While each organization is unique - your mission, objectives, target audience and core assets - there are certain online best practices for nonprofits that have proven to work well.
Online Strategy Best Practices
The organizations who excel at online communication and reap the benefits tend to follow these five steps with their online strategy:
- Supporter Management System. Have a consolidated constituent relationship management (CRM) system in place to manage and track your relationships with donors, partners, volunteers, clients and other key stakeholders. Ultimately, nonprofit success largely rests on building effective relationships.
- Online Communication Infrastructure. Your website, email marketing tool and social media should be interlinked, optimized for sharing across the web, and guided by a solid communication plan. Your CRM system ideally integrates seamlessly with your website and email marketing tool.
- Online Community Building. You then follow your communication plan and invest time in building a community around your core issues. The key idea here is engagement - helping people care about your cause and making them feel a part of your community.
- Campaigns. To see a return on all the time you invest in community building, you can launch periodic (every quarter at least) campaigns. These campaigns rally your supporters around a clear, actionable goal, within a defined timeframe. Learn more about campaign best practices.
- Measure Impact & Improve. Having good monitoring systems in place to track your progress and impact are critical. You can learn what works and what doesn't, and continually improve your strategy and results.
Strategy Design Process
Every nonprofit should have a documented online communication strategy. Your strategy design should take into account both best practices and your organization's unique focus and assets.
A solid strategy will pinpoint the core elements of your work and help ensure every member of your team is working together to achieve your objectives.
We always do this with our clients, and hash out the strategy with members of executive management and the communication and program teams. It helps land everyone on the same page and clearly define the organization's strategic online priorities.
Note: We use the word “strategic” a lot—it implies a bird’s eye view of your entire online presence, purpose instead of aimlessness, and the orchestrated pursuit of a specific goal.
In your online strategy you can map out:
- Organizational objectives
- Online communication priorities
- Key programs and issues
- Target audiences (here it's helpful to rank them in order of priority)
- Action you want your audiences to take
- End goals - how will you measure success?
- Baseline indicators - where are you starting from?
- Strategic assets - what assets can you use to your benefit? Video footage? Great photos? Testimonies? Stellar Facebook presence?
This process is valuable in maintaining consistency - particularly if you have different people managing different parts of your online and offline strategy. It also helps you identify benchmarks for evaluation, and provides a clear point of reference for all project activities.
A tight communication plan is also crucial to the success of your online strategy. Aimless messaging bears little fruit, and randomly asking for donations from your community won't get you very far.
We recommend creating a detailed 12-18 month communication plan, and closely monitoring progress each quarter. Learn more about how to build an excellent communication plan and download a communication plan template.
One final tip for your online communication strategy: Get people involved beyond your social media or communication manager. The more people contributing interesting stories, photos and testimonies, the merrier (and the better).