How the CDC Foundation’s Digital Transformation Helped With Its Increased Donation Volume
Ever since COVID-19 hit, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has understandably been a fixture in pandemic news across the United States. Tasked with protecting the public health of Americans, the CDC continues to play a pivotal role in the nation’s pandemic response as it works to provide public health partners the COVID resources, guidance and scientific expertise they need.
Behind the government agency CDC is the CDC Foundation, an independent nonprofit created by Congress to mobilize philanthropic and private-sector resources in support of CDC’s critical health protection work. Since 1995, the CDC Foundation has launched more than 1,200 health protection programs and raised more than $1.6 billion. Like so many organizations, the CDC Foundation recognized the need for digital transformation and was in the middle of modernizing when COVID-19 hit. The end result for the CDC Foundation was both a success story and a piece of advice to those in the nonprofit space: Automate now to prepare for the unexpected.
The Need to Digitize
Until just a few years ago, the CDC Foundation operated like so many nonprofits do today — trying to tackle ever-growing needs but with increasingly outdated technology. To its credit, the CDC Foundation recognized the need to digitize its paper-based and manual processes. The organization started down the path of digital transformation and embarked on a process to replace its legacy systems with well-known cloud-based solutions, identifying Salesforce, NetSuite, ADP and Concur, to name a few.
But migrating operations to the cloud wasn’t enough. The CDC Foundation astutely recognized that it needed to connect all of its new software as a service (SaaS) applications with an integration solution in order to better manage them.
Integration Platform as a Service
Integration platform as a service, also known as iPaaS, makes it easier to automate business processes, and synchronize and share data across SaaS apps. Given the unique demands of its work, the CDC Foundation chose an integration solution that was customizable, powerful and agile for the future.
Integration power and agility proved essential when the pandemic hit. The CDC Foundation had only finished the first part of its planned initiative — a highly customized integration connecting Salesforce and NetSuite — when COVID-19 started to become a threat to our nation. In turn, the CDC Foundation activated its Emergency Response Fund to meet critical public health protection needs for the COVID-19 response.
Donations came in quickly and the CDC Foundation saw transactions increase 800 times over in just a few months. If the CDC Foundation hadn’t already connected two of its most essential SaaS apps, it would’ve been next to impossible for the nonprofit to keep up with the massive transaction volume — let alone manage it. To put this work into context, in just one year’s time, the Crush COVID crowdfunding campaign raised more than $51 million, while the CDC Foundation in total raised $266 million during its fiscal year 2020, including $172 million for the COVID-19 response.
The Takeaways for Other Nonprofits
The CDC Foundation’s integration experience offers plenty of takeaways for nonprofits considering their own digital transformations:
- Start digitally transforming your organization. First and foremost, don’t wait to modernize. There will always be another crisis. How organizations fare will depend, in large part, on their digital architectures.
- Find the right integration and automation partner. Solutions should work for a nonprofit’s processes and operations — no matter how unique or customized they might be. Not all solutions are created equal, so focus on one that is flexible and intuitive enough to meet the needs of the business user, but also provides proper IT oversight and governance.
- Prioritize automation through integrations. The business processes that are most important to nonprofits should be prioritized. Start by identifying the data hubs that need to be connected first.
- Make updates over time. Nonprofits shouldn’t feel pressured to integrate all of their cloud applications and automate all of their processes at once. In fact, making updates over time allows space for new automation opportunities to emerge. The CDC Foundation took a phased approach, started with incremental changes and still reaped enormous benefit.
- Prepare for a mindset shift. Digital transformation is more than a technology change — it’s a mindset shift. For this reason, nonprofits need to employ change management when moving their operations to the cloud. Executive teams should trumpet the initiative to ensure buy-in and alignment. Training and guidance from the solution vendor is also vital for nonprofit teams to feel confident and empowered managing their own integrations.
It might surprise nonprofit leaders to learn digital transformation doesn’t have to be as complicated as they might think. The CDC Foundation is proof that nonprofits can automate business processes incrementally to reap immediate benefits and unleash innovation within their teams. But the time to start is now.
Rico Andrade is vice president of marketing at Celigo. He oversees Celigo’s marketing organization, where he is responsible for the company’s brand, messaging, demand generation, outreach programs, events and communications.
Prior to joining Celigo, Rico was vice president of marketing at iCharts, significantly enhancing the company’s visibility and reputation inside the NetSuite ecosystem. He spent 13 years as the executive producer at Transvideo Studios, where he worked closely on marketing strategy with some of the biggest companies in Silicon Valley. In addition, Rico also ran his own consulting company, traveled the world teaching innovation and design as part of the Stanford d.school’s d.global initiative, and helped launch Unreasonable at Sea with the Unreasonable Group. Rico holds degrees in computer science and communication from Stanford University.