Case Study – How an NGO solved a Crisis of Sustainability through the successful adoption of an online community platform

The Client

Our client is an established Non Profit; Non-Governmental Organization (NPO / NGO) that has been dedicated to empowering people and organizations to fight for social justice and freedom against human trafficking for the past 11 years.

They faced a crisis of sustainability due to reduced donor funding, over reliance on one individual for networking, and inefficient manual processes in serving their community members who are

  • NGOs, academics, media and organizations involved in social justice and human rights initiatives
  • Socially conscious individuals looking to connect with like-minded people and organizations
  • Activists, thought leaders, and volunteers seeking to contribute to meaningful causes

They fulfill the mission and purpose through the operational pillars of their 3 brand values:

  • Empowerment: Providing resources and opportunities for people and organizations to make a difference in the world.
  • Collaboration: Fostering a supportive community that works together to address social justice issues.
  • Innovation: Continuously improving processes and exploring new avenues to create positive change.

This case study delves into the challenges, solutions, and successful outcomes that the NGO experienced upon the implementation of a new online community platform to streamline their operations and drive growth and ensure sustainability.

The Problem

The NGO booked a free discovery session with Anne Gray, an experienced problem-solver and strategist, to understand the organization’s current state, its’ needs and identify areas of potential growth. After only a few short hours,  she was able to diagnose two risks and immediate problems in the business that needed to be addressed:

1. Crisis of Sustainability

Due to reduced donor funding, the organisation faced financial instability, which threatened its ability to continue its operations and fulfill its mission.

2. Single Point of Failure in Networking

The NGO relied heavily on one individual who managed most of their networking and communication manually via WhatsApp and email. This  dependency on a single resource raised concerns about potential burnout and inefficiencies in networking processes should they become unavailable at short notice.

The Solution

Business Model Transformation

Anne Gray recommended a shift towards a more sustainable business model by generating revenue from member subscriptions and online events, thus lessening the organization’s dependence on external funding. To deliver more value to the members, and facilitate modernization and digitization, the NGO adopted a web-based  community platform to create a safe, secure, and private platform,  for effortless information sharing and collaboration on-the-go using a mobile app.

Design Thinking Approach

“We thought we had a good idea 💡, but we needed to test the assumptions we were making about the value that the organisation added to Civil Society.  We also needed to address adoption and ensure that moving networking and collaboration onto an online community platform was not going to be a total flop .”  – Anne Gray

In order to know what would be effective as an approach with the organisation and its members, Solutioneers ™ used the double diamond design thinking framework to design and inform the proposed strategy.  Surveys were run across all members and non members of the organisation to understand what value they were deriving from their membership or association with the NGO.  Once the value was known, Solutioneers ™ knew what to double down on and ensure was retained in the digital transformation of the community and resulting creation of a new business model.

A digital solution was chosen based on the platform functionality , cost and ease of maintaining once the Solutioneers ™ were no longer working on the project.

Then the proposed digital concept was tested with a pilot study in order to ensure that through the creation of an online tool no value was destroyed, and that all concerns were addressed. After testing and weeks of change communication to members and organisations, the new platform was launched. Within 1 month the majority of members had successfully adopted the platform and the engagement numbers were encouraging. Even the skeptics have adopted the platform.

Networking and Collaboration Moved to an Online Community Platform

Moving the networking function online made it possible to Members to collaborate and communicate directly with one another.  This increased efficiency, reduced the risk of depending on a single resource.  All of the digital assets that the organisation had accumulated over time were also migrated onto the platform, and events were hosted and run weekly live from within the web-based community.  One place for everything.

The Result

Revenue Stream from Subscriptions & Events

With all of this new value being created for their members, the organisation was able to charge annual memberships which created a sustainable revenue stream, easing financial pressures and allowing for the  work to continue.

Reduced Reliance on Stretched Volunteers & Staff

The shift to an online platform eliminated dependency on limited resources to ensure that networking, collaboration and information sharing took place.  Thus decreasing the risk of burnout among team members.

Faster Turnaround & Increased Collaboration

Information and assistance became more accessible through the online platform, fostering better collaboration between members and organizations.

Recommendations & Best Practices

By addressing their challenges head-on and adapting to more sustainable and efficient processes, the NGO has unlocked new growth potential and can now focus on its mission of promoting social justice and freedom worldwide. This successful transition serves as a valuable example for other businesses and organisations.

This is what we did, and can do for your business or organisation too.

  1. Conduct analyses of the business model to ensure sustainability and identify growth opportunities. Test assumptions before you run 100miles down the road
  2. Streamline communication and networking processes by adopting digital platforms that facilitate collaboration and information sharing.
  3. Adapt marketing strategies to attract target audiences and highlight brand core values, encouraging social media engagement and customer testimonials.
  4. Continuously seek innovative solutions and new technologies to improve performance and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of social activism.