The Three Digital Priorities For New Charities

Where to put your focus in the first 6–12 months.

Ab Brightman
3 min readMay 8, 2019

A friend asked me this question:

“What do you think would be comms and digital priorities for a new community organisation in its first 6–12 months?

It’s a voluntary organisation that relies on attracting younger people to volunteer with older people, and build a self-supporting community network.”

I was really excited to see this land in my inbox. This is a huge and crucial topic area, because great use of digital and comms can really elevate the reach and service quality of small groups and campaigns.

The below answer I gave him reflect this particular organisation’s context and my assumptions about their basic level of digital competency and set-up — but I wanted to share because there are definitely broader values in each point that may apply to your own work.

Got your own question? Get in touch.

Build confidence and skills beyond just one person

Straight from the start I would advise a group to prioritise ensuring the team around is confident and they see digital comms as a key part of innovation and volunteer engagement.

This will mean that everyone can and is more motivated to generate engaging content straight away but also means people don’t slip into a culture of working where they don’t consider their involvement and then you have a much harder task of trying to re-engage and train them a year in — so its both a long term strategic goal that will benefit from being brought to the short term too.

You can use the impact matrix I’ve created to see a simple pathway for your team’s involvement and improvement.

Training small teams from Oxford’s community groups in social media tactics.

User-centred service design

Beyond digital communications, user-centred digital service design is a really impactful area of work using digital to solve a problem that your users are having, especially I think working with older people. It’s also having support and funding made more and more available for organisations to test ideas out.

It doesn’t need to be BIG complicated expensive stuff like a custom app, but small insights about your service users. For example; a mobile optimised volunteer sign up form for the young recruits, or a free online tool to text reminders of events to older people who don’t use email but do SMS.

Adapting makes you more efficient with limited capacity but also means you deliver a better service for people. For inspiration see some of the awesome work CAST and their associated partners are doing.

Build a mailing list

Truly grow a mailing list. Not just keeping it regular and engaging but actively making sure you are adding more names to it.

Not only does email marketing still offer the best return on investment (eg more volunteers signing up than from social media!)but we are also seeing a trend of social media companies making it harder to get your posts seen by your audience, and there’s a move amongst younger people to consciously reduce their social media use, or mostly just using private messaging platforms.

A strong, engaged mailing list insulates an organisation from what happened when facebook suddenly changed their algorithm, or if your followers use instagram less and less.

So there we go — a handful of really impactful priorities to take into consideration. Think I’ve missed any out? Or tried any of these already? Let me know in the comments or

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I help socially impactful organisations to be more innovative, develop engaging digital communications and to organise their volunteers. Visit my site to see how we could collaborate.