What Does Digital Transformation Really Mean for Charity Finance Teams?

‘Digital Transformation’ is a major buzzword for charitable organisations. Everyone seems to know that digital transformation will make their processes simpler and enable better remote work experiences. Yet when you ask finance or operations teams what a digital transformation consultant actually does, the explanation is pretty unclear.

Even the Wikipedia definition leaves much to be desired:

Digital transformation (DX) is the adoption of digital technology by an organization. Common goals for its implementation are to improve efficiency, value or innovation


Sometimes, the easiest way to understand a buzzword like digital transformation is to hear real-world stories. Let’s take a look at three actual stories of digital transformation for the finance functions of membership organisations. These examples are all charities that partnered with us in 2022 for digital transformation, with results that helped them focus more than ever on achieving their missions.

Three Examples of Digital Transformation at Charities

Digital Transformation from Spreadsheets at a Wish-Granting Charity

We partnered with a ‘wish granting’ charity that works with children in the highest areas of deprivation in the country and who live with a disability, serious illness, or life-limiting conditions.  These types of conditions range from cancer treatment to degenerative neurological disorders or brain damage.  Their mission is to ‘create moments of magic with lasting impact’.

Wishes are central to this charity’s mission, yet they kept their wish records completely separate from the finance system. Their finance system recorded only expenditure (accounts payable) and donations or funding (accounts receivable). From there, they relied on complicated spreadsheets to create budgets and compare actual monies against particular wishes.

This created extra work that distracted their team from effectively delivering as many wishes as possible. While their previous process was technically ‘digital,’ their manual spreadsheets were unsustainable and they needed a transformation.

After selecting a new system, wishes are now stored in one single, highly-secure online database that connects both expenditure and donations/funding.  This allows fundraisers, management of wishes, and finance to work together remotely, with a single version of the truth, towards granting as many wishes as possible.

Digital Transformation from Paper Applications at a Grant-Making Charity

We partnered with a ‘grant-making’ charity that supports, nurtures, and enables civil society in a war-torn country. Its programs actively promote respect for human rights, accountability, inclusivity, and civil liberties, laying the foundations for long-term stability and preparing individuals for the democratic future they seek.

Prior to digital transformation, this charity relied on paper grant proposals from grassroots organisations. The charity then considered, approved, and monitored projects from those paper submissions. Separately, they kept records on a series of disconnected spreadsheets and documents.   

This system left a lot to be desired, both in terms of tracking results and making the best use of the team’s time. We partnered with the charity to transform their process. Now, all grants are submitted to a single, highly-secure online database. This platform connects the projects, costs, and funding in one source of truth. Auditable approval routings are held for all approved proposals. Approved proposal expenditures are automatically linked to a range of different over-arching programs and funding sources, within the one single database and finance system. 

The result is an efficient, scalable solution, providing the ‘grant making’ charity with ease and clarity of managing large numbers of small projects and tying those projects to incoming funds.

Digital Transformation from Paper Returns at a Trust

A Trust that supports 1,000+ charities reached out for help with digital transformation because their paper-based system no longer worked. At the time, the trust required the 1,000+ charities they supported to lodge paper annual returns. The Trust then manually issued the appropriate finance documentation, including membership fees.

This process required intense manual work, not to mention extended processing times by relying on physical delivery of the annual returns.

We partnered with the Trust to create a secure, online portal instead. Now, all 1,000+ charities lodge their annual returns in that portal. From there, a fully-automated system issues the relevant finance documentation. The charities get their necessary documents more quickly, and the Trust no longer needs to bog down its members with manual paperwork.

Common Features of Digital Transformation

These three digital transformation stories share common features:

  • Manual processes
  • Disconnected systems that do not ‘talk’ to each other, often connected by informal spreadsheets
  • Different numbers owned by different parts of the organisation
  • Limited automated approval processes
Our pragmatic approach to digital transformation is:
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel.  We haven’t yet worked with a charity whose mission is to build finance systems.  So don’t do it.  Find a proven, pre-built system.
  • Configure the system to your needs. Find a platform that is easy for you and your admins to set up to your preferences. There should be no need for custom coding in order to achieve your goals. Instead, look for solutions that provide easy widgets or apps to tailor it to your specific objectives. That shortens set-up and reduces long-term maintenance so that the system works better for you.
  • People, not just system.  At the end of the day, the individuals that come in your front door to deploy the solution are key to success. Make sure the key individuals who will be implementing the platform are involved in demo calls, so you get comfort around both the system and who will be coming in your front door.

‘Digital transformation’ is a buzzword for a reason: it simplifies finance and operations so that your organisation can achieve your mission more efficiently. While each organisation has specific, unique needs, best practices with the guidance of experts can make your transformation simple and easy.

If you are interested in hearing more, including a short demo of the actual system showing what we mean, please click here to register for our free webinar on December 7th at 11.00am.

Cloud Doing Good (www.cloudoingood.com) is Your Cloud Solution Partner and Oracle-Netsuite's EMEA Partner of the Year.  We focus on assisting clients achieve digital transformation, simply.

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