6 Takeaways from the 2019 Digital Outlook Report

Be honest. When it comes to your nonprofit’s digital strategy, does it sometimes feel like you’re flying by the seat of your pants?

If so, you’re not alone.

It seems as though “winging it” is the name of the game in today’s connected world. According to the 2019 Digital Outlook Report, it’s not uncommon for nonprofits to question what they’re doing.

If you look carefully at this year’s responses and start to read between the lines, a new pattern emerges: one woven by “I don’t know” and “I don’t have this info.” You see, this year’s survey revealed nothing as much as the gaps in our knowledge.


Okay, so we know there’s a lack of information out there, and maybe a lack of direction. The question is: how do we get our digital strategies on track?

Let’s dive into the findings and key takeaways from the 2019 Digital Outlook Report.

Who? What? Why? Breaking Down the 2019 Digital Outlook Report

The Digital Outlook Report is an annual report sponsored by Care2, a social network for good, HJC, a digital fundraising agency, and NTEN, a national network dedicated to nonprofit technology. Each year, hundreds of nonprofit staff members talk about the ways they use technology in the workplace, and the results are compiled into this report.

Past reports tackled subjects such as an organizational structure’s impact on technology, dealing with limited resources, and creating digital game plans.

The 2019 report deals with the questions many of us have about digital marketing, including: What information should you share and how do we work together with others in the organization to share it?

To ensure accurate representation of the entire nonprofit climate, survey respondents come from various nonprofit environments throughout the United States, Canada, UK, and Europe.

6 Significant Findings That Matter in 2019

There were numerous takeaways from the report, but these six findings are particularly important for nonprofits.

1. We’re Following Current Trends

The great news is that most of us are using our time wisely. Our sector is following digital trends like investing more time into video content, website optimization, user experience and storytelling for social media.

The 2019 Digital Outlook Report starts on a high note; nonprofits are listening and responding to advice on current trends. We’re investing in videos and other storytelling content, ramping up our social media presence, and creating websites that are optimized for mobile.

Although nonprofits are notoriously slow to change, the report shows that nonprofits are adapting with the times, and aren’t being left in the wake.

Action Items

  • Continue to follow reports and surveys related to nonprofit technology.
  • Participate in webinars and trainings when software updates and/or new tools come out.
  • Hire an outside consultant to perform a top-to-bottom evaluation of your nonprofit’s digital marketing strategy, and provide you with takeaways to increase your online presence and ROI.

2. We’re Wary of Peer-to-Peer

Consumers in every sector are demanding a more personalized experience. Therefore, it was surprising to see that the most malleable way to give, peer-to-peer fundraising or P2P, is not being embraced by 44% of respondents.

While nonprofits are keeping up with *most* digital trends, many seem to lag when it comes to peer-to-peer fundraising.

Why? Survey respondents noted factors like technology limitations and budget restrictions as major hurdles. Some even said that they haven’t yet found the right peer-to-peer fundraising tool to meet their organization’s needs.

The power of peer-to-peer fundraising is real. It’s a great technique to help build a stronger community of supporters by engaging them in the fundraising process, raising money, and inspiring a new audience of supporters. At this point,  most donors expect some form of peer-to-peer, so it’s important not to overlook it.

Action Items

  • Research peer-to-peer software programs and find one that has all the features your nonprofit needs, such as a built-in CRM, team fundraising option, or easy-to-use interface.
  • Learn from others. Read peer-to-peer fundraising customer stories to learn about other nonprofit’s navigating this technique.
  • Talk to a professional. CauseVox has helped hundreds of organizations activate thousands of personal fundraisers in peer-to-peer efforts, and we can help you think through the process as your own organization. We provide hands-on help to get you started or fine-tune your established program.

3. Analytics are Vital

Sadly, in our attempt to get some standard ROI metrics for how organizations are performing with Facebook, we received an overwhelming amount of “I don’t know” answers. The data we did receive was incomplete and wildly inconsistent.

It’s impossible to improve your digital marketing strategy without knowing your current results. Unfortunately, many nonprofits don’t monitor basic analytics such as website views and social media clicks, let alone those that track your marketing ROI.

Analytics can help you determine whether to invest more heavily in Facebook ads, or focus on promoting your peer-to-peer fundraising website. They can help you understand your website conversion rate (are people taking action on your website?) and where your audience comes from.

Data is basically nonprofit gold.

Not tracking your analytics wastes time, money, and opportunities to learn and understand your supporters.

Action Items

  • Learn the ins and outs of Facebook Analytics and Google Analytics, and cross-train other team members.
  • Make knowing each marketing touch’s ROI a priority.
  • Track ROI over time, and make adjustments to your digital marketing strategy as necessary.

4. Fundraising + Marketing Teams Must Collaborate

There’s no point investing in digital if you don’t have well-coordinated teams who are not only fluent in the technology they use, but also cooperative with each other.

Although the marketing and fundraising roles at smaller organizations are sometimes combined, in most cases, two separate people or departments handle these roles.

And while it’s true that a fundraiser’s role of raising money differs from a marketer’s task of communicating, both parties must be on the same page when it comes time to reach out to supporters.

If you’re not on the same page, your donors may hear mixed messages or, even worse, no messages at all.

Action Items

  • Schedule monthly meetings. Set up time at least once per month to make sure everyone’s on the same page with messaging, events, etc.
  • Sync calendars
  • Brainstorm together. When starting a new project, consult others outside your department to inspire creativity and increase your reach.

5. Digital Spending is Up

In 2015, nearly 73% of respondents only had 10-20% of their marketing budget earmarked for digital strategies. In 2019, that number was much higher. Some organizations are spending 100% of their 2019 marketing budget on digital.

Considering how important digital marketing has become for nonprofits, it makes sense that budgets are following suit. There was also a slight increase in the percentage of nonprofits with staff dedicated to digital strategy (64%, up from 58% in 2018).

While nonprofits are taking this shift toward digital more seriously, hurdles arise when it comes to getting the funding. Knowing how much funding to ask for and what strategies to invest in is difficult, but necessary.

Action Items

  • Set a budget. Know your marketing budget and allot enough to expand your digital marketing strategy.
  • Ask for more. Be prepared to ask your board for extra money for digital strategies, and have the data to back up your request.
  • Give Google Grants a try. Ease some of the financial burdens with potentially free advertising. You’ll have to invest upwards of 2 hours per month on maintenance, but it’s worth it. Learn more about Google Grants here.

6. Use the Right Tools

Assessing the relationship between your team and those tools is really important. Is it a good match? Do your people need something that operates differently? What if the tech you want doesn’t even exist? 

Not all nonprofit marketing tools are created equal. Plus, everyone you work with or reach out to has digital preferences. For some, Facebook reigns supreme when it comes to online interactions. Others steer clear of social media and focus on email.

Regardless, you need to use the right tools to reach your supporters. Survey supporters to learn which platforms and systems they use. From there, consider how your systems are helping you meet your end goal of raising money and building a community of supporters.

The 2019 Digital Outlook Report wants nonprofits to ask: Is the tech we are using or thinking of implementing going to serve the end users’ needs and capabilities?

Answer this question, and you’re on your way to a stronger digital strategy.

Action Items

  • Evaluate your technologies. Talk to fellow staff and determine if the tools you’re using are right for your nonprofit by asking tough questions. Is this user-friendly? Are fellow staff using it effectively? What are some features we’d like to see added?  If you find your tools aren’t up to snuff, research to find the right tool or create one with a software partner.
  • Cross-train. Ensure everyone on the team is comfortable using the digital tools, even if they don’t fall under the marketing or communications umbrella. o
  • Create a turnover plan.  Inevitably, your staffing will shift, but don’t let turnover ruin your digital strategy and stress you out. Create a plan to combat turnover stress head on. The report suggests asking for a 4-week notice when someone leaves to help with the transition, investing in bottom-up training, and creating thorough “how-to” guides.

What’s Next?

The bottom line is that nonprofits are learning to adapt to a new digital environment, but we’re still questioning whether or not we’re doing it all “right.” Taking the time to evaluate your strategies and ensure they’re meeting the needs of your staff and supporters is a good place to start.

If you’re interested in incorporating peer-to-peer fundraising into your digital marketing strategy, or you want to learn more about CauseVox’s digital fundraising tools, schedule a one-on-one demo with a member of our team.

CauseVox makes it easy for you to manage relationships with your supporters and create personalized fundraising sites, peer-to-peer campaigns, and donation pages, all in one place, while also providing a remarkable giving experience your supporters will love.

With CauseVox you get more than a tool. We combine powerful fundraising tools with best practices and an experienced team to guide you to success.

You can get started for free and upgrade as you grow.