UNICEF Australia has used digital transformation as a catalyst to change the way it raises funds to improve the lives of children, moving from four major appeals per year to an “always on” fundraising approach.
In this week’s episode of iT news podcastChief Operating Officer Sarah Grattan unveils UNICEF Australia’s IT and digital structure and strategy, as well as an ongoing transformation effort that began shortly after she joined the nonprofit in May 2018 .
UNICEF works to protect children in more than 190 countries and territories, funded entirely by donations. In Australia, UNICEF supports local and international programs through advocacy and fundraising.
Grattan’s COO role is broad in scope, spanning Finance, IT, Data, Risk, Governance, Legal, Strategy, Planning, Program Management Office and Change.
For Grattan, this is part of his involvement in the nonprofit sector.
“When you’re a charity and relatively small – we’re around 80 people here in Australia – you have a lot of experience and you have to wear a lot of hats to be able to get things done, because we don’t have the budget and the ability to have specialists for all of these roles,” she said.
“We kind of ‘muddle through’ and do whatever we can.”
Three “small and lean” teams of three people each manage much of the organization’s IT, digital and data efforts, with the rest of the resources coming from technology partners.
There is a “technology, security and confidentiality” team whose objective is “cost reduction and resilience”; a “business solutions” team focused on CRM, business rules, analytics “and all connections with our service providers and our website”; and a third team that is part of the fundraising group that focuses on “using insights and optimizing customer data.”
All three teams have been heavily involved in UNICEF Australia’s digital transformation, which has so far seen the organization replace 20-year-old systems and processes with a new cloud-based stack including the Success Pack at Salesforce Nonprofit, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Tableau Analytics CRM and Pronto Pay.
Grattan said soon after joining UNICEF Australia, it was clear the organization’s processes could benefit from streamlining.
“It took a long time from when a supporter made a donation to us for that information to be processed, to a thank you and a receipt to be issued,” she said.
“The fan experience really needed to be streamlined, but at the time it was really being held back by these aging systems.”
One of the challenges was the existence of what she calls “pinball processes” – “a ping-pong machine of manual data inputs and outputs”.
Grattan said she spent a year on strategy development and sourcing before sourcing the tech stack primarily from the Salesforce ecosystem.
They decided to “start fresh” whenever possible, redesigning processes to be simpler and cloud-native from the start.
“We made this decision as an organization: let’s not just try to replicate what we’re already doing. If there was a better way to do things, let us know and we will build for the future,” she said.
Along with a simpler, cloud-centric technology stack and new processes, one of the key benefits of UNICEF Australia’s transformation is the creation of a unique donor or supporter ID, making it easier to understand the relationship with this support.
Streamlining the experience for supporters was key for UNICEF Australia as it changed the way it fundraised, moving from large campaigns to an always-on digital approach.
“We’ve gone digital because that’s where most of our fans are and that’s how they want to interact with us,” Grattan said.
“In the ‘old world’, we were kind of forced into these artificial structures of focusing our communications on just four big calls a year – big seasonal campaigns.
“We’re really moving away from that now and making communications trigger a lot more of a combination of fan preferences and then we’re continually testing and optimizing that.”
Optimization was needed to ensure that the fan experience always remains front and center.
“We need personalized and relevant communications delivered to them at the frequency they want,” Grattan said.
“We have the platform and the tools in place to do that, but it’s still going to take us time through testing to optimize that.”
The focus on digital and a better understanding of supporters has enabled the charity to better react to changing circumstances or world events and adjust its fundraising strategy and approaches accordingly.
Apart from implementing Salesforce and Pronto Pay, UNICEF Australia moved all of its IT systems to run in the cloud and implemented a new financial system.
It is currently undertaking an overhaul of its website as well as a renewal of the HR information system.
“I really took a ‘big bang’ approach with this,” Grattan said.
“While you can come to some of these projects gradually, I blew up pretty much every system in the place at once and we put in new ones.
“It was very high risk, but we had a very strong risk management approach to being able to do that. And it’s paying off.”
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