Small Nonprofits in the Digital Big-Leagues

How does a nonprofit with a couple thousand Facebook likes and an Excel spreadsheet of donors utilize the digital leverage of big organizations? In the absence of physical contact, digital communication is the new virtual glue that links stakeholders to organizations. The digital universe, however, has rapidly expanded into a vast, crowded, and mercurial communication space that favors the leverage of large organizations.


NO DIGITAL STAFF - A recent poll of small nonprofit's revealed that 68% of them had no digital staff at all. They rely, rather, on their communication staff to take up the slack and test various digital platforms as they evolve, believing that they will intuitively know what works. This approach, of course, has failed.

NO BENEFITS OF SCALE – A 1% increase in click-through conversions can mean a lot for an organization likeGreenpeace, but if your dealing with a small list of supporters those increases may mean very little. It is impossible for small nonprofits to compete in an almost infinite digital point-of-contact universe. Just the name Greenpeace, itself, is levered by the Facebook and Google algorithms into millions of impressions that are not available to theRiverside Runners Charity.  

RAPID PACE OF TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE – The shelf life of tactics in the social media space is extremely short. The study found that the communications staff of smaller nonprofits were constantly playing catch-up with a rapidly changing digital landscape while a variety of internal and external stakeholders were encouraging them to reach for the latest, shiniest tactic or technology. This left the smaller nonprofits without a consistent communication strategy.


But all is not lost for smaller nonprofits. They possess attributes that the large organizations can no longer leverage. When they recognize their unique smaller- organization skills they learn to use them to their advantage in the digital communication universe.

JACK BE NIMBLE – Smaller nonprofits do not require a series of endless meetings with the board to make tactical changes that can intensify their digital presence. They can change their message, improve their logo, design new websites, feed daily news to Facebook and Twitter whenever they want without getting clearance from an endless series of authorities.

JACK BE QUICK – The minute Facebook changes its algorithm the small nonprofit can change its technique. The shifting technical sands of social media platforms often leave big cumbersome organizations behind the beat. The small nonprofits can quickly shift to a new tactic whenever the occasion arises.

JACK JUMP OVER THE CANDLESTICK – Many small nonprofits connect with their donor list on a first-name basis. Personal contact with stakeholders can often supplement digital contact. “Jumping over” the social media connection to make a phone call or a personal visit enforces shared beliefs about the central and enduring characteristics of the organization and strengthens the ties that bind.


Smaller nonprofits need not despair of playing in the digital big leagues. Careful analysis of the advantages of being small can lead to some very effective tactics that level the playing field and give more modest organizations a leg up.

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