Non-profits and digital: don’t just survive, thrive



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Perpetual and Stanford University’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) asked Australian non-profit leaders how they’re using digital today – and plan to use it tomorrow. The findings can help non-profits and philanthropists prepare for the challenges of the digital age.



In 2016 Perpetual announced a partnership with Stanford PACS with the aim of helping Australian non-profit leaders reap the advantages of the digital age – and manage its pitfalls.

Lucy Bernholz, Stanford Fellow and Co-Director of Stanford’s Digital Civil Society Lab, came to Australia with the team from Stanford PACS and delivered workshops on digital data governance and the digital civil society in Melbourne and Sydney. More than 300 non-profit leaders and board members attended the sessions where the big question was: how do non-profit organisations serve communities in a society disrupted by digital? 

To understand the ground on which these digital debates occur, Perpetual surveyed attendees, looking for their insights on how non-profit organisations can survive - and thrive - in a digital world. The key takeouts are listed below.


  • Non-profits need to build the capability and infrastructure to use digital as a primary service delivery tool. Key to that activity is upskilling boards, executives and operational staff in the opportunities and risks of the digital age.
  • Non-profits are relatively well-advanced when it comes to using social media for communication with stakeholders – but online sales and donation functionality is used by only half the respondent organisations. This reflects a need for non-profits to better use their digital communication strategy with their fundraising strategy.
  • One of the big issues surveyed revolved around the collection, storage and ethical use of data. This was a big theme in the Stanford PACS workshops. The survey summary provides a snapshot on current practice in Australia but also delves into some of the views held by Lucy Bernholz about the importance of data security – and the funding of its collection.

Perpetual’s partnership with Stanford PACS is a three-year commitment, providing plenty of time for both organisations to work with Australian non-profit organisations on building digital capability. Download the summary report to get a deeper view of the issues.

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