SCOUTS New Zealand was a 110 year old NFP running on the smell of an oily rag with a volunteer base covering all ages. That they could make the transformation to being an online, agile, digitally savvy organisation, is proof positive that anyone can do it. SCOUTS New Zealand’s Chief Executive Joshua Tabor shares how they did it.
The truth is, I could kick myself. We should have made the digital transformation three years ago. But one of the Scouts values is to be positive. So instead of kicking myself, I’m focusing on the incredible organisational change we are now making through introducing a digital platform so our members can truly own their unique Scouting experience.
Back in 2017, a savvy volunteer suggested we take a look at what Salesforce could offer. At the time we were in the midst of a fiscal crisis and making any kind of large scale change just didn’t seem possible. In fact, I just didn’t appreciate what was possible. We started the conversations and made the connections in 2019 but it wasn’t until an entirely different kind of crisis arose that we realised we could no longer hold off on a comprehensive digital transformation.
At the beginning of March, it became obvious we needed to get online and do it fast. The prospect of COVID-19 lockdown was looming and we had 13,000 young members and 5,000 volunteers depending on us. We know that participating in Scouts has a huge number of benefits, not least of which is developing resilience and having a positive impact on mental wellbeing. So if there were ever a time to find ways to ensure continuity of service, this was it.
Time was of the essence and, with amazing help from Gravity Lab and Salesforce, we went from discussion to contract in 48 hours and then to deployment in six weeks.
One of the reasons we could move so quickly was that we had a very clear picture of the business problems we wanted to solve – they had just been made even more vivid and urgent due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We want SCOUTS New Zealand to deliver youth-led, adult-supported adventure and personal development experiences. We want to scale the delivery of those experiences and we want continuity of service, no matter what disruptions arise.
By leveraging Community Cloud, Chatter and LearnTrac, a data-driven learning management system, we could achieve a triple benefit: succeed at getting young people to plot and navigate their own Scouts experience, create one source of truth and offload outdated systems, and demonstrate to our volunteers that their time and efforts are valued.
Moreover, these platforms enable us to maintain and nurture the relationships that are so critical to a community-based organisation like ours. By literally separating us from our customers and other stakeholders, COVID-19 put those relationships under grave threat. Digital technology allowed us not just to rescue them, but to build on them. With our digital platform, we can augment what happens in the Scout hall, on the river, around the campfire and in the community.
And, importantly, we’re not reliant on a social media platform to engage with our young members. Our Scouts-specific platform means we can deliver our programs with integrity and be confident our strict child-protection policies are being met.
Our incredible volunteer base spans five generations. Yes, there are the digital natives who can pretty much run with whatever new technology you throw at them. But there’s also a large number of volunteers for whom such technology can seem quite daunting.
So while a lot of our younger volunteers have thrown themselves into Trailhead courses, webinars and other self-study options, the larger middle group have required a lot of more focused attention and guidance to understand the language, concepts and processes involved.
We know that it’s all the human stuff that really impacts whether a new system is going to work or not which is why change enablement is a huge priority for us. And what’s one of the biggest impediments to change? Fear of not understanding. So we make the why and the how abundantly clear. If we get ten pages of questions at the end of a guided session, then we make sure every single one of them is answered properly. For a long time, our volunteers have worked stoically under inefficient systems that don’t do justice to their time or effort. Part of our digital transformation is to make sure our volunteers’ time is respected and to show them clearly how much value they add to the organisation.
One of the key areas we’re working with our volunteers to address with our new digital platform is what has been a largely dysfunctional customer acquisition process. We have been in a position where parents come looking to join their child up to the local Scouts chapter only to find their request is never followed up or their interest ever really engaged with. Because our sales funnel is dependent on what our volunteers can do for these parents, empowering our volunteers with systems that make that funnel easy to navigate is crucial. We can now analyse and nurture leads in a much more efficient and effective way which is key to us meeting our goal of 25,000 members by 2025.
The changes we’ve made in recent months not only mean we’re prepared for future disruption, including the possibility of a return to lockdown, but that we are delivering a vastly improved experience for our Scouts, our volunteers and other stakeholders. We can now put Scout-centric experiences – whether they are at a desk or under the stars – right at the heart of our organisation and keep fostering the resilience our members are renowned for.
So don’t kick yourself three years from today. Sometimes a crisis presents a valuable opportunity for change – don’t waste this one. Start now. Partner well. Move forward.