What’s the Problem With Your Digital Strategy?

nonprofit strategy

There have been countless articles published about nonprofit digital strategy. As a consultant in the nonprofit space, I often hear organizations talk about creating their own unique digital approach.

However, the problem that many of these nonprofits do not realize is that they do not actually need a digital strategy. What they really need is an overall strategy.

Over the past decade, the term “digital” has become a buzzword of sorts. And as with any trend, comes the typical flurry of “experts” and organizations aligning their products and services to that new market interest.

But did I already mention that you don’t need a digital strategy?


Let’s Dig Deeper

The problem with creating a siloed, digital strategy is that it can easily become separated from the overall organizational strategy. In today’s constantly evolving technological environment, nonprofits can’t afford to view digital as something separate from the core purpose of their organization.

Let me further explain. I believe what nonprofits really need is a solid integrated strategy, one that is enabled with the latest digital tools and solutions, to support their overall mission and goals.

Think about it: when you focus on strategy in a vacuum, or only in digital terms, for example, you can lose site of your end goal.


Is There a Problem?

Over the last 20 years, when I’ve worked with various nonprofits to develop strategy, I have run into many of the same problems. Here are a few:

  • You believe your audience is the general public. Perhaps the Pope can claim that the “general public” is his audience, but you cannot. Your audience is not the world. In fact, most nonprofits have many different audience segments, from the least engaged – individuals who don’t know who you are – to the most engaged – your regular supporters and donors.It’s important to realize that this “least engaged” segment is definitely not the general public. Rather, it is the group of people that may have a reason to care about you and your mission. To truly define this group, you must first understand the origin of your most engaged supporters. How did they find you and where were they looking? As you begin to collect this data, you will begin to notice patterns in behaviors, demographics and interests. This group of unengaged people is your nonprofit’s “general public” audience and it’s vital to really get to know them, love them and continue to talk to them.
  • Your goal is to build awareness. Yes, every nonprofit in the world wants to build awareness, but often it is difficult, if not impossible to measure. And the problem with creating awareness as a primary goal is that it could actually have zero impact on your ultimate business goals. Rather than work to build awareness, focus on driving specific action. Once a person becomes aware of your organization, what is the next step you want them to take? If people become aware of your mission, but then never take an action, awareness will never help you create real change.
  • You have no outcomes to measure success. One year from now, what are you specifically going to look at to understand whether your strategy has been successful or not? What are you going to look at in one month, or even one week?

Without measurable outcomes, it is difficult to understand what is working and what is not. The only way you’re going to scale your impact as an organization is to learn as quickly as you can from both successes and failures – an impossibility without true, measurable outcomes.


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