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The Uncomplicated Guide to a Nonprofit Digital Strategy in 2019

By February 11, 2019 September 14th, 2020 No Comments

Where Digital meets Strategy for breakfast

We know firsthand how difficult it can be to eat a good breakfast every morning plus keep up with day to day digital tasks. From social media to email to your website, it can feel impossible to raise your head above an Up and Go to know that what you are actually doing is working.

This ‘impossible’ feeling (and if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably felt it too) is the inspiration for this blog.

We believe the answer is crafting a Digital Strategy. And yes we know that strategy is an overused word, up there with phrases like innovation and leadership. But unless someone comes up with a better expression, that’s what we’re going with.  

Digital marketing and the technology that enables it is complex and ever-changing. We love being on the edge of that change especially when it involves a good cause.  But even we find digital technology can also overwhelm if you’re not grounded in something. And we don’t mean coffee grounds but an overarching digital strategy that can unite all your efforts.

And the reality is that in our conversations, almost all nonprofits are doing digital tasks (yeah!!) but more than 50% of them don’t have a digital strategy (oh no!!)

We want to make crafting a digital strategy feel less complicated. And easier to do. So it can help you kick some goals this year and in the years to come. The beauty about it is that a Digital Strategy is cyclical so that crafting an initial framework can begin a cycle of continuous improvement. Breaking your Digital Strategy into 5 steps goes a long way in simplifying the process.


Here’s what you need to consider in your Digital Strategy:

1. Capture your overarching nonprofit goals

Your organisation’s digital goals will serve as the foundation of the entire strategy that you develop. This should come as no surprise, but it’s important that your core team employs a more systematic approach to goal-defining than it might usually take.

Start by writing out your goals in somewhat general terms. Do you want to:

  • Raise a certain amount of money?
  • Increase awareness of your mission?
  • Grow your audience or base of supporters?
  • Increase a specific audience profile?
  • Generate new leads?

Then put the SMART on your objectives. By that, we don’t mean a device but ensure your objectives are specific, measurable, actionable, relevant and time-orientated.

2. Define your audience and develop their personas

Creating a strategy that appeals to your audiences’ online behavior and interests starts with digging into your existing data. Use your website, Google Analytics, your CRM, and email management platform to identify and prioritise your existing audience.

Develop several distinct audience personas that are imagined online supporters who fit into a general category. Can you quantify how valuable they are to you? What characteristics make them unique from other personas? Write a short description about their wants and needs as well as their online behaviour.

Defining these categories will help your audience become more human and therefore more meaningful to your team. In our experience, it helps you be more effective at attracting and converting them.

An example of turning a profile into a persona.

If this feels complicated (remembering that the title of this blog is an Uncomplicated Guide) then make a hypothesis that you can test and validate. Better to start with some assumptions then none at all. We don’t live in a perfect world but we can improve it. This is our philosophy on almost everything including eating a healthy breakfast every morning.

The most immediate way that supporter personas can benefit your nonprofit digital strategy is by helping you better align your brand or tone with particular audiences.

For instance, your email appeals to high-level donors, like a Generous Belinda would be very different from social media campaigns directed at a potentially new segment. Adjusting the tone of your appeals depending on the wants and needs of those audiences can drastically improve the effectiveness of your results.

3. Align messaging and content

In the early 2010s, nonprofits mastered compelling storytelling. Now that story needs to be taken fully into the digital realm. Short, intentional multimedia vignettes and highly-shareable stories extend your nonprofit’s reach to new audiences of supporters and donors. Truly digital stories, told in unique and compelling ways, stand out above the rest and have buzz-worthy potential.

The modern organisation is also under pressure to tell stories in real time. These in-the-moment updates produce a powerful impact: your story, your team, or your cause can meet donors where they already spend time online, whether on Twitter, Instagram or YouTube. By embracing real-time stories that show the direct impact of a donation, your organisation is far more prepared to compete in a digital-dominated landscape.

But what stories should you tell?

We go back to our audience prioritisation. Data should be your first resource in learning more about your existing audience, but a large part of developing a new digital strategy involves refining you’re most motivating messaging to better target them and attract specific new segments of online audiences, too.

An example of developing content based on your personal profiles

We love The Save the Children UK’s Most Shocking Second a Day video and follow up campaign. The charity’s primary audience is existing supporters of children in need. The objective of the campaign was to bring home the plight of children in countries like war-torn Syria to create awareness and engagement for the cause.

The video begins with a relatable British girl celebrating her birthday and then through a series one-second vignettes,  we are transported through a complete refugee experience. The video is captivating and moving beyond belief. No wonder it has over 61 million views by the time of writing this blog.

You wouldn’t be able to produce such content unless you had a clear understanding of your audience and the content that would motivate them to respond in line with your strategy. There’s the strategy word again!

4. Define your channels and their roles

The most important digital communication channels to your organisation’s strategy will include your website, social media, email, and digital advertising. Here’s how they work together to drive traffic and engagement with your online campaigns:

  • Your organisation’s website serves as the central hub for your digital strategy. It should be well designed, informative, useful, and fully integrated with your online fundraising and CRM platforms whenever possible. We have best practice thinking on building nonprofit websites and integrating them, so please have a chat with us if you are thinking about this as part of your digital strategy.
  • Social media platforms are invaluable tools for reaching wider audiences. Focusing on just a few of the most relevant platforms to promote your donation appeals, informational blog posts, and other digital content like videos and viral challenges is the smart way to go. Encourage followers to share your posts, and direct readers back to your website whenever possible in order to generate more traffic. And you don’t have to have a big budget. Some great tips can be found in Social Media for Nonprofits: How to make an impact with a little budget.
  • Email marketing is an essential part of the digital strategy equation. Use it to promote similar information-based content and donation appeals as you do on social media, but take special care to target your readers more closely. Your donor database is useful at this stage for segmenting your mailing lists, which can then boost open rates and click-through rates, increasing traffic to your website. Read Campaign Monitor’s 3 ways Nonprofit organisations can take advantage of email marketing.
  • Digital advertising and other digital marketing strategies are important for increasing visibility outside of social media platforms. Online ads can direct viewers to your site and even re-target those who have visited your site in the past. Google Ads (available to nonprofits through Google Ad Grants) can significantly boost your site’s traffic flow. SEO techniques, when implemented into your website and blog posts, can also help boost your campaign’s visibility in organic search results.

5. Measure your success

Measuring the successes of your online fundraising campaign or other digital project is always essential, but it’s particularly important when you’ve put in so much thought and work into refreshing your overall digital marketing strategy. It all comes down to ensuring robust online tracking for your campaign.

The specific metrics that you’ll want to measure will depend on the nature of your campaign. Typical nonprofit conversion metrics include:

  • Completed donations
  • Email subscriptions.
  • Pledge signatures

Your organisation has a wealth of data. Probably spread out over a few databases. Here’s the question you’ve probably seen coming for years. Maybe you even dreaded it a little.

Is your data actionable?

The challenge for this year is aggregating and translating information into valuable insights where and when you need it. Many organisations have data siloed across many departments in multiple content libraries.

Without a single source of truth, it’s likely that your employees, donors and even beneficiaries often find themselves on a wild goose chase looking for answers. Reporting tools that consolidate multiple data sources into a single source of truth are essential for a modern organisation. Investing in data-driven tech that has a measurable ROI will help you understand who is engaging with you and how they are engaging with you providing a powerful source of insights to fuel your digital strategy in the next cycle.

Wrapping Up

The digital landscape is an ever louder and busier place; competition for supporter and donor attention is at an all-time high. Without a unified nonprofit digital strategy, you risk losing focus, visibility and impact.

That sounds a lot more complicated then taking some time to craft a digital strategy even if it’s not 100% right the first time.

At Leafcutter we embrace disruptive technologies that improve the ability for marketers and fundraisers to connect to their audience, tell stories and raise money for their cause.  We also embrace good breakfast eaters.

If you want to be embraced on any of the above.