Does this describe a typical day in your office? Your team are chomping at the bit to get going with developing a digital strategy. Yet it’s proving difficult to get off the ground. Your board aren’t convinced that they need to invest in it this year, your CEO is nervous of Twitter (and most other digital channels), and your colleagues who were initially so enthusiastic about the project are losing heart. Does this all sound familiar?

However you create your strategy, whether you write it yourself or bring in an agency to help you, the support of your board and executive team are vital. A digital strategy which is developed in a vacuum is pointless.

So how can you unlock this stalemate? It’s definitely possible and I’ve seen it happen many times.

  1. Understand their fears. I’ve written before about how charities need to ‘feel the digital fear and do it anyway’, and how to stop your organisational culture eating your strategy for breakfast. The best thing you can do is to go and talk to senior stakeholders face to face and get to the bottom of their concerns about digital. I faced a similar situation back when I was head of marketing at a national charity. I got the project going by writing a discussion paper about the pros and cons of creating a strategy then talking it through with key staff individually. They felt listened to and we were able to move ahead.
  2. Be careful with the word digital. It will scare off those who are already nervous. Instead, talk about saving money, being more efficient, and how your charity can reach more people and develop better services.
  3. Build the business case. Show them what your competitors are doing on digital. Tell your board how digital is changing who you’re up against. I’ve seen large organisations lose supporters to smaller, more agile and digitally savvy competitors. Pull together the key trends from your market and the wider charity sector, and, of course, your own data about supporters.
  4. Explain that the biggest risk is not doing anything. We’ve all met senior leaders who say that they see the merits of going digital first but ‘can we do it next year?’ By then, your market will have changed, you will be a year further behind and your competitors will be eating your lunch.
  5. Find and recruit champions. Whether it’s a trustee who has a passion for cycling blogs or a colleague with a great idea for an online service, bring together people at all levels in your organisation who can see the opportunities in digital and who are able to get others excited about them.
  6. Be prepared to educate upwards. I ran a workshop recently for a very senior group of nonprofit leaders who were new to digital, and who struggled to understand the difference between a social media policy and a strategy. And these were smart, highly experienced people. Always explain key terminology and avoid jargon wherever you can.
  7. Take on the role of coach. I’ve met many senior people who’ve told me privately that they feel worried about not being further along the digital journey and scared that they lack the skills to progress. I always tell them that the appetite to change is more important than experience- you can, after all,  buy skills in. Encouraging and motivating your senior team will help them enormously.

What else do you think helps get buy-in for digital strategies? I’d love to hear your thoughts.