CIO50 2021 #26-50 Brett Wilson, Australian Red Cross
The Australian Red Cross faced shrinking donor and retail revenue with funds that community volunteers and members would usually raise face-to-face drying up thanks to COVID-19 restrictions.
“We needed to pivot, and fast, to raise sufficient funds to ensure we could continue to deliver much needed humanitarian programs for our clients,” says chief information officer, Brett Wilson.
“We urgently needed to enhance our digital capability to diversify our fundraising channels so Red Cross would be less adversely affected by lockdowns.”
To overcome this issue, the humanitarian aid and community services charity began focusing on virtual donor experiences and e-commerce to increase customer engagement.
“Red Cross had no central source for donor data and no existing identity platform. Delivery by cross-functional team rarely worked effectively and we needed a different approach,” he says.
A new separate team was assembled and overseen by IT, including staff from various parts of the organisation including marketing, fundraising, IT, digital and volunteering as well as external partners who provided expertise that was not available in-house.
The My Red Cross digital experience platform revolutionises the way the organisation engages with donors virtually and consolidates its online presence to provide a more customer-centric experience.
“We created a digital experience platform that places control on the hands of our humanitarians, empowering them to choose how they interact with the Red Cross through self-service tools, deeper engagement opportunities and magnifying their impact on clients and communities.
“It’s underpinned by a new delivery model and a future-enabled technology stack that is flexible and can grow with the Red Cross,” Wilson says.
The project was challenging because the charity's client data was held in a bay of disconnected islands. This meant that people, who expect to see one Red Cross, were forced to interact with many fragmented outposts and experience this disconnection causing confusion on how to engage with them, says Wilson.
The issue was addressed by integrating legacy systems so the program could progress while the ‘whole of organisation transformation’ was being developed in the background.
Red Cross was also limited in its ability to effectively see and communicate with its supporters on the impact that their donations provide at an individual level.
“Instead of attempting to deliver one large project, we decided to deliver a minimum viable product for each segment. We hoped to provide value as soon as the core technology foundations were developed to enable people to start using the project, test our assumptions and adjust the direction accordingly.
“This would also grow organisational capability in a sustainable way and lay the foundations to support the acceleration of ongoing initiatives,” Wilson says.
Since the delivery of the first phase of My Red Cross – which delivered the digital donor experience and streamlined e-commerce sites – the organisation has seen a significant uplift in revenue from online donations and the online store.
The uncertainty of the COVID pandemic provided Red Cross with the opportunity to rethink old fundraising methods and embrace digital solutions.
“Migrating several disparate sites into one core technology platform provides a single view of our stores and a single customer view across multi-channels. We’re also reviewing how the current first aid services could be digital in the same platform for online training.
“The My Red Cross program delivered significant value by enabling Red Cross to raise much needed funds when retail shops were closed, volunteering fundraising events were cancelled, and demand for our services were skyrocketing,” Wilson says.
Wilson influences the c-suite by understanding their motivations. For the CFO, this could be savings; for the head of HR, it could be accurately reporting staff movements.
“I then focus on understanding their pain points and working with them and their teams to address these issues through the use of technology,” he says.
To understand any person or group, Wilson says he must demonstrate that he understands their needs and how technology might help.
“To push through a digital initiative, before asking for funding or that all important vote in a meeting, you need to make sure they understand what you are talking about too. For the My Red Cross program, I conducted one-on-one sessions to raise the level of digital literacy over a series of small and informal catch ups.
“In doing so, I gained buy-in, which led to a positive result where the additional funding or the project was signed off".