.50 to worthwhile cause as it is to pay for a cappuccino on their way to work.

And it’s not expensive or difficult to do, with a range of technologies from fixed-line internet, public wi-fi, 3 and 4g mobile networks, as well as tethering of mobile devices providing a wealth of viable options.

Helping to do its bit, The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) is taking steps to accelerate the transaction process for mobile payments so that charities receive donations from the public faster.

Charity on the move
Mobile devices and apps are also helping to transform how NFPs connect and engage with stakeholders.

For example, the Infoxchange initiative, which has Google as one its key donors, is an open data platform connecting Australians who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, with service providers. Its founders recently developed a mobile app called Ask Izzy, which collects and transmits location-based data to help better map supply and demand, with regard to shelter locations, health and mental health services, counselling, food and other services.

Mental health charity SANE, has built an app designed to monitor the way in which sufferers of bipolar interact with their mobile devices, alerting care givers of irregularities in behaviour that might warrant intervention.

These sorts of capabilities have profound implications for improving the quality of life for the many Australians that find themselves in need.

Meanwhile, mobile and other digital technologies such as the cloud and big data analytics are helping NFPs to develop more efficient and cost-effective operations, ultimately ensuring that Australians get more bang for their charity buck.

This includes moving towards as-a-service models for accounting and other systems, as well as embracing solutions like IP telephony to help contain communications costs. And the enhanced ability to collect and interpret large volumes of data are yielding deeper insights into how well NFPs are performing and how they can improve.

Balancing good and evil
But as the NFP sector mobilises to reap the full benefits of digital transformation, the issues of cyber security and privacy have come to the fore, especially given the large volumes of donor information now being processed and stored online. This includes personal information such as phone numbers and addresses, as well as credit cards and other financial information of value to cyber criminals.

With the recent WannaCry and Petya ransomware attacks threating essential services including hospitals in the UK, it’s clear cyber criminals don’t discriminate and will target vulnerabilities wherever they exist. Closer to home, stringent new data protection laws set to come into effect in Australia early 2018, carry the threat of heavy penalties for organisations that fail in their obligations, no matter how well meaning.

It is critical therefore that NFPs understand, and meet, their security and compliance obligations to maintain the reputation of their brands, and ultimately the trust of the communities they serve.
So, while on the one hand, digital transformation presents exciting opportunities for NFPs to deliver better services to more people, the most effective digital strategies are those that strike the right balance between opportunity and risk.

Brennan IT has been catering to the specific technology needs of Australian NFPs for many years, and our team of specialist engineers are immediately on hand to discuss how can help you to help others.

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