Cosmic

In 2021's Digital-First Culture, Sustained Progress is Up to Your Organization

Social impact organizations’ digital positioning has never been more important. Learn how your nonprofit can continue engaging supporters throughout 2021.

Lisa Benson
December 10, 2020
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It’s not over. No, not 2020. The impact scaled by countless nonprofit organizations this year, and the opportunity to push that progress forward. Indeed, the last 12 months yielded significant gains in several ways for those in the social impact sphere. A definite silver lining in a time that has made our collective head spin.

No one would fault your organization for tiptoeing into 2021 with trepidation. But consider this: In less than a year, many nonprofits rapidly adapted to the tumult, learned from one another, and tenaciously transformed into digital-first organizations. Millions marched in the streets during a global pandemic in the name of social justice. The U.S. elections saw record turnout. All of that impact is extraordinary.

Nonprofit organizations navigated their usual challenges while also adjusting to the chaos 2020 tossed their way. So if your nonprofit didn't gain the traction you hoped for at the beginning of the year, don't worry. The opportunity for positive change is still there. Neither the progress you made — nor the imperative for continued action — will end when the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

Whether your social impact organization saw pivotal change or not, let the year’s collective momentum motivate you. Face the year ahead without fear, double-down on your mission, and fuel your focus.

How the Digital-First Revolution Drove Momentum for Social Issues in 2020

This year, connections between digital experiences and real-world action rose to the surface. Certain social impact organizations iterated quickly and upgraded their websites to accommodate donations and traffic surges. Conversions of casual supporters to long-term advocates exploded. Large-scale issues became highly visible: housing and food insecurity, voter suppression, climate change repercussions, and systemic racism. The reality of these issues spurred masses of people to get involved from all over the world.

Social impact organizations were all too ready to respond, delivering guidance and calls to action. They adapted their digital platforms to accommodate their new supporters. And they delivered up-to-date information with tangible ways to get involved, providing engagement opportunities at a deeper level. Organizations optimized their CRMs and adopted more efficient donation platforms in order to keep up with the surge of new supporters. A welcome demand, to be sure.

It is undeniable that the digital-first revolution facilitated so much of the conversation and energy around these large, systemic issues. Organizations took the digital media model to the next level. They reached larger geographic areas and made donations, letter writing, online auctions, and educational Zoom presentations accessible with nothing more than an internet connection. Just look at what the Democratic National Convention did. They hosted an entirely virtual event and achieved their end goal of getting Joe Biden elected president.

Right now, people consume exponentially more content because social impact organizations spread their messages through digital media. And they are responding in earnest. Supporters are getting off the couch and into the street (literally) with organizations that up until recently they hadn't heard of. They are inspired by the progress they see in their newsfeeds and social media accounts — and they want to be part of it.

Social Impact Organizations: Your Unique Digital Position is More Important Than Ever

Each eruptive event of 2020 triggered the urgent need for conversation — and direct action. The shift to a digital-first culture allowed social impact organizations to effectively disseminate and amplify information, key messaging, and engagement opportunities. Adopting a digital media model made it easier for nonprofits to form synergistic partnerships and work toward like-minded missions.

Take movements like Black Lives Matter, #StrikeforClimate, and the ACLU’s fight against voter suppression. All of these campaigns were in motion before the events of 2020 thrust them front and center. Despite restrictions due to COVID-19, we saw these movements grow and evolve — made possible, in large part, thanks to the embrace of the digital-first culture.

And this is important to recognize: Internationally, millions of people risked a global pandemic to peacefully protest for change. Doesn't that shine a bright light on where people's priorities are? This profound level of evaluation between life-altering movements and a life-threatening disease has made it clear that enough is enough. The people have responded to meet the moment and will continue to do so. But they need nonprofit organizations like yours to guide and mobilize them.

Sustained movement is happening. Social impact causes are finally receiving ongoing media attention. Now is not the time to relax your efforts to amplify your organization’s message, call for action, or grow your supporters. The energy is still vibrating. There’s more work to be done.

10 Steps To Complete Your Digital-First Transformation

Your organization has done a rapid response in 2020 and changed at a fundamental level. Take these 10 steps to review what you have accomplished and complete the transformation into a digital-first, social impact leader.

How to Sustain Advocacy and Keep Supporters Engaged in a Post-2020 World

No matter what your supporters have gone through this year, they need to know they still have a role to play when it comes to furthering change. It’s important to note they may feel compassion fatigue setting in. But it’s up to you to point to the unlikely hope generated in a year that was otherwise overshadowed by hardship.

Here’s the thing. Everyone wants a sense of control, hope, and purpose right now. Through your digital media platform, you can reach out to your audience and convince them to take the next steps right along with you, giving them a reason to be encouraged. Your clear calls to action can compel people to show up. In doing so, you can bridge the gap between “slacktivism” and real-world change. And that is necessary if we’re going to continue to see this year's traction permeate the future.

The colder weather and continued pandemic restrictions mean more people have attention to spare. Strike while the iron’s hot and create scroll-stopping content that grabs your supporters' attention and doesn’t let go. Compel people to believe that connection to your cause is crucial for furthering change. Show them dynamic ways your area of focus fits into the larger conversation. Because it does.

As 2020 fades away in the rearview mirror, drive ahead with the hope and knowledge there’s more change is on the horizon.

And it’s time for you to hit the accelerator (in your electric car).

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