Nonprofit and community organizations are already working hard to support their communities with few resources. The realities of the COVID-19 pandemic have made delivering these services even more challenging, especially for organizations that depend on in-person programming.
If your mission is to fill a critical gap with educational programming or services, it’s our mission to support your shift to the digital sphere. Whether you have a shoestring budget and a small staff or dedicated resources for digital experiences, this article will help you design experiences that help you serve your community.
The Value of Creating a Digital Interactive Experience Right Now
If the sudden onset of remote learning or social distancing drastically impacted your ability to provide in-person services, your organization might be struggling to reach community members in need at the same scale.
Creating a digital experience showcases your organization’s content and expertise while also providing a powerful stop-gap as you wait to safely resume in-person services. But digital experiences have value outside of temporary solutions, too.
Executed well, a powerful digital experience permanently transforms your organization by enhancing your ability to fulfill your mission. By curating your content in a creative way online, digital experiences extend the reach of your organization and make your content or services even more accessible to your audience.
Organizing and formalizing your message also leads to positive outcomes for your organization. The act of curating your best content helps small teams become even more effective communicators and advocates of your mission.
How Nonprofits Can Scale Digital Experiences for Their Staff and Budgets
No matter how big your organization is, building a digital interactive experience is scalable.
You don’t have to create an out-of-the-box product or completely re-tool your mission. In fact, if your idea for a digital experience changes your understanding of your mission, that’s a much bigger conversation!
Start small and scale your digital resources based on your budget and bandwidth. There’s value in thinking big if you’re ready to think big. You can also build something meaningful right where you are. For example:
- Embed existing YouTube content into your site along with suggestions for using content in the classroom.
- Offer pre-existing print lesson plans as downloadable resources.
- Curate pre-existing digital content on your site in a meaningful way for your audience.
- Create a podcast.
- Publish actionable blog posts.
- If you’re an outdoor organization, set up a webcam that allows your community to watch the activities that you sponsor. For instance, if you’re a zoo or wildlife refuge, your audience may want to watch and connect with animals.
- Use existing payment platforms to capture sales for classes or products or to collect donations. (Be aware that these platforms also take a percentage of your sale.)
Before you begin brainstorming ideas for your own digital experience, consider the return on investment for your organization or team. Can this digital space or tool be self-sustaining? How will you use this space even after you’re open to the public?
Just take national nonprofit ReadWorks, for example. Their mission, to create a powerful ELA curriculum, required an equitable distribution policy to make the biggest impact. The organization transformed their curriculum and teaching tools into a free digital experience with national reach. By thinking digitally, ReadWorks went on to register and support more than a million teachers in every state in the country.
But your organization’s digital transformation doesn’t have to operate on a huge scale. SuperD!ville, an educational site that helps teachers integrate SEL concepts into middle school curricula, started out with a YouTube channel containing video lessons. As they grew, they added a subscription model and instructional tools for teachers who wanted to use SuperD!ville video content as part of their curriculum. Another educational nonprofit, Learning Ally, designed an entire portal for parents who want to support their child’s literacy at home. They provide audiobooks, graphic organizers, and other literacy content—all for free.
Extend Your Organization’s Reach with a Digital Interactive Experience
Whether you make existing assets more readily accessible to your audience or entirely transform your organization’s digital presence, designing a digital experience boosts your mission and extends your reach.
When you design digital experiences with a growth mindset, you support your mission far into the future—long after you return to in-person programming. By setting yourself up for success during the planning phase, you’ll be able to execute on bigger projects in more meaningful ways and feel proud about expanding your mission.
Even if you start small, there’s value in thinking big.