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Leading organizations invest in building the digital capacity of Canada’s nonprofit sector

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Mar 29, 2022
6 minute read

The Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience aims to build a digitally-enabled nonprofit sector, where Canada’s nonprofits use data and tech to advance their mission and multiply their impact.

Leading Canadian and global organizations have joined forces to launch the Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience today. 

For the first time, leading nonprofits are taking deliberate, collective action to build the digital capacity of the sector. The founders include some of the best-known names in the nonprofit sector, including Imagine Canada, Tamarack Institute and SETSI. It is receiving crucial assistance from global nonprofit technology leader, NTEN. And the CIO Strategy Council is bringing its support to bear to solve this critical challenge. 

“Nonprofit organizations touch the lives of all Canadians – providing vital services to individuals, families, and communities,” says Katie Gibson, Vice President at CIO Strategy Council.  “But most nonprofits aren’t equipped to thrive in the digital age. They’re forced to rely on outdated technology, and they lack resources and expertise. We’re asking them to save lives with one arm tied behind their back. We need to fix this.”

The Centre will focus on nonprofits most in need of resources to increase their digital resilience. 

“Access to technology and digital skills is an equity issue. Well-funded nonprofits can invest in technology and reap the benefits. But Black-led and Black-serving organizations have been historically and systemically under-resourced,” says Victor Beausoleil, Executive Director of SETSI

“There are also equity divides within organizations - executive and leadership staff are more likely to be white and program staff are more likely to be those in historically and systemically oppressed communities. How we train staff in technology needs to address this by including staff in all roles, of all backgrounds, and in all departments,” adds Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN.

Digitally-enabled organizations use technology skillfully to operate more efficiently and provide higher-quality, beneficiary-focused services.

“We have a window of opportunity coming out of the pandemic to create a truly digitally-enabled nonprofit sector,” says Cathy Barr, Vice President at Imagine Canada. “Overnight, charities across Canada had to pivot to provide services online and enable work-from-home. This was a bumpy transition for many. But now many of our members see the potential for technology to improve reach and accessibility, enable higher-quality, client-centred services, and drive deeper engagement with all their stakeholders. The Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience will help them make the most of this opportunity.”

The Centre will convene nonprofits, grantmakers, and tech experts to drive progress on: research and knowledge mobilization; public policy; grantmaker practices; digital skills and literacy; shared platforms tools, and standards; vendor relationships; data standards and infrastructure; and access and connectivity. 

“For the past 20 years, the Tamarack Institute has honed our approach including collective action to catalyse transformational change,” says Liz Weaver, Co-CEO of the Tamarack Institute. “Digital resilience is a huge challenge requiring all hands on deck. We see the challenges that community-based collaboratives face when trying to develop shared data and measurement approaches which are vital to achieving impact.  Improving digital literacy, access to technology, and resilience will make the work of community change more impactful.   Together, we’re going to make this happen.”  

“For more than 15 years, NTEN's research about technology adoption and use in the nonprofit sector in the U.S., Canada, and beyond has consistently found that the most important need for nonprofit staff is training to put whatever technology they have to work for their mission,” says Amy Sample Ward, CEO of NTEN. “We know that technology tools will change - every day and over time - but without the knowledge, skills, and practice in technology-related decision making, budgeting, planning, and evaluation, nonprofit staff in any department and in any organization aren't supported in digital success. NTEN’s training programs combine our mission’s focus on equitable and strategic technology use with values of community and self-determination. We don’t want everyone to do everything the same; we want everyone to be able to do what is right for their community and organization. While Canadian nonprofit staff have been part of the NTEN community for 22 years, we are excited to extend our program models intentionally to reach more people with the kinds of training and support that can fuel their success.”

At launch, the Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience has over 85 advisors representing the diversity of Canada’s nonprofit sector, from Whitehorse to St. John’s.  

“The non-profit sector is critical to supporting communities. Ensuring affordable access to digital solutions are critical to advancing data and technology equity to enable positive impacts for our society,” says Lawrence Eta, Chief Technology Officer for the City of Toronto and advisor to the Centre. “As a government leader, the launch of the Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience aligns to public service principles of advancing equity and inclusion, creating a strong technology ecosystem, and digital autonomy.”

Seed funders supporting the launch of the Centre include Okta for Good and Sonor Foundation.

“Through investing in unseen technology infrastructure, we can unleash talent and multiply impact across the social sector,” says Narinder Dhami, President of The Sonor Foundation. “The Sonor Foundation is honoured to support this work. We strongly align with the vision and ambition of this initiative and are excited to support the bold leadership driving this work forward. The philanthropic and public sector plays a critical role in enabling the digital transformation of the social sector. This isn’t feel-good, photo-op grantmaking. This is about investing in more effective solutions and structures to drive deeper impact across Canada.” 

“At Okta, we believe that nonprofits — who are doing society’s most important work — should be as powerful as their missions,” says Erin Baudo Felter, VP, Social Impact & Sustainability at Okta, Inc. “As technology companies, it's critical that we play a role in helping nonprofits make the digital transition.  We’re proud to support the work of the Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience. This initiative has the vision, ambition, and cross-sector support needed to accelerate the digital transformation of Canada’s social sector.”

For full details, visit Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience.




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