How to build a successful website and digital strategy in the charity and third sector

Today, 60% of charities have a digital strategy, representing an 11% increase since 2020. In our current digital world, using the opportunity that websites and social media offer is crucial for any organisation’s growth, success, or outreach.

Building an effective strategy to maximize this opportunity requires technical expertise—technology is constantly evolving, the algorithms on social media platforms are regularly modified, and maintaining SEO requires consistent analysis and modifications. We recommend that organisations use agencies to help them navigate the complexities of digital platforms in order to develop the strongest possible strategy.

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know, including:

  • What is a digital strategy?
  • What you need to build one
  • How to get started
  • Key tricks to remember
  • Challenges you’ll encounter
  • How agencies can help you


What is a digital strategy in the non-profit world?

For non-profits and charities, making use of an effective digital strategy is an opportunity to reach the broadest possible audience, target specific audience demographics, and maximize the organisation’s impact, all at the same time. The digital strategy represents a plan that brings together your impact goals, engagement intentions, fundraising targets, and donor obligations, all under the umbrella of digital marketing.

Digital strategy is an increasingly essential focus point for charities and non-profits as the world moves online. Previous fundraising and outreach have become outdated, including in-person campaigning, mailings, phone calls, and community gatherings. But, digital strategy is typically a pain point in these sectors, as 44% of charities feel that they are lacking when it comes to understanding users and conducting user research to inform new campaigns and services.

What do you need to create a successful digital strategy?

In order to develop a thorough and effective digital marketing strategy, your organisation needs to devise a cohesive multi-channel approach and data-driven methodology. This will require testing out different forms of communication and messaging approaches to see which options resonate with your intended audience, developing timelines, and using custom-built platforms that give you the flexibility to easily create campaigns and landing pages.

Custom built website

The foundation of any digital and web strategy is a customized website that caters to the exact needs of your organisation, is optimized for SEO and user performance, and establishes a consistent brand image and voice. Website templates have their limits in terms of how they can be structured to best serve your organisation’s intentions, needs, and mission, and a custom-built website allows you to leverage the expertise of web developers who can maximize your site functionality to engage users and reach the people you need to reach. A website is the home base for all of your digital marketing, so optimising this platform is essential to make the rest of your strategy thrive.

Agencies with SEO experts can help charities optimize their website’s performance in the search engine to increase visitors and access new audiences. Working with an agency means they will take care of:

  • Matching up metrics with SEO components to accurately measure progress and success.
  • Preforming keyword research to reach the right audiences and increase your rankings in the Google search.
  • Optimize the layout of your website to drive visitors to the most important pages.
  • Analyse your competitors.
  • Complete technical SEO audits to ensure your site’s user experience isn’t hindering its overall performance.
  • Measure and assess your strategy, making regular adjustments to meet goals and targets.

Social media

Social media marketing is one of the main ways to access new audiences and grow your reach and following as an organisation. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok bring organic reach opportunities beyond a website. Cross-posting content, running digital campaigns and developing a video content schedule optimize your outreach engagement. However, it is essential to emphasize that sustaining a successful social media content strategy takes consistency and a significant amount of strategic content creation work. It is not a side task and often requires a dedicated person full-time or an agency that can act as your in-house team.

This agency can provide you with more than just the content for each social media post, but will also:

  • Analyse metrics and understand the story they tell.
  • Assess audience demographics and determine which platforms are a priority.
  • Outline targets and goals in terms of reach, engagement, fundraising, conversions, and more.
  • Create a posting schedule, including optimizing the time of day for each post.

Online fundraising

Incorporating digital fundraising campaigns allows you to reach your donors and generate momentum for your cause. Leveraging the tools of a customer relationship management (CRM) system can allow your organisation to not only track and communicate with donors more easily, but also integrate payment platforms into your digital strategy to make the process of collecting donations seamless and automated.

CRMs specifically oriented toward charities and non-profits include Donorfy, Beacon, CiviCRM, and DonorPerfect. By integrating the payment platform feature of any of these software platforms into your custom website, your online fundraising campaigns can all be directed back to a unified landing page that collects accurate data and contact details of each new and existing donor.

Email marketing

Developing a newsletter is an important way to keep in contact with your target audience, update your followers and donors on new endeavours, and provide a hub of news and links to all of your content, campaigns, and social media and website links. By building out an email list comprised of individuals who voluntarily provided their contact information, you have the option to create personalized marketing, which has been shown to increase monetary intent by 78%. Some of the best email marketing platforms for charities and non-profits include Mailchimp, Zoho Campaigns, Campaign Monitor, and MailerLite.

How to begin with your digital strategy

  1. Determine your organisation’s goals: Depending on your focus, you will prioritize different elements of your digital strategy. Suppose you are looking to broaden your audience, encourage your existing donors to participate again, or branch out into a new demographic. In that case, you will employ different strategies and focuses across the digital marketing landscape. Identifying these goals and priorities at the outset will ensure that you are developing a strategy to serve your organisation in the best possible way.
  2. Understand your audience: In order to access the right audience, you will need to meet them where they are. Different demographic groups engage with digital and social media platforms in different ways. For example, if your non-profit targets a retired population, you would not want to be conducting your outreach by posting content on TikTok. However, if you are looking to engage teens and young adults, TikTok, where 40% of Gen Z say they are directly influenced by brands they see on the platform, or YouTube, which is primarily 15-35-year-olds, may be the right place to focus your energy.
  3. Get a custom-built website: As discussed earlier, getting a bespoke website is the first step to set your organisation up for a successful digital strategy. Work with a team with experience building successful websites with integrated digital strategies for non-profits or charities as your first investment. That way they can ensure that your website will speak to all your other channels and tools such as your CRM or fundraising and donation platforms.
  4. Sign up for tools and services: There are a variety of platforms and tools out there to help charities and non-profits maximize their digital reach. For example, Google Ad Words offers grants to UK charities, the YouTube Non-Profit Programme provides unique tools to these organisations, Hootsuitehelps users organise their social media content, and SproutSocial enables you to manage your inbox and direct messages.
  5. Work with content writers and copywriters: Whether you choose to expand your team by bringing someone on full-time or outsource your content creation to freelancers on a project basis, hiring someone to develop content for you will ensure you are consistent and intentional with your digital strategy. Generating social media posts, blog posts, and email newsletters can be a lot of work and quickly falls off the list of priorities for someone who doesn’t have that as their primary responsibility, and therefore outsourcing the content creation is often the most efficient solution.

Tips to remember

There are endless ways to expand one’s digital strategy and infinite directions an organisation can take, so it is vital to keep these ideas in mind:

  • Don’t get overwhelmed with analytics: Taking a data-driven approach is essential. In order to know if your strategy is working, you will need to reflect on metrics and analytics and use that information to tweak your approach. However, ensure that you are focusing on metrics that are representative of your organisation’s goals. There are many KPIs out there, and it is possible to drown in the data.
  • Consistency is key: If you don’t have the bandwidth to maintain five social media platforms with frequent, high-quality content, then focus on one. Having a solid presence that adds value to viewers and followers is more important than spreading yourself thin.
  • Learn from your competitors: Check out what your peers are posting and the strategies they are taking and see what resonates with your approach. Learn from the content you see around you.
  • Work with an agency: Let experts help you build the technical and strategic foundation you need to succeed. The up-front investment will bring returns and save you endless time and resources.

The challenges of creating a strong website

Building a website that reaches your targeted audience and brings organic traffic and growth takes an immense amount of technical knowledge and analysis. The sitemap needs to be sketched out through wireframing and mock-ups and paired with programming languages and frameworks that can bring it to life. This step also requires web designers to map the customer journey to enable the organisations’ priorities to succeed.

From there, the site’s design entails user experience (UX) and user interface (UI) expertise to develop a visual and interactive layout that is intuitive and engaging and will encourage users to spend more time on the platform. Additionally, when working with the content creation and coding of the website, you will need to conduct analysis to determine the optimal SEO strategy, necessary keywords, and technical SEO requirements.

How can agencies help you?

With expertise in digital marketing, web development, and web design for non-profits and charities, agencies are able to take care of the technical, analytical, and strategic elements of your custom-built website and digital strategy approach. Agencies can help you generate organic traffic through SEO, develop a mobile-first web approach, create a custom WordPress or Jamstack site, optimise your UX and UI, and conduct beta testing to determine the best technical and content approach to engage with your target users.

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