Quite a few of the charities we support with digital change ask for help with framing their digital strategy.
Sometimes people ask us if we have a template for a digital strategy. I never share one, because a good strategy
needs to be your own, not something off the shelf. But what would I put in a digital strategy? Here are some key
ideas gleaned from talking to hundreds of organisations at
all stages in their digital development.
Some key choices and questions
- What stage are you at with digital? Are you looking for a basic starting point, or
are you looking to optimise things that have already been in place for a while?
ambitious do you want to be? Are you a small organisation with very limited capacity, or are
you a larger organisation with a significant team and budget? What are organisations like yours achieving in
terms of digital?
- How much resource? This covers both financial budgets and the
amount of time you have available. Do you have a dedicated digital team or will this work be fitted into other
- Over what timeframe? Digital technology moves very fast, so a 5-year
digital strategy would be rather unwise. On the other hand if your strategy only covers 12 months you will have
limited time to effect real change.
- Stand-alone or embedded? Some organisations
who are just getting started with digital can find it useful to write a dedicated digital strategy document.
Other organisations who are at an ‘optimising’ stage may find it better to embed strategic digital goals into
their wider strategy documents.
- Organisation’s mission and type of work. Your
digital strategy needs to be closely aligned to your organisation’s wider role and key goals. An advocacy
organisation looking to raise awareness of an issue will have different digital challenges and priorities to a
large service provider.
- Organisational culture and ways of working. ‘Culture eats
strategy for breakfast’. How does change happen in your organisation? What helps your team feel inspired about
change? A consultant I know often highlights the fact that ‘corporate’ documents with dozens of pages of
numbered recommendations are often a poor fit for the sector. On the other hand, a strategy that is just
hand-wavy aspirations may struggle to get traction.
Core themes any digital strategy needs to cover
- User needs and social impact need to be front and centre. Who will be enabled to do what
differently and why? What tangible differences will you see if your strategy succeeds?
- You need
to be an optimistic realist. Don’t settle for things as they are but remember that not everything
will go to plan. A zero-risk strategy is almost certainly not ambitious enough.
and accountability: who will do what, and how will you know that things are on
- Be really clear on overall goals and intentions. A really clear overall story
about what you are trying to do will help people understand what you are trying to achieve and will help your
team set priorities and make choices.
- Be flexible on specific work areas,
especially where there are unknowns
Core topics within digital
Spoiler alert: you shouldn’t try to cover all of these areas. You’ll end up spreading yourself too thin and not
achieving anything. This won’t be your last ever digital strategy, so it’s better to do a few key things well
than try to do everything. You can use tools like an effort/value matrix to help you work out which areas need
most investment and attention. And you can use a framework like a knowledge board to help you spot your riskiest
User insight, learning and testing
Using trends and insights to improve your services. Developing and running tests and sharing learning as you
Strategy and leadership
Who ‘owns’ the strategy and who is backing it at a senior level? Are you modelling optimistic realism and
openness to change?
Team culture, confidence and skills
Draw on the strengths your team already has and look for ways to build capacity and confidence over the longer
term. You want your team to become confident choosers, users and shapers of technology.
Audience, reach and profile
Simply, who you are engaging with and how well your communications activity is performing.
User experience and service performance
If people are doing things like booking appointments, using services or getting advice, what is their
experience? How could it be improved?
Content, marketing and data
What content are you delivering, how are you promoting it and what data are you gathering about how this is
Tools, technology and infrastructure
What kind of technology (websites, IT systems, online platforms) do you have in place? What needs updating? How
is it supported? Are your team able to do what they need to do with technology?
Cyber security, business resilience and data protection
How do you keep the show on the road should the worst happen? A major data breach or a significant interruption
to services. How do you take steps to prevent the worst happening?
Investment, procurement and key partnerships
Have you got the right investment and budget in place to deliver the changes you need to see? How do you
commission new technology? Do you have effective technology partners?
This post has covered a lot of ground but hopefully it will help you make progress with your digital strategy. If
you’d like some more support, why not take SCVO’s free digital
checkup? This gives you a valuable digital capability baseline and you can book a free 1-to-1 call to
explore your next steps.