Top 5 reasons the non-profit sector must be digitally literate

Top 5 reasons the non-profit sector must be digitally literate

Today we continue our series examining the importance of digital literacy to Canada’s economy. This post is focused on the impact of digital media on the non-profit sector.

For insight into this topic, I turned to Bob McInnis, current executive director of Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids (@brownbaggingit), a registered charity that delivers daily lunches to students in need at Calgary schools. With his 25 years of leadership experience in the non-profit sector, McInnis is in a unique position to reflect on the ways that digital media has changed how non-profits spread their message and to offer advice to other non-profits on why they must include digital media as part of their messaging strategy.

Non-profit relationships, engaging supporters using digital media

Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids (BB4CK) currently includes blogs, forums, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn as part of their message-sharing arsenal. According to McInnis, these tools allow them to reach a wider audience. In addition, digital media offers them an affordable (essentially free) way to share compelling stories with audiences that they may not have reached through traditional forms of media. And thanks to digital media’s intrinsic conversational nature, they are able to form real relationships with active, engaged supporters.


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“As the conversation unravels, we are able to discover the passion, interest and skills of our new friends and can help them find new ways to be remarkable.  Digital media has increased our brand recognition and has facilitated hundreds of new relationships with engaged citizens.”

McInnis says that while BB4CK doesn’t primarily use digital media for fundraising, as that is not a primary focus for the organization, there’s no denying that it’s an effective fundraising tool.

“By raising awareness of the issue, flexing our brand, and building valid online relationships we have raised more than $250,000 through Twitter in the past 15 months.”

With all of this in mind, McInnis offers these five reasons that non-profits need to be in the digital media space:

  1. Some of the most engaged supporters and potential ambassadors use digital media regularly
  2. Digital media makes it possible to have a dialogue with many people, as well as in depth conversations with a few
  3. It’s a great place to listen
  4. 140 characters makes it necessary to communicate with brevity and clarity and likely simplifies rather than jargonizes the message
  5. The immediacy, currency and responsiveness of some digital media platforms keeps the momentum going

One final piece of advice McInnis offers to those in management roles in the non-profit sphere: make digital literacy a priority for the organization, from the top down.

“It flattens the hierarchy and gives credibility (through authority and responsibility) to digital media messages. We have also included all staff and numerous volunteers as ambassadors, storytellers and listeners so our voice doesn’t get old.”

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