NetChange | Part 3: Structure

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Part 3: Structure

Centralized structues still rule, but Hybrid will soon overtake

Question: After reviewing this short video on the four models of digital teams we published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, what kind of team structure does your organization work within? 

The centralized digital team structure is still the most popular, at 40% overall prevalence. But hot on its heels is the hybrid structure, at 38%. Surprisingly, 13% of respondents still report “informal” or what we might call “pre-structural” structures, and 9% use the independent model.

Interestingly, hybrid teams are most commonly found in medium sized orgs (42%) and very large organizations, where at 50% hybrid teams are a full 15% more common than centralized teams.


One team serves the whole institution


Small core team supports distributed digital staff in network model


No formal digital department or director


Multiple digital teams manage different channels


We are happy to see many more of the largest orgs making the jump to hybrid teams, as we’ve written extensively how they are the most suitable for sustained digital innovation and building an organization that “thinks like the web”.

We are concerned however that hybrids are over-reported. It sounds attractive but in truth we come across few hybrids in our work. Most large NGO’s are still too uncomfortable with the more open and organic structures, blurry reporting lines, and shared control required to create a true hybrid culture.

We share responsibility for digital (and our influence over others is strong)

Question: How many other internal staff, outside your core digital team, contribute significantly to digital/online throughout the organization? 

87% of respondents report some part of the digital function is shared with other departments, and a majority (61%) work with between 1 and 5 people outside their core team to deliver digital content or services. These numbers are similar to and consistent with the 2011 baseline.

A follow on question asked “What degree of influence do you have over the direction and key decisions” of these people, and 59% report “strong influence”, with only 10% reporting “little” or “no” influence.


Strong influence


Some influence


Little influence


No influence



Most organizations continue to take a distributed approach to managing some digital functions – typically content creation and social media – by empowering other departments and front line staff.

This is a healthy and efficient way to manage digital complexity.

Most share responsibility for managing supporters

Question: How many different departments “own” or are responsible for managing your supporter contact lists? 

Supporter contact lists are most commonly owned by two departments, with 44% of respondents reporting this model. In 28% of respondents, supporter lists are owned by only one department.

Unsurprisingly, the larger the organization, the more departments will own different segments of supporter lists.







More than three

Cross-channel communications mostly work

Question: How integrated is your organization’s cross channel communications with supporters? 

Almost a majority, 45%, report cross channel integration is “decent” in that “we collaborate well, it mostly works”. Yet the same number, 45%, report it is “hit and miss: we are sometimes consistent, sometimes not”.

Only 6% report a poor or terrible experience, with 4% reporting the ideal high quality, consistent supporter experience across all departments and channels.


We collaborate internally well, are largely consistent, it mostly works


We are sometimes consistent, sometimes not


Internal in-fighting and poor communication really harms how we show up to supporters


We provide a high quality, consistent user experience to supporters across all departments and channels



This high satisfaction surprised us, as the majority of institutions we see are still struggling with creating a true unified experience for supporters across all channels, due to lack of shared platforms, internal in-fighting, or simply lack of time to coordinate.

But we can’t argue with the numbers – most report this is working OK, which is very positive.


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