Back to Basics: Improving Your Nonprofit’s Online Presence at the Strategic Level

I’ve worked with all types of organizations across multiple industries, helping to provide technological guidance and to build up sturdy infrastructures that will improve digital presences. One of the most rewarding consulting experiences of all, though, has been working with nonprofits. There’s passion behind every nonprofit organization, and it extends to the donors and volunteers as much as it applies to the employees.

In my experience, there has been one main challenge that confronts any nonprofit digital strategy: How do we take advantage of the goodwill and passion toward a nonprofit organization using digital strategy? It’s not an easy question. Most nonprofits have limited resources, and with literally thousands of strategic options at your disposal, it can be extremely difficult to find an approach that best suits your organization.

The People Element: Planning for the Future

The digital planning process starts with people, and sometimes the act of swaying their opinions can be your biggest hurdle. Oftentimes, decision-makers at nonprofits don’t view digital strategy as the optimal route for improving their organizations. The line of logic is as follows: If direct mail and phone calls are working, why should we try to fix what isn’t broken?

The problem with this idea is that someday very soon, any strategy which doesn’t implement a digital approach will be broken. Statistics show that online giving is increasing dramatically on a year-over-year basis, and that mobile presences are becoming absolutely essential across the board.

To convince decision-makers on the importance of digital strategy, open up an honest dialogue with them. Most of the time it’s not new dollars that need to be spent, it’s just a matter of moving the money from one place to another. Provide statistics, metrics, and infographics that show them the facts. You’ll do best to keep the conversation in the fiscal space, since this is where their motivations tend to dwell. Once they’re on your side, one of the most difficult parts of the process is over and you can get started on planning in earnest.

Digital Strategy for Longevity

If you’re thinking of upgrading your digital strategy, the odds are that your old approach is either dated, in need of a few tweaks, or completely non-existent. Whatever your situation, always keep the long-term in mind as you build a new plan. Don’t ask what you want your online presence to look like today, think three years, five years down the road. You want to make sure your digital strategy is improving your nonprofit from top to bottom. Brand leadership, customer service, revenue generation—think of how your digital tools will help to achieve these overarching goals, and plan around that.

One great way to boost your digital longevity is to leverage your organization’s human capital. You might have an IT staffer or consultant to map out and create your online presence, but in the end, your employees are going to be the ones creating content and interfacing with the software. Use your consultant or in-house IT professional as a mentor. Ask them questions and learn the technology as best as you can, because in the end, education and user adoption is the best way to create a lasting online presence.

Digital Strategy for Value

As a nonprofit, there are certain realities you’ll have to face as you begin looking for new tech to better your company. The biggest reality—and the one we’re all probably most familiar with—is the issue of budgeting. Whatever you choose, it needs to be essential, it needs to be effective, and most of all, it needs to be affordable. But before you go out searching for the least pricey options to fulfill your basic needs, remember: The product that comes cheapest is not necessarily the product that’s the most valuable. In technology especially, you get what you pay for.

Strategizing for value takes research and time. Another approach to take when planning for value is to look at the latest trends in the market to create an informed and insightful strategy. There is a wealth of data available, and most of it is extremely helpful, for instance:

  • Monthly donors give 42% more in year than donors who provide one-time gifts.
  • For every 1,000 fundraising emails sent a nonprofit raises $17.
  • Custom-branded donate pages raise 6x more money than generic giving pages.

In addition to new trends, try to leverage new technologies for your purposes as well. Most of these technologies were created with the express purpose of making your life easier, and they can provide efficiency and value in ways that older products weren’t capable of.

One of the most prevalent new web technologies is responsive web design. RWD typically requires good designers and good developers to produce, but it looks spectacular when accessed on both desktop and mobile. What’s more, RWD has been shown to actually double giving on mobile devices. This is one example of great value in nonprofit digital strategy: It fulfills multiple functions, and it leads to better results along the way.

Improving digital strategy and online presence begins with planning and relies on an active, devoted user base. By seeking out technologies that will that provide your organization with longevity and value, you can develop high-quality digital presences that are truly suited for the nonprofit space

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