The not-for-profit sector came under great strain when COVID-19 hit. Face-to-face contact was often not possible. The sector required a significant technological leap into a new ‘work-from-home’ era: a technological challenge many could not meet independently.
The Foundation’s CEO, Dr Catherine Brown OAM, learnt that the sector needed to rapidly improve its digital capability and responded by providing $200,000 to Infoxchange to kick-start its Digital Transformation Hub. The Gandel Foundation contributed the same amount.
“We knew that so many organisations didn’t have Cloud technology and wouldn’t be able to support their staff working from home,” says Infoxchange’s David Spriggs. “And these were organisations on the absolute frontline responding to vulnerable community members.
“We saw the need for the development of a hub to bring together those resources the sector sought. The Digital Transformation Hub is essentially a capacity-building resource for the sector, which provides access to a variety of best-practice guides to different areas of technology.”
More than 1,960 community organisations accessed the Hub in the first three months after it began in July 2021, an extraordinary result.
“It’s gone incredibly well. The lift in capability is brilliant,” says Catherine. “Those groups received the help they needed to install new systems and receive training to keep delivering their services to the people who needed them.”
That capability extended to creating networks so that employees could work from home and the training in the software needed to do so. The next step was extending that dial-in capability to service recipients – the charity’s clients.
Suzie Bratuskins is CEO of the Water Well Project, which improves the health literacy of migrants and people with asylum seeker backgrounds via free education sessions. Virtually overnight, face-to-face sessions were no longer possible.
“When the pandemic hit, it changed everything around our delivery of health education sessions,” says Suzie. “I read about the Digital Transformation Hub, and it’s been amazing.”
The big leap was setting up a CRM – a customer relations management system, enabling remote contact with those needing health advice. “The CRM will make us more efficient so we can spend more time with people, making a real impact on their health outcomes.”
In their annual Not-For-Profit Digital Technology Report, Infoxchange also found that half the sector was dissatisfied with their use of technology. More concerning was that half the sector had inadequate digital security, putting sensitive personal information at risk.
“We help organisations find the right tech, implement it well and get the most out of it,” says Infoxchange’s ICT manager Marcus Harvey.
Not-for-profits can visit the Digital Transformation Hub’s Expert Bar for an hour’s advice on their next best steps. They can also receive advice on migrating databases and systems to the Cloud, improving data security, embracing CRMs, and tuition on Microsoft Office systems.
The Hub offers sector-specific “technical foundations” resources, including information systems, digital marketing, IT management and cyber security.
Infoxchange also helps to deliver donated and discounted technology to the sector. The savings can be enormous – disability service provider Orana saved $150,000 via Microsoft discounts when updating its outdated IT systems.
Today more than 10,000 organisations have accessed the Digital Transformation Hub. And if 10,000 organisations have got help, that means their clients have got help too – more than a million people. The multiplier effect is enormous.
“When we help that charity deliver better services through better technology, that’s amplified through the people they support,” says Marcus. “It’s the people the charities assist that is what really excites us.”
This wasn’t the first grant the Foundation provided to Infoxchange, which has been going for 30 years; almost a decade ago, the Foundation funded Ask Izzy, a mobile website connecting people in crisis to critical support services.
And it won’t be the last. The Hub is not just for COVID-19 – it’s here to stay.
“I would hope that long-term the charitable sector is absolutely on par with other sectors in terms of digital capability,” says Catherine, “and be able to adapt to all the technology that comes in the future. I hope the Digital Transformation Hub supports that.”