Digital strategy | Top Tips

Is your charity digital strategy more than just a document?

When picturing a charity digital strategy, many of us will envisage a snazzy, online document… A PDF full of promise and potential.

By Emma Owens · June 1, 2022

More than just a document

However, a successful charity digital strategy is not just that. To make an impact, it needs to be a living, evolving asset that is communicated properly, kept up to date and engages the right people. A document is just an expression of that strategy. It’s a way to write down your plan – it’s just the start. 

The problem with ‘a document’ is that even the most critiqued, most researched strategy document is likely to fade into the background because it probably has a date on it. As soon as that date looks old and another important report takes centre stage, it feels irrelevant, even if it’s not.

Using different tools instead of just a document can give a charity digital strategy life. Consider, for example, using a Kanban board as a roadmap with goals and activities that promote continual review. Trello boards are also easy for people to engage with and to feel ownership of. Top-level goals from your strategy can remain throughout with activities sitting underneath, giving you a simple way to assess progress.

Making sure your strategy isn’t a forgotten pdf buried in your organisation’s Google Drive is super important, but it doesn’t end there. Let’s take a peek at more tips on producing and executing a valuable and engaging digital strategy.

Shelves showing many coloured document folders leaning against each other
person's back of head looking at a document list on a laptop screen
two hands holding coloured post-it notes saying the words To Do, Doing, Done

Map your stakeholders

Please don’t take on the digital strategy mission alone. Whilst it is important to have an owner who is accountable, it’s useful to map our stakeholders, highlighting team members who will support in making sure digital is heard. One way to ensure we have a team behind us is through the formation of a steering group. This can be made up of key members from the organisation who have a heavy involvement with digital and can act as our strategy champions.

Be careful to avoid the age old ‘too many cooks’ scenario. We probably don’t want more than about four to six people in the group, otherwise it can become unwieldy with a few too many opinions thrown into the mix. 

Connect your digital strategy to your organisational strategy.

There is no point in a charity digital strategy that is kept separate from the organisational strategy. It may be listened to with interest once, but unless it is meaningful to the day to day work of the organisation, it will struggle to feel like a priority. 

We recommend using the overall strategy to inform the digital strategy. A broader organisational objective for a charity might be ‘reach more people from underrepresented groups’, for example. So, when creating a digital strategy we can begin exploring potential ways that digital technologies and ways of working can help to reach those underrepresented groups and contribute to our organisational goal.

Less of the big reveal

The psychological pressure of taking on the creation of a digital strategy can be tough and for those involved, there may be a rollercoaster of different emotions. Often there can be a big dip, where the team may fall victim to a sense of boredom or despair once the strategy has been formulated, but this is exactly when we need to keep things moving. We need resolve as a team to reach the point where the strategy is properly implemented, results are visible and we can appreciate the pay off.

close up photo of woman blowing brightly coloured confetti out of her hands towards the camera

Moments of success

One way to avoid these lows is by thinking about how we can engineer some of those moments of success early on in the process. Seeing those successes happen early will inspire people to actually keep going. Let’s avoid that big reveal moment by creating small experiments, prototyping, executing the little things that have a pay off, and then making them bigger.

Communicate, communicate, communicate 

When it comes to getting engagement across the organisation, we can’t over communicate. Only at the point of being bored of communicating something, will people actually start to hear it. Constantly reiterate how the digital strategy is linked to the organisational strategy, what specifics need to be done, why they need to be done, and how teams could get involved in that.

Consider different mediums of communication to engage people. Parkinson’s UK, for example, created cost-efficient explainer videos which brought the potential of digital technologies to life. These were used in internal presentations and got teams, volunteers and conference attendees excited about what was developing. 

Providing regular updates on your digital progress or showcasing great work being done by other organisations is another way of exciting colleagues. However, it’s not all about excitement. Getting the organisation uncomfortable with this work is also a good measure of engagement. If people are just nodding along, they’re not paying attention to your charity digital strategy work. Pushback is great because it means people are paying attention and ultimately, that they care. We just must be sure to listen!

Get the full picture

This is an excerpt from our free charity digital strategy course which can be found over on our Skills Hub. The course features expert guidance from Matt Haworth, co-founder of Reason Digital, Julie Wilson-Dodd, a Transformation consultant and the former Director of Transformation at Parkinson’s UK and finally, Lucy Bushby, head of our Partnerships team, who has created and implemented digital strategies for the likes of MSI Reproductive Choices and Cycling UK.