Getting started with digital strategy

Today I had my first Digital Candle call with someone from a community centre. She used the hour-long call to talk about how to start a digital strategy project.

Following the call, I sent her some links to resources and further reading to help get things started. Here they are for you too. This is a very big topic which people write books about, so this is very much a primer.

Knobs from an old telephone exchange. Lots of colours and wires

Define digital

Whether you are a large or small charity about to start a digital strategy project, it is worth clarifying exactly what you mean by digital. For some it will mean digital comms and/or fundraising. For others it will be about infrastructure and kit. For others it will be much wider – anything which is delivered digitally.

What does it mean for your organisation and crucially what does it mean for whoever is sponsoring your strategy project or whoever you need to persuade to own it (such as senior managers and trustees)? Be clear at the start.

Digital audit

When starting a strategy project, you may already have an idea about the issues you want your strategy to address. But there may be others. An audit of your processes and systems can help build up a bigger picture of where digital could help reduce inefficiencies or need investment.

Map out your organisation’s use of digital under big headings. You might do this in Word or Excel or something else. List your activity and make a note about how well these work. Include non-digital methods too and aspirational uses of digital. Talk to your colleagues and users to get a broad picture. Add in data about effectiveness if you have it.

Here are some headings to get you started:

  • external comms (eg website, social media, newsletter, forums)
  • internal comms (with staff, volunteers, trustees)
  • fundraising (eg website, contactless donations, thank you processes, databases)
  • systems (eg HR, payroll, volunteer management, purchasing, finance, CRM, online payment, document management)
  • services.

At this stage you might also do an audit of your peers and competitors in terms of their digital services and external comms. What benchmark are they setting in terms of what they provide to their stakeholders? What works and what doesn’t? Their digital services might be on a small scale such as out-of-hours contact or much bigger, such as full digital service provision.

An audit might also include a review of your infrastructure and kit. Where are the barriers to progress? Do you have an ancient database or lots which don’t talk to each other for example? Do you have enough PCs and are they installed with the right software? Can people work from home? Also, where are your digital risks? This might be cyber security, GDPR / data protection concerns or lack of IT support. This colourful diagram made sense to me as a way of showing an organisation’s infrastructure and where the risks are.

Finally, what is your digital culture like? Do your colleagues have the knowledge and skills to deliver your strategy? What is the mindset towards digital? You could run a skills audit to find out where people are at. NCVO’s building a digital workforce resource includes a template audit. Benchmark your results against the sector (via the annual Charity Digital Report). Who are the digital champions in your organisation?

Building a strategy

Developing a strategy which is practical, meaningful and actionable is the next step. What this looks like will depend on what you want it to achieve. It should always reference your organisation’s overall strategy and how digital will be used to deliver these goals.

It can be as broad or specific as you need. It could determine a direction of travel or have set goals and targets. It should include dependencies and outline where investment is needed.

It should always launch with an understanding that it will not succeed without buy-in from all involved, especially those with power to make it happen. A strategy needs to be owned and driven by someone in order for it to achieve real change.

Other useful links

Do check out Digital Candle if you haven’t already. This is a new platform from Matt Collins connecting charity leaders with digital experts who can give an hour’s phone time. Book your call or volunteer your services.

Your recommendations

What are your tips for developing a digital strategy? What made yours work? Please share in the comments.

Can I help you?

Get in touch if I can help you with digital planning, training or strategy. I work with charities of all shapes and sizes.

One thought on “Getting started with digital strategy

  1. Pingback: What does digital engagement mean? - Lightful

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