Many philanthropic organizations feel lost in the jungle of technology. They realize their technological path has tapered off in its efficacy, but changing digital strategy can seem intimidating or even dangerous. Rather than venturing off into the dense foliage, organizations instead opt to repeat what they’ve done in the past: build a new website in hopes that it will address their woes.
To be fair, building a new website is often an essential part of doing business — keeping donations flowing and engaging stakeholders and the public in the important work that they do every day. As a project manager at Echo & Co., this work is not only deeply rewarding, but also keeps me employed.
There are cases, however, when a new website isn’t what an organization needs to achieve its long-term strategic goals. Rather than stepping back and conducting an assessment, the institutional momentum is to commit to a solution without fully understanding what the problem could be, much less how best to approach it. What these organizations frequently need is far less tangible than a new website – it’s a rethinking of how the organization sets goals, engages supporters, and quantifies success.
Every organization has its strengths and weaknesses, and even the most efficient and self reflective organization can lack the structure needed to objectively evaluate how it accomplishes its core mission using solid strategy and technology. It’s only natural to rely upon the traditional tools an organization has used in the past, such as building a new website, to lead a new campaign, revive fundraising, or recruit supporters.
That’s why my job isn't only helping to build new websites. We have some brilliant developers who understand how to build tech that makes an impact, but we also have an experienced team of tech-savvy strategists to help you assess your organization’s stakeholders, audience, and goals so that your team is structured to use digital tools effectively. This process is not easy. In fact, it can be challenging. For example, the results of a digital audit I conducted earlier this year led to a new content approval processes, a revision of the organization’s strategic goals, and the creation of two new staffing positions. The process requires a willingness and flexibility to embrace new workflows, a determination to master new technology, an ability to critically examine what constitutes a measure of success, and a commitment to rethink how digital and communications teams are managed
on a day-to-day basis.
We work with some amazing organizations to look deeper at their institutional mission and strategy, and many of those conversations started with us saying, “Maybe you don’t need a website just yet.” These engagements could not have been successful without commitment from every member of their leadership team, including executive directors, board members, and those in the trenches of the day-to-day. These partnerships bear fruit in the form of efficient processes, better tools, and, most importantly, better results, all of which allow organizations to create lasting, measurable social impact. That last part, creating social impact, is the key. After all, if not for that, then why do any of us do this work?
You wouldn’t schedule heart surgery without a lengthy diagnostic, research, and treatment planning process. Why commit to building a website without assessing whether it will further your organization’s goals?
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