Strategic Thinking in the Third Sector

Considerations for adapting to the digital age.

By Alan Ronald, 06 December 2017

In this digital age, most charities are seeking a simple & cost effective way to create brand awareness and push their message out online. Most of which has to be incorporated into a digital strategy that allows their message to be delivered and to achieve a buy-in from the user for the work which they carry out.

In addition to that, there often has to be a way for the user to either be involved with or be supported by the charity.  


Charities will have a variety of requirements which their website must meet, often including:

  • Easy and simple donation process
  • Readily available information on their cause
  • Fundraising and volunteering opportunities
  • Staff profiles
  • And vitally a variety of engaging content around the important work that they do

So what should be taken into account?

Consider the message, the way the user will find information on the site, where you are directing the user and how you can promote your charity with the functionality of the website.  You have to tell your story to user, the site acts in a similar way to a magazine keeping users informed through information such as news (past) and events (future)

Integration with third-party systems is an important consideration. Often charities are provided with a financial discount from Microsoft on their licensed products so it makes sense that the platform you choose integrates (talks) easily with your internal or other systems allowing the digital strategy to tie into your overall business plan.

This may not be a priority in the short term, however, with a 3-5 years life expectancy for most web platforms it makes sense to make sure that compatibility issues are addressed right from the start when deciding what system to use.

Zen as an agency has developed a whole variety of systems for charities including booking systems, intranets, extranets and very effective campaign websites that are integrated into eCRM and events API’s. Each one of these all has to consider what part the web system plays, the information captured and how that information is ultimately used.  At every point, there is an opportunity to inform a potential event organiser, donator or volunteer.

With new laws coming into place, it is also now important to consider how you handle any data that is captured on your website. GDPR regulation stipulates that data will have to be captured and stored in a way which meets their minimum requirements.  This can be partly managed through the options provided to the user on the site and then keeping people informed of any change in the use of the information.  

Also, take into consideration how you are going to get people to your website. Google offers a free monthly budget to spend in AdWords through it's Not for Profits scheme that should be taken advantage of, this will complement a sound SEO strategy nicely.

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Analytics should be installed and monitored allowing you to easily track important goals such as donations or downloads. This data can also be helpful when making a decision to tweak your strategy.

A partner providing expertise and support is very important for you to be self-sufficient in your digital environment. For this to take place you should get training on the key subjects that you need to strengthen in. Knowledge transfer can take place through workshops, video tutorials and documentation which should allow you a familiarity with the new system.  This should be part of the training plan which is laid out when commissioning your digital supplier.

A critical consideration which is often overlooked is the migration of content. You must consider what content is being transferred as is, what must be rewritten and what is getting cut from the new site. Planning as early as possible allows the appropriate measures to be put in place early to ensure this does not delay the site being launched.



Taking all of this into consideration in a single project can often seem like a large task, it’s a strategy, it’s well thought out objectives that are met to achieve the overall business objectives of the charity as a whole.

We at Zen have vast experience in charity projects with clients such as National Trust for Scotland, MND Scotland, Turning Point Scotland, and Key Housing who we have supplied for a whole variety of projects.  If you have an idea for a digital project or would like to discuss how Zen can help your charity organisation please contact us as we would love to have a chat.


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