Refreshing Your Digital Strategy: 4 Things to Consider
Online trends move quickly, and nonprofits routinely need to develop new fundraising and outreach strategies to keep up with their audience’s changing expectations. When it is time for a major change, there is more your nonprofit will need to consider than small adjustments to email subject lines and social media polls.
Your digital strategy consists of all the plans and decisions your nonprofit has made regarding any online components of your organization. This includes both your virtual outreach on third-party channels and software that manages your internal processes. A change in just one of these systems can impact the rest of your practices, as well.
To help your nonprofit take a holistic approach to upgrading your digital strategy, this guide will explore four factors to keep in mind whenever you’re in need of a refresh.
1. User Experience
If your digital strategy update involves external materials, consider how your front-end users will interact with your new content. Determine not just what supporters will interact with but how. This makes up the user experience (UX). It is not uncommon for organizations to release new content or an updated strategy without taking into account how their audience will access and interpret it.
Along with refreshing your digital strategy, consider how your UX strategy will change along with it. For example, your nonprofit may plan an online fundraising event. Your team would schedule time into your event planning process to walk through various processes attendees will experience. This might include how attendees will receive the link to join your event, what the front-end experience for attendees is like, and if they are able to reach out to a moderate for assistance easily.
Determining whether your UX practices need to be updated can be challenging. Your team is likely already familiar with navigating your basic tools, making it challenging to discern whether the process is intuitive to someone new to the system. This is why many nonprofits recruit external volunteers or even partner with a website design consultant to receive an outside perspective.
If you do plan to partner with a consultant, DNL OmniMedia’s nonprofit website design guide recommends taking the time to ensure your staff is familiar with your new strategy and tools beforehand. This will save both your team time that might otherwise be spent asking questions about processes you already use and avoid investing in new software when you already have platforms with the needed features.
A new digital strategy often involves investing in new software. However, a crucial step before buying any new platforms is checking what tools your current systems will integrate with. Purchasing software that doesn’t smoothly integrate with your current technology can force your team to migrate data manually between systems, which can quickly become a time-intensive process. In some cases, buying new software that doesn’t integrate can be a wasted investment altogether.
To get a sense of where your nonprofit’s technology currently stands, consider hiring a consultant to conduct a technical assessment. This assessment can help you analyze your current systems and processes and get a professional opinion about what improvements to make. For nonprofits that are unsure what software to invest in, technical consultants can provide valuable referrals.
Research integrations for each new software product you’re considering, and ask their sales team about specific integrations that are not openly listed on their website. For some software, you may even need the help of a developer to complete the integration.
For example, Salesforce NPSP is a popular CRM with numerous integrations. Setting up the initial overlay and making necessary modifications to customize the system for your nonprofit’s needs may require partnering with a developer. More complex integrations, such as integrating your website and Salesforce CRM, will likely also require a developer’s assistance. In return, your nonprofit will have a unique system created to meet your team’s exact needs.
3. Data Hygiene
Changes in your digital strategy will often impact how your nonprofit manages, collects, or uses data. You may create a new channel for receiving data or need to facilitate a smooth data flow between two separate systems.
Whenever a change like this occurs, plan to review your data and take any necessary steps to improve your current data hygiene practices. Failing to clean data before major changes in your digital strategy can compound minor data hygiene problems, making your databases more difficult to use. NPOInfo’s guide to nonprofit data hygiene discusses a few common problems to look for when cleaning your database:
- Ambiguous data. Ambiguous data includes any information that is too broad to derive a specific meaning from. For example, if your nonprofit uses a generic “major donor” label to mark individual supporters, then changes how much must be given to be considered a major donation, the original major donor label without a specific threshold amount listed would be considered ambiguous.
- Duplicate data. Duplicate data takes up necessary room in your database and can result in accidentally doubling communication to specific supporters. For example, if a donor gives using their personal email address one month, then gives again using their professional email, your donor database may register this as two separate donors and create two profiles for the same supporter.
- Inconsistent data. Nonprofits that have multiple databases that don’t automatically sync may encounter inconsistent data, where data entries that should contain the same information differ. For example, if a major donor recently moved to a new home, your donor database may have their new address, but your direct mail communication tools have their old one, resulting in lost mail.
- Misplaced data. Human error can commonly result in misplaced data, especially for text fields where users can input any information without restrictions. For example, a supporter might accidentally switch the order of their first and last name on an entry form that requires last name first.
- Missing data. Any fields that aren’t required can result in missing data. This can sometimes be optional information, such as which programs a supporter is most interested in, or important data, such as their contact information. This can be resolved by either asking the donor to provide the data you missed or by using a data append service to fill in the gaps.
Practice regular maintenance to identify and resolve these problems. Some CRMs and donor databases have data hygiene tools, such as the ability to merge records to eliminate duplicates. If you find your database needs more intensive help, consider working with a consultant to assist with cleaning your data and setting up practices to prevent future hygiene problems.
4. Developments in Your Sector
Nonprofits often refresh their digital strategy due to external factors, such as waning engagement or the rising popularity of a new marketing channel. Keep your nonprofit modern by developing events, fundraisers, and messages that take these new trends into account.
Whenever you intend to make a major change in your operations, ensure you are doing so with a wider perspective on your sector. For example, while your individual nonprofit might be performing well financially, if many other similar organizations are encountering hardships, that may be a sign to set more cautious growth goals than you otherwise would in a positive financial position.
You can stay attuned to developments in your sector with resources like:
- Conferences. Industry-specific and nonprofit conferences can provide insight into what is happening in the broader nonprofit sector. These meetings bring together a diverse range of people working in your industry. You may be able to connect with others who hold similar roles and responsibilities at their organizations to your own. Attending conferences is a great way to learn about upcoming challenges and opportunities from industry experts and professionals.
- Newsletters and publications. There are a variety of high-quality publications specifically for nonprofit professionals, such as Nonprofit Quarterly or your state’s nonprofit association, that report on new stories and current trends in the nonprofit sector. You can subscribe to these resources or even explore the blog posts of nonprofit software developers, consultants, and other professional nonprofit service providers.
- News reports. Some developments are so widespread that they are expected to impact more industries than just the nonprofit sector. Regularly checking in with trusted news reports can provide your nonprofit with adequate warning about upcoming increases in demand for your services due to natural disasters or expected economic downturns. This allows your organization to liquidate assets or make changes that allow you to better weather the events.
Staying up to date with all of these sources can be time-consuming, and if the majority of the news is bad, even discouraging. Pace yourself and create a dedicated time for checking the news, such as scrolling through a few trusted blogs each morning for half an hour.
Upgrading your digital strategy can be a necessary but time and resource-intensive task. When you’re ready to make a change, ensure you’re considering both front- and back-end concerns, so your supporters and your team will experience a smooth transition. Additionally, remember that you can reach out to a professional nonprofit consultant as a resource to help with any steps in your refresh.