How Nonprofits Should Approach Digital Strategy
by Abigail Wilson
by Abigail Wilson
COVID-19 has made tight budget constraints a pressing concern across the nonprofit industry. In the midst of the current economic downturn, as donations and grant funding dry up, many organizations are looking for ways they can maximize their usage of limited resources. Fortunately, digital marketing is known for maximizing short- and long-term results and, when done correctly, generating impact and authenticity at an appealing price. Unfortunately, many organizations are so busy with their initiatives that they fail to recognize the impact a digital strategy can have on promoting their reach and exposure. But how do nonprofits secure the budget for digital marketing and, once they do, how should they approach their digital strategy?
Incorporate your mission and goals at every step
A nonprofit’s mission is its core and biggest asset. Your organization’s goals should be the primary focus of your digital strategy at all times. Processes, such as digital impact mapping, assist stakeholders by defining the online behaviors that will lead back to the organizational goals. Every platform, piece of messaging, and tactic should connect to those goals—if they do, you will have a more authentic, impactful digital strategy.
Be realistic about your resources and implement a goal-based budget
Digital marketing for nonprofits often focuses on providing a societal benefit, which makes achieving and measuring results more complex. Nonprofits often make two major mistakes when planning their digital budget: attempting to set a traditional, numeric, or percentage-based standard, and being unrealistic about their resources.
The solution is an adaptive, goal-based budget. This type of budget allows nonprofits to remain closely aligned to their strategic objectives as they set their budget based on measurable impact. Unlike typical budgeting, which relies solely on numerical results, a goal-based budget ensures that each dollar spent has a meaningful return.
Address Organizational Change Management
Successful digital strategies require everyone to be on board. You’ll need a change management plan to familiarize internal stakeholders to the new processes and achieve long-term results. After securing buy-in from senior leadership, you need to decide how it will be implemented across the organization and who will be involved. The following tactics comprise a change management framework applicable to nonprofit organizations.
People: Assess your current talent, identify the gaps, and then decide where to start in terms of training or hiring. In addition to working with a hiring firm, your digital vendors are often a great resource for identifying your digital talent needs and, if you’re lucky, the talent themselves.
Architecture: The architecture is the blueprint of the organization and determines how teams are laid out. As you implement these new technologies and strategies, you will need talent who are well-versed in these systems and have the ability to manage them.
Routine: Determine what managerial processes, procedures, and workflows you need to establish in order to bring these campaigns to life while ensuring the work gets done effectively and efficiently.
Culture: Experimentation and flexibility are key in digital marketing. When executed well, these elements can help you build the return on investment needed to make a case for digital’s importance within your organization.
Listen to and follow your audience
Once you’ve established your organization’s key metrics, created a budget, and socialized your plan, you need to find where your target audience(s) reside online. When creating your customer personas, think of the demographics, interests, and characteristics your target audiences share. Do they enjoy keeping up with the news? Do they prefer sharing their daily lives with their family and friends? Questions like these will help you solidify which advertising platforms best align with your audience, your budget, and your organization’s impact goals.
Flexibility is key
In the nonprofit world, especially in light of COVID-19, objectives can change on a dime. Your job, as digital strategists, is ensuring you leave ample room for last-minute changes.
Short-term flexibility and long-term adaptability are equally important when developing a digital strategy. Whether it’s creating a disaster toolkit, or bolstering your evergreen content production for a rainy day, your ability to adapt to changing priorities while staying on message will provide you with proactive content to turn to when needed.
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