NetChange | Digital Team Report 2014


- Key Findings


NetChange (formerly Communicopia) created the world’s first report on non-profit digital teams in 2011. For 2014 we have a new report with fresh, often surprising data on what’s new, what’s changed, and what’s coming next. This free report is designed to help digital leaders strengthen the business case and increase the impact of their digital programs. 

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In our work on digital strategy and organizational change, we consistently find the structure, culture, and people who work in an institution’s digital teams are a much stronger indicator of sustainable online success than almost any other factor.

Yet compared to how many resources are invested in digital technologies and tools, little attention is placed on looking inwards.

Our first report in 2011 helped create a general consensus that how we do what we do matters, and that institutions who invest in reviewing or re-structuring their digital programs are better able to deliver on the promise of digital.

For 2014 we gathered fresh data from 88 non-profit digital leaders, presented it in a unique and easy to read format, and combined it with our own insights (highlighted in the sidebars) based on our observations from hundreds of consultations.

The report is designed to help communications leaders better understand the key issues and influences at play in the sector, benchmark themselves against their peers, and gain new insights into their own teams. Ultimately we hope it leads to more impact from our sector’s work.

From platform building to optimization

Overall we are seeing a very positive maturing of digital programs and leadership across the board. The data shows that digital leaders have increased their internal influence, successfully advocated for more resources, and built larger and better skilled teams.

They have stabilized their main digital platforms, partly due to a slowing of growth in new channels and other “shiny objects”, and are now focused on strategic optimization to produce better outcomes. Most leaders report receiving more consistent attention from senior leadership, something we’ve long advocated as essential.

Realizing the potential for transformation

While the “centralized” model for managing digital is still the most common, more and more institutions are creating structures along the line of the “hybrid” model we long ago observed as most appropriate for innovation.

Excitingly, almost all teams report starting to or consistently driving transformation in how their institutions approach their work in areas far outside digital. More great news proving the sector’s increasing leadership role in creating improved models of advocacy, fundraising, and campaigning for our networked world.

A focus on business case and impact

Besides driving innovation, an increasing number of today’s digital leaders are getting better at reporting a clear business case for their own department’s efforts.

Finally, in an area that should matter more than almost anything else, we look to impact. More good news is that a majority of respondents report running mostly or highly effective digital programs, an increase of 13 points from 2011.

Held back by culture, people, and marketing 

Despite the progress there remains room for improvement. Most teams report they still don’t have the people they need to do their best work. Many struggle with poor team structures, have challenges with internal collaboration and inconsistent cross-channel communications. This, along with organizational cultures that are slow to adapt, continue to put a damper on digital program success.

And while it’s unsurprising that 40% of teams report they are under-funded, what is more concerning among even well financed teams budgets for R&D and support acquisition or advertising remain painfully low.

A golden age for digital?

Overall the 2014 Report highlights many positive trends. We may indeed be entering a “golden age” of digital, a much more stable and productive time where innovation goes from being found mainly in outlier experiments to becoming integrated into the very fabric of our institutions.

Digital leaders will need to continue to sharpen their focus on impact if they are going to continue the upwards trend. As the shine wears a little more off the digital rose, the need to show how digital delivers results critical to the success – and the future – of our institutions is paramount. But we are well on our way.