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No Longer Optional: Your Digital Strategy in 2021

Posted: 1/21/2021

Click here to read on Candid.

by David M. Holmes

You've probably seen it in your own family: what I might call "the rueful acceptance of technology." For safety's sake, that grandparent or brother or sister (or you!) who hates the internet, or who doesn't particularly care for words like "the cloud" and "streaming"—they're making efforts to learn Zoom, or at least get onto social media, just to remain connected to the people they care most about. And beyond the ruefulness, I've heard a few say that, though it's not perfect, it's more rewarding than they expected.

Staff of some nonprofits that I work with as a Candid trainer have a similar ambivalence about technology. Prior to COVID, they were semi-comfortable using social media or virtual meetings, but most greatly preferred person-to-person engagement. Ask any schoolteacher, any youth development professional, any front-line worker, and they'll tell you that there's no substitute for the personal connection.

But when it's a matter of life or death for their clients or students, they will find a way. With COVID limitations still in place for the foreseeable future, even reluctant nonprofit staff are choosing to be more digitally innovative. I've learned a lot about innovations using mixed reality and new ways of using technology to create virtual events, virtual tours, and virtual connections. They aren't the same as their in-person counterparts, but they are essential and surprisingly effective.

So what should you do if your colleagues (or you!) are rueful acceptors of technology? Tereza and Pumulo have some great suggestions for 2021:Lightful's Pumulo Banda and Tereza Litsa recently hosted a webinar with Candid, Planning your Digital Strategy for 2021. Their main point was: Digital technology is no longer optional. 2020 showed the world that it was possible to respond to a terrible crisis in a way that could continue and expand a nonprofit's mission delivery. With virtual events, many nonprofits found that they could increase their reach, bring in new audiences, and add more possibilities for audience participation. And the growth of new pathways for giving in the COVID era showed that donors still want to give and to support nonprofit innovation and new solutions.

  • Go from reactive to proactive: 2020 was all about reacting to sudden challenges. In 2021, it's time to be proactive. Use all the learnings from the past year to take stock of your current situation.
  • Start with an audit: What is your capability in the digital realm? Do you have a presence on all types of social media? Is your website up to date? What are the strengths and weaknesses of your use of social media and email?
  • Confirm your target audiences and their habits: How can you reach your primary and secondary audiences the most directly? Have their engagement habits changed over the past year?

Pumulo and Tereza also note five of the best ways to boost your digital presence in 2021:

  • Start the year by working on a content calendar to get your digital channels ready for what's coming up.
  • Spend the time to forge partnerships that will help you spread your message to a new audience.
  • Narrow down your objectives to smaller wins. Smaller wins mean celebrating achievements as they happen, and making your goals less intimidating. They add up!
  • Review your messaging: How is your mission adapting to the impact of COVID-19? Is your messaging still relevant?
  • Experiment cautiously: Test out messaging, visuals, and advertising—it's good to use A/B testing to get clarity on what's really working.

If you want to learn more about making the best use of digital technology in 2021, you can watch the whole webinar here.

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