Creating a digital strategy for charities for the next phase of COVID-19

Tereza Litsa
Digital Engagement Manager
12 Jan 2021

Right after the initial shock and the months of uncertainty with COVID-19, it’s time to think of what’s comes next. As we’re moving on from the emergency fundraising, we know that the crisis is not over.

It’s important to think what the ‘new normal’ looks like for your charity, both internally and externally.

As services, events, volunteering and meetings move online, it’s imperative to embrace digital communications. Many charities had to adjust their content in the first months of COVID-19 and we’ve also chatted with our BRIDGE participants all over the world on the challenges and the opportunities during the crisis.

Many of them are now ready to be more digital.

However, it can be hard to get started if

  • You don’t have a digital strategy in place
  • You don’t have a digital expert in your small team
  • You are still unsure how to handle the post-crisis planning

We are looking at the elements of the digital strategy for charities and how to set up your own digital framework.

You will also find a practical worksheet to use with your team and a digital framework created by Beth Kanter. Keep reading 🙂

Creating or reviewing your digital strategy

This is the best time to create or review your digital strategy.

You don’t need to spend endless hours on drafting a 40-page document that would serve as a strategy. But it’s good to pause and reflect on what’s working and what you want to improve.

What should your digital strategy include?


Start with a digital audit. List all the digital channels that you’re active. Add a link and 1-2 sentences to describe how you’re using them and what you want to try next. This could be a summary of your practical actions for the next months.


You don’t need a detailed content calendar as part of your digital strategy. We know that it’s hard right now to predict what the content could look like in three months time.

However, you can focus on the themes and the campaigns that you’re currently planning. Think of this section as a ‘placeholder’ for your plans, provided that a major crisis is not changing your schedule again.

For example, you can mention your Christmas campaign, Giving Tuesday, any other reason to plan your content ahead.

You can also mark important Awareness Days that are relevant for your organisation.

All these can help you have a quick overview of what’s coming up while keeping your plans visible with the rest of the team.


Your strategy and your future plans depend on your available resources.

The growing uncertainty can make it harder to ‘think big’ especially if you’re part of a small team.

It’s important to consider the capacity of your team members before you finalise your strategy.

You don’t want to burn out your team by being too ambitious. This doesn’t mean that you can’t change your current plans. You can still be creative and try new ideas within your capabilities.


We tend to set out our objectives at the start of the year. Or at the start of the financial year. However, 2020 is certainly different.

The impact of COVID-19 has affected our planning for the upcoming months and thus, our objectives.

Work on new SMART goals that define your new digital strategy.

  • Set a new target on maintaining and increasing your digital engagement
  • Update your fundraising targets based on the adjustments you’ve had to make the recent months
  • Work on your financial plan and how it affects your charity
  • Think what success looks like for your social media channels

Your smart objectives can be quantitative and qualitative.

For example, fundraising might be crucial for your organisation’s survival, but you can still set a SMART goal to tell 5 stories of your beneficiaries as part of your next campaigns.

By focusing on storytelling, you can increase your online engagement and thus, be more appealing to prospective donors.

When it comes to SMART objectives, make sure you are both ambitious and realistic.

Your goals should have a set timeframe to make them achievable and easy to measure.

Target Audience

Whether you’ve worked on defining your target audience in the past or not, it’s still a good time to review your personas.

Who do you want to reach with your content?

You might have discovered a new persona as part of your target audience during COVID-19. Or you might have noticed that the more you use your channels, the more you understand your followers.

Either way, it’s good to look at your channels and the Insights that will help you learn more about your target audience.

Moving Services online

A new digital strategy for the ‘new normal’ cannot ignore the changes in moving events, fundraising, community building, and services online.

You might have already adjusted to all these, but it’s still important to acknowledge the transition in your upcoming plans.

For example, are you planning an online fundraising event?

Will you host a Zoom event for your volunteers?

How are you currently dealing with digital Service delivery?

Most of us have instinctively tried to adjust to these over the last few months.

Now it’s time to start being more strategic.

  • Think of the tools that you’re currently using and whether you need to try out any new ones.
  • Consider the budget that you’re spending in the new phase and how you can be more cost-effective while getting the best value
  • Explore new ways to improve your support to your beneficiaries
  • Think outside the box with your current skills and team and any potential partnerships or grants that can upskill your organisation

Calculate the effort and the impact of your tactics

A good way to prioritise your digital plans with your team is to use an Impact/Effort matrix.

This is a decision-making tool that can help you map out all the opportunities based on your resources and skills.

A visual overview of all the key areas of focus can make it easier to decide on your priorities.

We’ve built a practical worksheet that you can use with the matrix.

Here’s how you can use it.

  1. Plan a meeting with your team
  2. Write down all the activities that you want to include in your digital plan at the left of the worksheet
  3. Start adding them at the Impact/Effort matrix and the four blocks based on their importance

It’s a good way to test what everyone is considering a priority and how you can work together to focus on the key activities for the next months.

The matrix can be the start of your future plans.

You can download it here.

Use Beth Kanter’s ‘Ready, Set, Go’ framework

Beth Kanter, nonprofit expert, master trainer, author and Lightful’s Senior Advisor, has created a ‘Ready, Set, Go’ framework to use when building your social media strategy.

We are lucky to have her covering it extensively on our BRIDGE programme with all the different ways that you can dive into the details.

You can still use it to organise your digital strategy and the key areas that you want to include.

What’s next?

There are many different ways to approach the creation or update of your digital strategy for charities.

What’s important is to acknowledge that things are changing and we simply have to be digital to survive.

Whether you’re in a small team or a larger organisation, it’s still helpful to spend even an hour to think of your digital priorities and how your team, your resources, and of course, your budget can help you focus on what matters.

There are many things that you can achieve even with minimum resources. All you need is a plan and clear objectives that will help you over the next months.

Good luck 🙂

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