BSR and-SAP holds Focus Groups with NGOs in Beijing and Shanghai on Information Management

January 30th, 2013

BSR and-SAP holds Focus Groups with NGOs in Beijing and Shanghai on Information Management

BSR and SAP have been working together since June 2012 on a pilot project to evaluate the IT needs and challenges of four nonprofits in Shanghai. As one of CiYuan Initiative’s seven corporate-NGO demonstration projects, one outcome of this partnership is to provide recommendations for how nonprofits can improve their organizational efficiency using IT, in particular to enhance their donation, volunteer, financial and project management. In December 2012 and January 2013, BSR and SAP held two focus groups in Beijing and Shanghai to share and validate a report, “NGO IT Needs Assessment and Recommendations”, so that it can be of most relevance and support to small to medium-sized nonprofits.

The two focus groups attracted 36 participants from 29 nonprofits, ranging from grassroots nonprofits like Xiao Xiao Niao, to well-known foundations such as Song Ching Ling Foundation. While overall, most participants were positive about the report, we discovered they would also like to see best practices of how IT is being used by nonprofits as well as specific recommendations for information management tools they can use.

In addition to the evaluation report, an exciting outcome of this pilot has been an organization management online platform developed by SAP employees and an extended group of volunteers called “Gong Yi O O. The platform enables nonprofits to login and set up their own data management systems, particularly suited to managing projects and human resources via an attractive ‘social media-style’ interface. The main advantage of this platform is that is overcomes one major challenge nonprofits face in managing information—the ability to share and update information among different project staff. Participants from foundations also raised that this is a problem they face with donation management. They are eager to have a tool to help them track donation spending, particularly how contributions from individual donors are spent, to make donor management easier and more accurate.

Other feedback from the nonprofits included lacked an awareness of knowledge management tools, which can help them not only record the project information but share learnings and insights among staff. This is essential for staff development, organization development, as well as to enable project evaluation and innovation. Since most nonprofits at the focus groups were grass-roots, their need for IT to help with staff management is relatively small but they see a greater need for an IT tool to help manage volunteers. The ability to collect information such as volunteers’ experiences, and analyze their strengths and weaknesses, could help nonprofits develop their volunteer staff, and better match volunteer skills with NGO position requirements.

BSR and SAP will be incorporating this feedback into the final version of the “Nonprofit IT Needs and Challenges Recommendations Report” which will be released in February 2013.

If you have any comments or suggestions regarding the information needs and challenges of nonprofits in China, or would like to learn more about how BSR and SAP are exploring these issues, contact the CiYuan team.ThePowerPoint presentation from the two focus groups is available on CiYuan website here.  

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