The Digital-First Revolution Beckons. Is Your Nonprofit Ready to Join In?

Learn how your nonprofit organization can adapt to — and harness — the changes of the digital revolution. It's to your mission's benefit to do so quickly.
How to understand the digital media platform investment Website

From viral videos and targeted ads to tweetstorms and the 24/7 news cycle, the attention economy is more crowded and demanding than ever. You know it as a consumer because you experience it on your own screens each day. And you know it as a social impact leader because you increasingly struggle to seize and retain your audience’s divided attention.

Whether your nonprofit focuses on food deserts or fire prevention, you exist to do the deeply important work of creating a better world. But your boots-on-the-ground efforts aren’t enough to make it happen — at least not in isolation. If you don’t build and nurture a robust digital media platform, you’ll never amplify your message, mobilize your supporters, and realize your maximum impact potential.

It's one thing to recognize that the social impact revolution is digital. However, the mechanics of actually embracing a digital media model are another story. Figuring it out is necessary if you want to stand out from the pack and diversify your revenue stream. But how exactly can you overcome your current capacity and funding barriers to make it happen?

How Your Nonprofit Should Chart a Course to the Top of the Digital Media Mountain

Reconfiguring your organization into a digital-first powerhouse will almost certainly require a major lift (not to mention a mental shift). The good news? You don't need to have the internal capacity and capabilities already in place to make it happen. You can partner with an external agency to lay a strategic foundation and jump-start your digital metamorphosis. Once you’ve established a fully functioning digital model, you can work to build up the internal capacity to sustain it long-term.

At Cosmic, we’ve developed a proven process to help nonprofit organizations achieve digital transformation. Here’s how it works.

Step 1: Diagnosis

If you want to find the most efficient route to the top of the proverbial mountain, you must first take stock of your current location. We begin our engagement with a diagnostic that provides a 360-degree view of your organization’s existing brand and digital ecosystem. This includes a deep dive into your:

By assessing what you already have — and what you still need — we quickly key in on specific recommendations to advance your digital efforts and maximize your real-world impact.

As we look for solutions, we don’t just pinpoint opportunities to accelerate your digital capabilities with external partners. We also unearth ways to more fully leverage your existing resources in service of your goals. Do you have a staffer with the necessary skills to beef up your social media outreach? A dedicated volunteer with video production experience? A board member who is willing to step up their fundraising efforts? We’ll find ways to apply those resources as you spin up your digital media function.

Step 2: Build a roadmap

Once we’ve oriented ourselves to your starting point, it’s time to chart a course toward your target destination. We guide your team in creating a comprehensive roadmap that details each step you must take to build a robust and sustainable digital media model.

Remember, there’s more than one way to get to the top of the mountain — which means there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. The right path for your organization will depend on your unique situation. How big is your staff, and what are their capabilities? Have you developed a rock-solid theory of change? How polished is your brand, and to what degree is it recognized? Are you already creating and distributing digital content? In what ways do you mobilize your supporters? And what is your current fundraising strategy? The answer to these (and many other) questions will play a role in shaping your roadmap.

Step 3: Set your fundraising strategy

Grants and donations are the fuel that powers your organization’s digital journey. But if you’re trapped in the classic nonprofit starvation cycle, simply finding the resources for the first leg may seem all but impossible. Regardless of your organization’s current financial situation, you should start by setting a high-level fundraising strategy. Doing so is critical for developing diversified and sustainable revenue streams.

We work with you to refine and formalize a fundraising strategy that makes sense for your organization. For example, should you go after small individual donations at scale? Implement a membership program? Decide to rely on major gifts and grants? Or some combination of all three? Your fundraising goals (along with your impact objectives) should drive your digital marketing efforts.

In addition, we can guide you in setting a realistic budget for the immediate work of spinning up a digital media model — and offer tips for how to get donors on board with your plan.

Step 4: Craft donor selling points

The most forward-thinking funders understand the value of funding nonprofits’ marketing and communications efforts. But all funders (even those who prefer restricted funding models) appreciate a detailed, well-conceived ask complete with compelling selling points.

Your digital media roadmap delivers just that. It shows that you have a clear and precise plan to grow and sharpen your brand and digital presence. You aren’t just asking for money for unspecified or ongoing marketing communications. You’re asking for funds to fuel a highly structured process that drives proven results. When they see your plan, your funders will know exactly what their money will help you achieve.

In addition, the digital media model is intended to significantly diversify your revenue streams. By funding your digital transformation, your funders can assist you in becoming more financially independent — and reduce the likelihood that you’ll need their help in the future.

Step 5: Take the first step. And the next one. And the next.

If the thought of putting all the pieces of your digital media roadmap in place seems daunting, you aren’t alone. But once you’ve mapped a course and armed yourself with the right tools and resources, the only thing left to do is to get moving. After all, strategy is important. But it’s what you do with it that really counts. (That’s why, while we always start with strategic consulting, it’s the execution that gets our hearts racing with excitement.)

If you decide to partner with Cosmic to implement your roadmap, expect to move quickly and take big leaps. Together, we can achieve in a few months the kind of radical transformation that might take you years to pull off on your own. But that’s only possible if you have the guts and determination to sprint along with us.

And you should. Because embracing the digital media model isn’t really optional anymore. After all, if you want to spread your message and scale your impact, you must first ensure that your brand is both highly visible and culturally relevant.

The question, then, shouldn’t be “should we try this?” It should be “how quickly can we make it happen?” If you’re ready to ask the second question, let’s talk.

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