More and more non-profit organizations are embracing the internet as a major focus of their efforts. This is good, the power of the internet to reach wider audiences, engage potential supporters, and pool contributions from people across the world should excite any NPO interested in advancing their cause!
But, it's also uncharted waters. For some NPOs, the digital world is still a mysterious one, and they wonder how to integrate it into their existing structure. This is where a strong digital strategy comes in.
A good digital strategy shouldn't be much different than a traditional one. You still want to achieve the same goals, you're just doing it through a different medium. That said, there are a few things you need to be mindful of.
Find your audience:
Who is your audience? Who are you looking to support you and your cause?
If you answered "everybody" you have a problem. Soft serve ice cream is for everybody. Easy listening AM rock is for everybody. You're a non-profit seeking contributions. Even though you would like to be, you're not for everybody.
Start by looking at your regular donors, the people who have been supporting you for months or years already. Where did they come from? What were they interested in when they heard about you? What commonalities can you gleam by looking at who they are and why they support you already – patterns, demographics, etc. Think about how you can use that knowledge to appeal to a wider group of people.
You're not trying to reach everybody, that's tossing money and effort into the wind and hoping it lands in the right place. You're trying to reach out to the people who will be the most receptive to your message.
Awareness is great, action is always better:
While you're reaching out to people, don't lose sight of your overall goals. The idea is to pursue your organization's cause and create measurable action (in the form of donations, volunteers, services, etc). Building awareness if a by-product of that goal, not an end in itself.
If your current strategy is trending heavily towards "going viral” and "creating buzz” it's time to pump the brakes and think. If the line between someone knowing you exist and how they can take the next step and help isn't clear, you need to make it clear. There needs to be a strongly defined actionable step that is appropriate to the level of engagement that person is likely to have (asking someone who just found out about your organization for a monthly $50 donation is a big ask, getting them to throw in a few dollars, come to a local event, or subscribe to a newsletter is more reasonable).
Being a trending hashtag on Twitter is great, but you can't feed people with retweets.
Set milestones and goals:
"Where do you see yourself in three years?”
Ugh. Everyone hates interview questions like that, but seriously, where do you this this whole thing three years from now? How about a year? Six months? You need to define goals and metrics to determine the success of a strategy. This is the only way to know how effective your efforts have been and how to course correct when things aren't working as well as you'd like.
Set realistic, actionable milestones at the start of the project and hold yourself to them. Think of them as lighthouses, so when you're out there in the chop and spray of the storm trying to run your business, you'll always have a point of reference to tell you where you're going and when you're getting a little too close to the rocks.