Accelerate Your Nonprofit into a Digital 2021 with Continued Resilience and Innovation

Adjusting and quickly pivoting to new approaches was essential in 2020. It could also mean that strategies, lessons learned, or even “wins” may have fallen through the cracks.  

There’s no question – 2020 was a year full of the unexpected. COVID-19 drove many nonprofits to re-think their approach to day-to-day work with donors, clients, partners, and volunteers. The need to limit in-person interaction inspired a renaissance of digital and virtual engagement like never before, especially in the nonprofit space that historically required primarily direct interaction with constituents. 

The pivot into the digital world, driven out of necessity and an urgent timeline, can be overwhelming and time-consuming especially for those managing multiple responsibilities or roles. Nonprofits faced head-on the challenges that came with 2020, despite all the roadblocks. Organizations have problem-solved, re-engineered, and adopted ways to remain within the 2020 COVID-19 guidelines while engaging clients at home, conducting physical low-contact intake processes, cultivating virtual volunteer opportunities for clients, and fundraising. 

As nonprofits enter 2021, the innovation shouldn’t come to a halt. With a new year comes a natural opportunity to consider the progress made over the past year and to strategize on how to strengthen themselves to face 2021 with continued resilience and even greater digital innovation.  

To conduct an evaluation, consider a few key topics to help determine your focus in 2021:  


Look Back 

With the rapid changing norms of 2020, adjusting and quickly pivoting to new approaches was essential. It could also mean that strategies, lessons learned, or even “wins” may have fallen through the cracks.  

Consider how your organization adapted to the new virtual requirements of 2020. Did you lean on video conferencing to engage with constituents? Did you host virtual fundraisers and raise money over social media platforms? Did you engage social media representatives? Did you send targeted, personalized communications? Did you strengthen engagement components of online platforms?  

The Salesforce Nonprofit Trends Report for 2021 sheds light on trends that occurred across the industry. 

Consider Impact 

Of the new digital strategies your organization incorporated in 2020, what proved impactful and effective? While digital engagement looks different from the traditional, snail mail one-pager or the gala fundraiser, understanding the effectiveness of a digital approach ultimately comes down to constituent engagement. Did the constituent engage because of an e-newsletter? Did the prospect make a donation at the virtual fundraising gala? Is the social media post being liked and shared? Are individuals utilizing engagement sign-up forms? Consider what strategies reaped the most engagement in 2020. 

Identify Time-Consuming Processes 

What manual processing is consuming valuable employees time? With rapid evolvement of strategies can also come band-aids, or quick fixes, in the process. This could include practices like manual data clean up, exporting and managing data outside of your organization’s CRM, or even manual assembly and sending of templatized emails. These can be natural opportunities to evaluate potential changes that would enable employees to focus more energy on the impactful work they do. 


Understand What’s Available 

With the increased need to engage audiences virtually, the need for functionality to efficiently track engagement has become a necessity. Nonprofits can have a full toolbelt at their fingertips thanks to the world of Salesforce. There are a number of fantastic products that strengthen nonprofits in their approach to digital management of program participants, constituent inquiries, communications, and engagement with donors and partners. Not sure where to start? Ensuring that the right constituent data is captured is essential, and the Salesforce products created specifically for nonprofits provide a starting place for compiling important data in Salesforce. Reference the Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud Overview to dive deeper. 

Automation can also be extremely impactful in moving the mark for nonprofits. Focused implementation of flows can eliminate formerly manual, repetitive steps in a process. Methods to ensure clean data are also essential. Salesforce offers duplicate and matching rules and duplicate jobs to help ensure data quality, but if data can’t be trusted to be accurate, this presents scenarios that can cause staff to track data outside the CRM. 

Another key place where digital engagement reigns number one is a marketing platform. The right tools can take an organization to the next level by interacting with constituents through targeted and multi-channel engagement. A nonprofit may want to move volunteers to become donors or program participants to become volunteers. A marketing tool can help organizations define and track conversions and see where in the conversion a constituent may be. This functionality to help users understand campaign impact and individual constituent engagement provides nonprofits with the information and tools to meet each constituent right where they are. A great starting point to see what is available in this realm is to learn about Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Prioritize Measurable Strategies 

It’s essential to consider what strategies from 2020 should continue into 2021 and to ensure that structures are in place to measure them. Metrics provide fuel for understanding success, reasoning for additional resources, or a pulse-check on new strategies that may require troubleshooting. There are fields innate to Salesforce that can assist with measuring financial dollars raised relating to an event, campaign, or even a household. Additionally, further fields can be added as necessary to support tracking various other aspects of engagement goals. Outside of Salesforce configuration, tools such as Marketing Cloud can also assist with understanding the effectiveness of a digital marketing engagement.  


An essential element of ensuring that your organization is able to build on the work implemented in 2020 to strengthen virtual reach and impact in 2021 is setting aside time and resources to plan and build. Taking the time to evaluate, ask questions, measure, and set goals refines a vision that helps to drive the rest of the year. Digital growth and refinement require exploration and planning. The incorporation of new tools requires configuration, training, and change management. While it requires effort upfront, this time is well spent and provides a digital management and engagement runway for the future. 

About the author

Business Analyst

Nicole is a core member of the Business Analyst team, and her areas of expertise include donor development and management, board stewardship, marketing, donation processing, and program management. She is passionate about identifying innovative and cost/time saving opportunities for client CRM and data management processes, and her nonprofit background in youth development, business development, career development, and college access offer incredible value to customers. Nicole holds a BA degree in Business and Government and a minor in French from Franklin and Marshall College.