5 Key Takeaways for Nonprofits from the 2016 Digital Outlook Report

By eleventy marketing group


“With limited resources, how do we best leverage the power of the digital environment to make the world a better place?”

That’s the question at the heart of the 2016 Digital Outlook Report from Care2, hjc, and NTEN. This new report examines survey results from 538 nonprofit organizations to uncover the answer.

The findings in this report also reveal that—while more nonprofits are making digital strategy a top priority—they are approaching it in different ways when it comes to staffing, tools, and tactics.

In today’s post, we’ll look at a five key findings from the 2016 Digital Outlook Report and what they mean for nonprofits moving forward.

How Today’s Nonprofits Are Managing Digital Strategy

While there’s a lot of good info in the 2016 Digital Outlook Report (you can download the full report for free here), these are some key stats that stuck out to us…

61% of organizations reported having at least one staff member dedicated solely to online digital strategy

On the whole this looks like a positive number given that many nonprofits have been behind the curve on adopting digital marketing efforts as compared to the corporate world. The report even notes that 52% of respondents have a team of at least 2-5 people focused on digital strategy. This goes to show just how much of a priority digital has become for nonprofits.

Of course, when you look at this figure from the flip side it spotlights the work that still needs to be done. Nearly 40% of nonprofits don’t have a staff member devoted to digital strategy. While that could be because they’re working with a marketing or agency partner, it could also be due to lack of resources or digital prioritization.

37% of respondents identified ‘Proving ROI Internally’ for digital efforts as a challenge

This number should come as no surprise—in fact, it even seems slightly low—given that proving digital ROI is something many companies still struggle with as well. On the positive side, this is something organizations are getting better at in general and this ability should grow as nonprofits’ gain more experience working in the digital arena.

Biggest challenges to nonprofit digital strategy

Creating visual content to drive online engagement continues to be a focus for nonprofits in 2016

This falls in line with the Web’s shift from a primarily text-focused platform to a much more visual one. Customized images and, specifically, video have become key ways to connect with donors on the Web as the technical ability to deliver this type of content has improved and more people consume video content on mobile devices. As the report notes: “Visual content continues to outperform other content across a broad spectrum on engagement indicators.”

Nonprofit digital strategy areas of focus in 2016

72% of respondents stated that of their overall fundraising/acquisition budgets less than 20% will be earmarked for digital strategy in 2016.

While it’s clear, more nonprofits are realizing and embracing the value of digital for connecting with new donors there’s still a long way to go. Despite the great strides that haven been made in digital fundraising over the past decade, online still only accounts for less than a fifth of total fundraising dollars raised.

As a result, nonprofits are budgeting for digital with that existing ceiling in mind. But you can expect nonprofit digital budgets to continue rising consistently over the next several years as digital gains preference with more donors across demographics.

49% of respondents will be investing more budget in Social Media Promotion/Communication in 2016

Even though it remains one of the trickiest areas for gauging ROI, nonprofits will continue investing more time and money into social media efforts this year. This isn’t too much of a surprise giving the opportunities for creating donor connections social networks offer—along with the related opportunities for both digital advertising and peer sharing.

The report findings show social media is the most common area nonprofits will be increasing their budgets in 2016—coming in a head of email marketing (21%), online advertising (17%), direct mail (11%) and telemarketing (2%).

Aligning Your Organization to Harness the Power of Digital

The survey findings from this report show an industry still feeling its way around the digital landscape to determine where the best opportunities lie and how to take advantage of them. Of course, that can only be achieved with a full commitment to digital strategy—something that can (and has been) difficult given the resource constraints faced by many nonprofits.

So how can nonprofits overcome those challenges to make the most of digital marketing and fundraising? According to the 2016 Digital Outlook Report, the key is aligment…

“…for nonprofit organizations to truly harness the power of the digital age, we need to make sure that each of our organizations are aligned with the systems, structure, culture, and performance management architecture to fully take digital into account.

The best plans for digital marketing, brand building, advocacy or fundraising will fail if the staffing, skill sets, and structure of our organizations are misaligned.”