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An effective digital strategy requires extensive planning and substancial input from stakeholders. But we appreciate that sometimes you just need to get started, especially when you're a Not-For-Profit with limited resource. So, here’s our quick-start digital strategy guide to begin your journey to digital excellence.


Step 1: Begin your Digital Transformation with a Strategy Buy-in Process

Digital strategy requires every department working towards a singular goal. It’s vital to gain management buy-in and a supporting budget, which can be particularly challenging in a not-for-profit organisation.

In 2018 a representative from Chatham House, also known as the Royal Institute of International Affairs, delivered a session delving into how they gained buy-in for their digital transformation. Josie Tree, Head of Digital Strategy and Development, lead the case for a migration onto Drupal and a significant digital shift within a historically digital-sceptical organisation. In her session at Drupal Europe, Josie spoke of achieving this transformation by curating solid evidence to support her vision. Presenting a well-supported solution resulted in adoption from stakeholders who could no longer say no!

Taking a similar evidence-lead approach to obtaining digital buy-in can help your charity gain physical effort and financial support from stakeholders.


Step 2: Understand and Own your Unique Space in the Market

To understand your unique space in the market, it’s important to identify the critical factors that affect your organisation. What are the challenges and opportunities that require action and are unique to your sector?

These factors can be broken down into two major areas: Your Market Sector and Your Organisation

Your Market Sector

Identify critical factors within your charity sector by asking the following questions:

Consumer trends
  • Are large proportions of the public interested/affected by the cause?
  • Has there been any positive or negative news around the charity’s cause?
  • Are consumers aware of your cause and its impact?
Market trends
  • How many directly competing Not-For-Profit organisations are there?
  • Are peer organisations open to collaboration?
  • Do you have a monopoly on the cause?
  • Are there non-direct competing charities? (For example, a cats shelter competing with a dogs shelter.)

Your Organisation

Understand your strengths and weaknesses within your organisation.

Discovery Workshops

A discovery workshop involves a series of structured activities, each designed to delve into the core issues that your organisation aims to solve. This interactive research can help to understand what your goals are, and how to get there.

Other outcomes include: defining a single voice for the organisation, creating user personas, and highlighting under-utilised niches in the organisation.

Define your Internal Users and their Needs

Gaining buy-in from staff will strengthen any business strategy. While words and visuals are easy to replicate, authenticity throughout the organisation is not. This consistency will build trust and rapport with users, reducing any friction against potential donations.

Remember, this is not a one-off activity. It’s important to regularly seek feedback from staff and to keep them engaged in wider organisational changes.

Remind yourself of the Charity’s 'Reason for Being'

Often the roots of a not-for-profit are its greatest selling point, wether that's two sisters fighting famine with Save The Children, or two men battling the UK's housing crisis in 1966 with Shelter. Individuals’ life stories are impossible to replicate, making them your greatest marketing tool. Define the history of and the present work your organisation provides to base your digital strategy around what makes your organisation unique.


Screen Shot 2019-02-11 at 12.40.11Great Ormond Street Hospital regularly post news stories about the work charitable donations fund


A Bonus Note: Save the World One Campaign at a Time

It’s common for not-for-profit organisations to have a limited budget or resource pool. The Pareto Principle tells us that it’s also likely that 80% of donations come from just 20% of your active users. If your market research defines multiple focus areas for your charity, tackle them one at a time. Maximise your impact and budget by focusing your efforts into one major area or persona at a time.

Step 3: Your Flexible Approach to Strategy

Focus your digital initiatives to integrate tools from the Marketing Mix: Product, Promotion, Price, Place, People, Process and Physical Evidence. Spreading marketing elements across your owned, earned and paid communication channels will allow you to make content work harder and reach a larger audience. Emotive content is a vital tool for any charitable organisation, as individuals stories are likely to be the main 'product' you are 'selling'.

The 7Ps Marketing MixThe 7Ps Marketing Mix - sourced from Smart Insights


Owned Media - Your Website, Your Control

Embrace Imagery

When defining your organisational tone during a Discovery workshop, don’t limit your branding to just words. Visuals can have a huge impact on users as they can be interpreted from multiple perspectives. War Child implemented a media-rich design on their website, featuring stunning photography from the front line. These powerful images evoke an emotive response from users, increasing a desire to help the cause.

War Child Impactful ImageryImpactful Imagery to Communicate the War Child UK Message


Invest in Technology

Investing in a powerful CMS will give you digital freedom for content creation, media use and future flexibility. NFP and Charity websites are unique in their ratio of documentation to products. Their expansive documentation on the cause and operations of the organisation must all eventually lead to the single donation point.

A flexible platform will allow you to experiment and optimise user journeys. Each persona requires a different level of understanding of the cause, and as such the user journey needs to suit multiple groups. User research is a great way to gain insight, which can then be fed into the content via the CRM and CMS. Integrating your technology channels will make it easier to funnel users to the same end goal, to ultimately gain more conversions, and encourage people to keep coming back.

Wildlife TrustsWe created a centralised content management for The Wildlife Trusts, across 46 regional sites


Use Email and Social Media to Re-Engage and Start a Conversation with Known Contacts

Retaining existing customers is significantly cheaper than attracting new customers, so turn your attention to nurturing these supporters. Regular touch points with customers can maximise repeat donations, turning users into brand advocates. This it turn will widen your reach to similar consumers.

Charities often rely on ongoing contributions, rather than one-off donations, so customer engagement is vital. Show your contributors what their donations have made possible, to incentivise further giving.


Earned Media - Publicity & Brand Advocates

When promoting a cause close to people's hearts, it’s possible to gain fiercely loyal advocates from around the world. The visual impact you’ve curated on your website can easily play into your chance of going viral on Social Media. Creating highly emotive content will encourage people to interact. What’s more, if social content reflects well on those who publicly interact with it, it is more shareable. In fact, Facebook posts with images see 2.3x more engagement than text alone.

Similarly, businesses looking to improve their Corporate Social Responsibility are aware of the benefits of being associated with an NFP. Major donors will want to share your content on both their own platform and in public communications. Ensure you are organically visible to any private organisations who may be looking to sponsor fundraisers or events.


Paid Media - Invest Wisely for Wider Reach

We all recognise the highly successful Wateraid TV adverts, full of emotive imagery and moving voice overs. While highly effective, this touch point has become saturated and consumers are increasingly able to tune out to this commercial ‘noise’. Moving away from traditional TV advertising to the digital sphere can give you an advantage by reaching users at more appropriate times during the day. For example, you can reach curious users in Google Search when researching terms associated with your charity or cause. From here, you can re-target these users on social media, when they may have spare time and be more ready to purchase.

When investing in paid advertising, run keyword-targeted campaigns around both generic donation and charitable terms, as well as specific keywords for your cause. Google Ads have a grant scheme for Not-For-Profits offering up to $10,000 a month to eligible organisations.

Google Ads Get $10,000 a month with Google Ad Grants


Step 4: Measure Your Success

It’s vital to make use of the data that comes with these actions. Digital campaigns are easier to track than offline marketing, so you can track the immediate success of a campaign. This enables you to calculate an ROI and define how to much invest in the next campaign.

Install Google Analytics on your website if you haven’t already, and set up a Google Data Studio dashboard for quick reporting. Understanding how changes in bounce rates and sessions turn into actual conversions are essential as these soft statistics don’t mean much on their own. Attribution modelling can be useful in determining the effectiveness of touch points to gain conversions.

In Summary

Defining a digital strategy for your charity or not-for-profit organisation will help to channel your efforts towards a shared goal. By outlining a clear roadmap, you and your team can be sure that your day-to-day work will achieve an impact in the long term.

The most important steps to begin a successful digital strategy include:

  • Use real-life data to build a convincing case for digital transformation.

  • Invest in user-centric research: looking at your market, competitors, users and employees.

  • Focus your efforts; you can’t achieve everything at once.

  • Reach wider audiences by spreading your publicity across owned, earned and paid media platforms.

For further advice or a full consultation, get in touch with our expert Digital Strategy team. We can help you to clarify your ambitions, delight your users, and ultimately maximise your donations.  

Get in Touch


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