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Understanding the Barriers to Leadership Buy-in for Digital Transformation in Nonprofits

Why bridging the gap between understanding digital transformation and securing leadership support for implementation remains an uphill battle.

Gaining leadership buy-in for digital transformation initiatives can be a complex and time-consuming journey. This challenge is especially pronounced for IT and digital leaders tasked with convincing internal stakeholders to push forward with technology investments now. While these leaders understand the transformative potential of digital solutions, bridging the gap between understanding and implementation remains an uphill battle.

In response to this challenge, Salesforce conducted research to uncover executive and board buy-in barriers. 

Research findings and barriers

There are six major barriers to leadership buy-in:

1. Procurement process challenges: Nonprofits have faced rigorous and lasting changes in the procurement process due to the pandemic. This has resulted in the need to adapt to new requirements and expectations.

2. Deeper executive scrutiny: Executives and boards spend more time scrutinising proposals in light of current economic uncertainties. They are cautious about investing in digital transformation initiatives without clear benefits.

3. Higher demand for cost-benefit clarity: There is a heightened need for clearly quantifying benefits and costs. Nonprofits require a detailed ROI analysis that addresses risks and opportunity costs, ensuring a convincing business case.

4. Stronger need for data privacy and security: Nonprofits prioritise privacy and security due to escalating instances of global data breaches. They want assurance that digital transformation initiatives will safeguard sensitive information.

5. Growing concerns over cost and disruption of implementation: Current economic conditions have heightened worries about implementation costs and operational disruptions. Nonprofits seek cost-effective solutions that minimise disruption to their ongoing activities.

6. Ongoing insistence on protecting funding reserves: Economic uncertainty increases the focus on protecting funding reserves. Nonprofit executives expect proposals that are aligned with the organisation’s mission and showcase financial impact while exploring alternative funding sources.

Know your key stakeholders

Overcoming these barriers starts by understanding how they affect key stakeholders: the CIO, CFO, and CEO and board members. Each stakeholder has unique priorities and concerns:

  • CIOs want to ensure that the digital transformation aligns with the organisation’s long-term IT strategy and supports operational efficiency.
  • CFOs are focused on cost-benefit analysis, financial sustainability, and return on investment. They need assurance that the proposed digital transformation initiatives are financially viable.
  • CEOs and board members are concerned about the organisation’s strategic direction. They want to see how digital transformation can enhance mission delivery, increase impact, and ensure long-term sustainability.

Cultivating champions and advocates for digital transformation

Cultivating champions and advocates within nonprofit organisations is crucial for overcoming these barriers and gaining leadership buy-in for digital initiatives. This involves fostering a culture that embraces technological advancement and encourages innovation. 

To support this process, Salesforce offers an exclusive ebook, “A Guide for Nonprofit IT Leaders: Securing Buy-In from Your C-suite and Board.” Packed with actionable insights, strategies, and practical tips, this guide enables IT leaders to build a compelling case for their initiatives and successfully gain approval.

A Guide for Nonprofit IT Leaders

Ready to overcome the barriers to buy-in and drive successful digital transformation in your nonprofit organisation?

Jason Hincks

Jason Hincks is Industry Solutions & Strategy Director for Nonprofit at Salesforce.

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