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How culture affects data and tech purchases within charities

Culture is one of the reasons we frequently hear of that contributes to poor data and data challenges in the charity sector. From how teams work together, management issues, skills and knowledge, trustee involvement and external perceptions, charities are dealing with a huge variety of hurdles when making decisions about investing in data and tech.

Resistance to Change: Whilst we assume data has been a focus for organisations for years, figuring out what that means for your charity specifically takes time and implementing the changes to make it an integral factor takes even longer. These changes aren’t small and they may need to challenge established ways of working, which will lead to disruption whilst new processes are learnt and adopted. It may even lead to resistance. This can lead to different individuals and teams choosing their own ways of working and using different processes.

Lack of Technical Expertise: Some charities may feel they are lacking in the technical expertise required to evaluate and select the right technology. The landscape is overwhelming and can lead to a debilitating fear of making the wrong decision. This can lead to decisions taking an unnecessarily long time, poor decisions being made, or none at all. One of the best ways to overcome this is to map out exactly what you want to achieve. By setting out your goals you can clearly determine which solutions are a good fit, without getting feature fatigue. Don’t get distracted by what you don’t need.

Budget responsibility: Securing the budget to invest in new technology can be extremely difficult. An obvious reason is that charity budgets are limited and tech can be expensive, but that’s not the only reason.. One common reason is that specific departments sometimes have to pay for tech out of their own department’s budget and then deliver a clear return on that investment. For example, a Fundraising Department may have to pay for the CRM. There are two problems with this. First, it is very difficult to demonstrate linear, short-term ROI from a tech purchase like a CRM. And second, the CRM is something that benefits the whole organisation. So, viewing the investment as a shared operational overhead should share the responsibility and risk, and open up additional budgets. Being clear about expected ROI (or lack of!) will help too.

Lack of time: Choosing and purchasing new tech can be extremely time-consuming. When done properly, you go through a process of defining your objectives, identifying a team of decision-makers or stakeholders in the process, sourcing possible solutions and evaluating each against your objectives before you even get to the point of sales, negotiations and onboarding. We’ve heard it takes around 3-4 (sometimes more) years for some tech purchases to be complete and embedded in the organisation. This is really off-putting for some and it leads to an unnecessary acceptance of inept tech. Seeing the time it takes as an investment in the future is really important and will not only lead to time savings in the long run, but it can also lead to higher income and happier staff.

Fear of conflict: As we all know, working in the charity sector is said to be a challenging but wholesome environment. Everyone is there because they care deeply and passionately about a cause and making a difference in the world. Empathy is also a common trait amongst charity professionals, which leads to it often being referred to as one of the nicest and most accommodating industries to work in. Whilst a wonderful accolade, this can cause issues with individuals not wanting to cause upset or conflict by pushing for change or challenging the status quo. This can be managed with reassurance, empathy and clear communication. Ensuring everyone understands the objective also helps with alignment and buy-in.

Fear of Job Loss: Like many narratives, technology and automation can be feared as a means to replace the need for humans. Good news, charities are heavily reliant on relationships, empathy and emotions: something you can’t automate (yet). By investing in good tech you can not only save time and money, but most importantly, you’ll be able to let team members focus on the things they’re really good at and passionate about, leading to happier teams. Clearly communicating and advocating for what else you can do with the time saved helps encourage more people to be excited by the introduction of new tech and automated processes.

Internal culture can play a big part in tech purchases, but it doesn’t have to stop things in their tracks. From staff resistance to change, lack of technical expertise, budget allocation challenges, and misaligned priorities, it’s important to address these issues. By involving the right people in the decision-making process and ensuring everyone is heard and objectives understood, you can successfully find and adopt new technology.

If you’d like to learn more about CharityBI and how it can help different teams within your charity, get in touch. And don’t worry, CharityBI doesn’t require big, cultural change: it adds value right out of the box.


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