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The Importance of Becoming a Digital-First Nonprofit

At this point, it’s no secret that many nonprofits switched to online communications during the pandemic when it was the only feasible way to reach donors and build relationships. Those organization that had already begun communicating digitally before the pandemic had a head start.

Today, nonprofits have the choice to return to pre-pandemic business as usual, or to continue thinking differently about communications with supporters.

Becoming a digital-first nonprofit
What many nonprofits are seeing is that to remain relevant and continue growing, it’s important to take a digital-first approach to fundraising and marketing. Digital first means starting your constituent interactions with the mindset that many people today are communicating with digital devices. For example:

  • You’re likely to find a new pool of supporters on social media.
  • Many folks might find your organization through a peer-to-peer fundraising event or campaign.
  • You might find that your constituents can contact you faster when they need your organization’s services (and you might even be able to deliver services faster) via digital channels.

Keep in mind that “digital first” doesn’t mean “digital only”. While you might start your marketing and fundraising strategy by thinking about digital channels, there’s still an important place for traditional communications and engagement, such as in-person events, personal phone calls, and hand-written notes. So, while digital comes first, we’re really talking about a multi-channel approach to engaging with donors and constituents that focuses on how people want to engage.

Another thing to keep in mind: Digital first doesn’t mean “less personal”. In fact, what could be more personal than engaging with donors and other constituents in the ways they prefer to engage?

So, how do you get started with a digital-first approach for your nonprofit? Here are some tips:

  1. Take the first step. While going back to business as usual might sound tempting, it’s time to think differently. You don’t have to start big. You can take an incremental approach. But do get started.
  2. Let your data guide you. There’s not much point in engaging in new strategies for the sake of the strategies alone. Look at your nonprofit’s data to understand which engagement strategies are working for your organization and which are not. Let those findings guide how your organization builds relationships with donors and constituents.
  3. Don’t stop. A digital-first approach isn’t a one-and-done project. It requires continually reviewing your data and taking steps to improve the ways you engage with donors and other supporters. Build that digital-first mentality into your fundraising and marketing strategies so you can continue to modify and improve your approach over time.

Learn more
I recently sat down with Geoff DeLizzio from the Epilepsy Foundation and Maria Clark from GoodUnited to talk about how the Epilepsy Foundation has embraced a digital-first strategy that has helped to develop deeper engagement with current and new donors. You can listen to our conversation in the NonProfit PRO podcast, Why It’s Essential to Become a Digital-First Nonprofit.


If you need more ideas on how to become a digital-first nonprofit, the Cathexis Partners team is ready to help. Contact us today.

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