It’s not enough to simply have an online presence: in fact, it can do more harm than good, unless you’ve got a well thought out strategy. Luke Edwards offers some valuable advice about how to develop and maximise effective online initiatives.

It’s not enough to simply have an online presence: in fact, it can do more harm than good, unless you’ve got a well thought out strategy. Luke Edwards offers some valuable advice about how to develop and maximise effective online initiatives.
Strategy Overlooked to the Detriment of Many

The online world is growing at an unbelievable rate, opening up new doors for organisations willing to listen, learn and embrace. For nonprofits, it presents unique opportunities to attract, engage and communicate with new and existing supporters.

But times are changing, and only those charities smart enough to take a strategic approach to their online initiatives will reap the rewards.

Within the nonprofit sector there has been a rush to ‘get online’, as evidenced through the use (and abuse) of a range of online channels. The ad hoc approach taken by many nonprofits is understandable, as staff are often forced to work to tight deadlines and may not have the resources, expertise or knowledge to implement a well thought out online strategy.

But it would appear that for too many nonprofits, near enough is good enough – which is a risky approach that threatens to damage their organisation’s brand and reputation.

Put simply, a job worth doing should be worth doing well. Fundraisers understand the benefits of trialing, testing and enhancing campaigns; your online strategy should be no different.

Many nonprofits (not all) are using online tools and if nothing else, proving one thing … that they have no idea what they are doing in this space, showing disrespect to ‘valued’ supporters who are subjected to badly executed communications and initiatives.

Communicating mixed messages, varying calls to action and showing no discernable integration between the online channels used (let alone integration with offline communication) are common mistakes.

It is vital to ensure that all your online activity is working together and that the various mediums play their role as part of your overall digital strategy.

To succeed in the online space you need to have a well thought out and truly integrated strategy that has clear and measurable objectives relevant to your organisation.

Your Objectives

The very first step is to set clear objectives which are aligned to your broader marketing objectives. You can’t develop a strategy until you first understand what it is you are trying to achieve.

Is your objective about information provision Fundraising Awareness Data collection? Fundraising? Awareness? Data collection?

There are often competing internal interests, which is why it is critical that you agree on the primary purpose of your site – you cannot be all things to all people!

Your Target Market

You need to identify your core target markets (‘everyone’ is not a target market!) and then develop ways to engage with those segmented groups in a meaningful manner that will evoke the desired response i.e. help you achieve your objectives.

Driving People to your Site

Most charities rely on offline marketing materials to drive traffic to their site. But consideration should also be given to online methods to engage supporters and attract them to your site. Some methods include:

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – to ensure your site ranks towards the top of the ‘natural’ search listings. Paid Search – purchasing key words relevant to your site so that it is listed in the ‘sponsored links’ of the search results page. Social Media (blogs, RSS, Facebook, MySpace etc.) – social platforms to engage your audience in a two-way conversation. Online Advertising (banner ads, micro sites, games etc) – highly targeted paid media. Email Marketing – there are many techniques and basic rules here so make sure you understand them (before sending a generic blast to every member of your database). Measuring Effectiveness

If you are using various online channels together but not tracking user behaviour, you are being inefficient.

Google Analytics is a free tool that can be used to analyse web activity to monitor, assess and enhance your online presence. To benefit from Google Analytics, your account needs to be setup and configured in line with your strategic objectives (IT staff all say they can do this – ask them to prove it).

Through this assessment, you will be able to continually optimise your website (and all online marketing channels) to influence user behaviour and drive the most valuable and meaningful traffic to your site i.e. those people most likely to help you achieve your objectives.

No longer are there excuses for not assessing your online marketing and fundraising initiatives; the beauty of the digital channel is that all online activity can be measured and optimised to fulfill specific objectives.

Those charities that invest appropriately in the time, resources and expertise required to implement well thought out and measurable online strategies will continue to be rewarded, now and in years to come.