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Stanford PACS Digital Civil Society PDF Print E-mail

Not-for-Profits in the Digital Age

If your not-for-profit organisation is like many others around the world, your daily operations - in part or completely - rely on digital technology. At the very least you have an online presence and you’re attempting to navigate the digital landscape of social media, apps, crowdfunding and CRMs. In truth, we’re only just beginning to comprehend the ways technology will affect us.

Stanford University Digital Civil Society

As a sector, we now have unprecedented access to the individuals we aim to support. Digital tools enable us to gather data which has the potential to change and innovate our approach to fundraising and service delivery, provide insight into community needs, and increase our overall efficiency and understanding. However, one of the challenges of digital data is knowing when and how to tap into it, as well as understanding the associated risks and responsibilities we have to protect it.

A study by the Perpetual Foundation and Stanford University of more than 120 NFPs found that 73 per cent didn’t feel confident in their boards’ ability to manage their digital governance responsibilities. Similarly, most believe they employ staff with the right skills but 34 per cent don’t feel their boards are able to wield digital tools in the same way.

The study was conducted in the lead up to a series of workshops delivered by Stanford University in Sydney and Melbourne to bring digital data governance to the attention of not-for-profit boards and executives throughout Australia. Over two days, a group of NFP leaders heard from Lucy Bernholz, Co-director of Stanford University’s Digital Civil Society Lab, about all the ways we voluntarily use private resources for public benefit in the digital age, the impact of digital on NFP governance and operations, and how to use digital data ethically, safely and effectively (check out Stanford’s digitalimpact.io online toolkit).

The workshops mark the beginning of a powerful, three year partnership between Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (PACS), the Perpetual Foundation and the Australian Scholarships Foundation. The wider program aims to give NFPs, philanthropists and sector leaders in Australia access to Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab, and give 10 NFP leaders the opportunity to study at Stanford’s Non-Profit Management Institute in Palo Alto, California. Stay tuned for more details.