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Digital transformation: Building a program for the road ahead

When the COVID-19 pandemic began its rapid spread in 2020, nonprofit organizations were forced into a digital transformation.

Of course, this is where we’ve been headed for years, but the nonprofit industry was forced to do some quick thinking and lean into their digital efforts on the fly.

People are still largely turning to online solutions for their daily lives—like online grocery shopping, virtual homeschooling and even virtual happy hours—and it's clear that these changes are here to stay.

That’s why now is the perfect time to be bold, try new things and optimize your digital program for the future.

In this article, we’ll discuss what digital transformation is and how your organization can use a data-driven approach to embrace it.

What is digital transformation?

Well, depending how you view it, it can have a couple different answers.

We’re here to discuss digital transformation as it pertains to the customer experience – or in fundraising terms, the donor journey.

Companies that are thriving right now have taken the customer experience and digitally transformed it. Think how Peloton has brought workouts to your home or how Netflix made binge-watching your favorite series on the couch accessible (not to mention socially acceptable) with the touch of a button.

Who says nonprofits can’t do the same? We need to give donors the opportunity to better connect with us on a digital level or we’ll be left in the dust.



Optimizing the donor journey

Start by fixing some of the simple things. What are some of the standard things your organization should have in place? How can you make them better and therefore enhance the donors’ digital experience?

Think of the low-hanging fruit that you can make changes on right now to increase your conversions. These could (among other things) include a mobile-responsive website and a donation page that is easily accessible to donors. From there, you can begin to optimize the donor journey.

Data plays a huge role in successful optimization. Have you fine-tuned your data to work for you? If you haven’t, then you’re not using your digital assets to their full potential.

With properly coded data you can begin to optimize the donor journey through three key strategies:

  • Segmentation: Donors ultimately choose what journey they are on. Segment your audiences based on what the data tells you about their channel preference, giving behavior, engagement behavior, persona and philanthropic profile.
  • Personalization: Use your segmentation to begin to personalize the message each donor sees. Address them by name, guide them toward custom content and create personalized gift arrays.
  • Automation: You can program a set of emails to be sent at specific times or as a reaction to specific behaviors. This will not only make things easier for you as a marketer, but will also help your content connect more immediately with incoming donors.

Be willing to adapt

I see adaptability as a combination of flexibility and readiness.

If you’re not ready to pivot and make flexible choices, you’re not taking advantage of all your digital toolbox has to offer.

As this situation has taught all of us, things can change drastically in a matter of days. Your digital channels have the tools to help you pivot and change your messages to fit the situation quickly.

Your flexibility is only as good as your readiness. Do you understand your organization’s infrastructure? Are you able to make quick adjustments to your website? Are you able to make quick announcements and share information on your social channels? Take the opportunity now to fix gaps in your program’s system to help you turn quickly now and in the future.

I also recommend looking ahead. By planning ahead and creating a disaster toolkit, with easy to use email templates, general videos asking for help, and a series of ad templates, you can quickly adapt in any situation and create authority in your space.

Experiment along the way

Once you feel like you have your foundation in place, you can focus on the future and try new things.

The digital space is constantly changing, and we want to challenge you to stay on the cutting edge.

If anything, the pandemic has forced nonprofits to experiment with new and innovative ways to stay connected with their donors digitally. Constituents and potential donors have also been coming to the table with a fuller sense of acceptance of different creative and tactics that are outside of the norm during this crisis. As a marketer, this opens the window of opportunity for you to experiment.

Flex your creativity muscles and try some new things. The opportunities are endless, and best of all—it’s OK to fail.

Successful digital transformation is all about how you change your approach to fundraising. The organizations who are authentic and go into it without fear will come out stronger on the other side.

Jenn Thompson

As Vice President of Digital Strategy at RKD Group, Jenn brings decades of experience working alongside nonprofits to create integrated digital strategies that lead to omnichannel growth and high-value donors. She has been with RKD since 2010, and she provides the digital plan of attack for dozens of nonprofit organizations.

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