Framework for Successful Digital Communication Strategy

Developing a Robust Digital Communication Strategy for Your Nonprofit

As a nonprofit leader, you’ve probably spent hours in meetings discussing your organizational plan. Most organizations are well aware that they must invest time and resources into defining who they are, what they do, and why they do it.

Unfortunately, many nonprofits stop here, without putting that same amount of effort into developing a robust digital communication strategy. Too often, they mistakenly jump to the tactical level launching their social media channels, websites, and email campaigns without crafting a strategy to guide all these digital activities to support your organizational goals.

Before you get to the practical work of crafting and publishing campaigns, it’s critical to focus on the three main components of a digital strategy: messaging, motivation, and measurement.

  • Messaging = What are you saying about the work that you do and how it affects the people in your audience
  • Motivation = How are you calling your audience to action? What’s in it for them?
  • Measurement = Are you understanding and tracking the performance of your digital campaigns and brand presence so that you can optimize and iterate your efforts


Many organizations think of digital communication strategy as just another way to disseminate the information they’ve already created. But pasting images of your 12-page major donor booklet or your latest white paper straight to Facebook isn’t effective.

Yes, you should definitely take advantage of the content you’ve already produced, but you must take the content and information you have and repackage it for digital use. (For instance, this blog post is a re-purposing of an upcoming eBook). In the world of digital content and technology, everything moves fast. This is why the messaging in your print publications, in-person meetings, or events needs to be optimized for digital channels. Mainly, digital messaging needs to be distilled into fast, easy-to-digest moments.

Social media is first and foremost social in nature. People do business in this space, but they think about the messages in a much different way. They want to engage with brands, companies, and nonprofits—but in a casual, personal manner. It’s crucial to know the cadence and tone of successful social messaging, because people will not hesitate to scroll past your entries or switch apps when the message is falling flat.

With so many ways to opt-out of your message, you need to learn how to keep people engaged with, listening to, and speaking about your mission. Proper messaging for the platform accomplishes this by using the right mix of message, graphics, and placement to reach them.


As with all communication efforts, success hinges on your ability to connect to the recipient’s passion with your mission. The recipient needs to feel motivated to give (or volunteer or act or engage.)

The great thing about digital communication is that you have the opportunity for countless connections that sync your constituents to your nonprofit. Digital platforms allow you to stay connected with your constituents so that when it’s time for raising money or getting folks to volunteer, their hearts are already primed to say “yes”.

You can maximize the strength of that bond by crafting messages fit for the digital space as well as remembering that relationships take two people. Digital platforms give you the ability to build deeper relationships—it’s that Human-to-Human touch that we speak of so often here at Firefly Partners! The following questions help connect the dots between what’s important to your organization and what’s important to your donor:

  • How can you connect meaningfully with your audience?
  • How does your reason for everything you do connect with their reason for acting?
  • How does the way you see the world and the issues you face fit the way they see them?
  • How does engaging with your organization improve your donor’s life, emotional well-being, and sense of accomplishment?

Understanding what drives your donors will help you connect with them in ways that motivate them to invest in your mission. Motivation is all about finding ways to use your messaging to connect with your donor’s desires, interests, and dreams for change in the world.


One benefit of digital strategy is that you can watch your campaign’s effectiveness nearly in real-time. Every digital content platform—emails, social media, and website—offers ways to measure how people are interacting with your digital content.

Unfortunately, many organizations do not measure the results of their digital strategy—even through digital platforms make this one of the easiest things to do! Here are just some examples of ready made metrics digital platforms allow you to track:

Measuring performance helps you know when to pivot or refine your messaging so you can motivate donors more effectively. For example, use M+R Benchmarks as a starting point for the above metrics. If you’re not yet reaching those average points for your industry, a good goal is to work toward those metrics. As you continually surpass your goals, you can then set new goals.

In addition, you can measure how well your campaign is doing by creating SMART goals for each engagement. How would this apply, let’s say, to an email fundraising campaign?

  • Specific: track the email click-through rates (CTR) for the campaign
  • Measurable: CTR percentage is auto-created by the email marketing tool
  • Assignable: task a data or email marketing person with reoccurring CTR collection
  • Relevant: CTR indicates supporter engagement with your content: a higher percentage indicates greater CTA response
  • Time-Based: Compare current year-to-date CTR to last year’s or even to last year’s overall CTR (Note: This number will change after each email you send.)

Tracking your digital performance will provide a wealth of information that you can apply to future campaigns.


These three components—Messaging, Motivation, and Measurement—of a solid digital communication strategy are meant to be a constant process. For your strategy to work, you have to continue tweaking, refining, re-motivating, opening new digital channels, and so on. Being consistent is critical to success in digital communication strategy.

All that work is worth it! Digital strategy has the potential to keep the lifeblood of your organization pumping. With steady, consistent communications, you will connect with your constituents and keep them on-mission with you. Your digital strategy should be a living, breathing part of the organization—just as important as your overall organizational strategic plan and a key part of boosting your Human-to-Human engagement.

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