We know budgeting for digital projects can be difficult. Sticker shock is real, and your leadership may struggle to see that a website redesign or other digital initiative is worth the investment. But understanding the true components and possibilities of a digital initiative can reveal efficiencies that save time and effort, providing a return on investment (ROI) far greater than anticipated.
Understand common efficiencies
Knowing some of the most common ways organizations build increased ROI into digital projects can help you design strategies that maximize the value of every initiative.
Reduce calls and emails by optimizing online information
ROI: Making your most-sought information and actions easy to find and simple to access can reduce other burdens. Organizations find they answer fewer questions by phone, email, or social media when their information architecture (IA) works, saving staff time and even reducing the need for some traditional “customer service” roles that can be accomplished on an efficient site. What’s more, an improved IA makes for happy site visitors, which can improve overall impressions of your organization and brand. Positive, efficient interactions are built-in marketing.
How to do it: Every Forum One digital project includes an evaluation of the IA of the existing or planned platform. This isn’t an “extra”—it’s a cornerstone of our strategy to design for impact—but organizations don’t always think about the efficiencies gained through IA improvement. In an IA assessment, content audits and data analysis can reveal what information your users seek, how often they “give up” after navigating within the platform, and what you know about the most frequent requests among visitors. An improved IA makes your key platform purposes—to make a donation, sign up as a member, or access resources—smooth and accessible.
Bring design in-house with templates and automation
ROI: Automation and easily customizable templates can remove the need for external graphic design support and make executing an expanded content strategy easier and more efficient.
How to do it: A new or refreshed branding project should never end with logo files alone. Taking time during a branding project to collaboratively strategize the type and format of content needs can help organizations outline templates and automated processes for content delivery. Pre-planning how a piece of content lands on the website and is quickly adapted to social media and print-friendly pieces, using templates in user-friendly software like Canva, is a holistic way to extend a new or refreshed brand and optimize internal capacity and time.
Eliminate time-consuming tasks with process integration
ROI: Staff time and frustration are saved when automated processes work. Team members dedicated to data entry can refocus on member services and other more personal touch points, delivering higher quality service and focusing on mission-driven work.
How to do it: Process integration—helping your digital systems talk to each other and manage tasks automatically—admittedly isn’t as straightforward as IA or design templates. It can require up-front investments of time and money to evaluate, install, and customize solutions that fit your needs. But the ROI can equally be higher. For organizations with high data processing needs, such as those serving clients with intake forms or detailed surveys, it’s a must. Organizations with advanced fundraising and outreach activities—managing direct mail and multiple ongoing campaigns—also benefit when processes like data entry, email, and touch points are automated.
Uncover hidden ROI
Organizations generally recognize the weaknesses of their current websites, be it visual appeal, an outdated brand, or a clunky and confusing interface. But the hidden costs of processes and workflows—the time staff is spending preparing content to publish or entering data—can be overlooked. Habits form easily. We often hear “This is just how we’ve always done it” when examining how nonprofits accomplish tasks.
These are the places to look for efficiencies, but they can be hard to see on your own.
We recommend walking an outside advisor or consultant through your workflows. This doesn’t have to be elaborate and in fact, is a great way to prepare for an RFP or a new digital strategy. Explain the steps, for example, after a site visitor completes a form. How many people and systems are needed to take that single sign-up to its full action?
We’ve seen web forms feed Excel sheets, Excel sheets require cleaning before importing to Salesforce, individual records requiring updates, campaigns exported to email programs, and email analytics put back into Salesforce records! Simply explaining your methods to an outside advisor can help you realize the amount of time that could be saved with better integration.
Beyond the bottom line: Maintain job satisfaction
While there are financial incentives to all these optimizations, the most important ROI may be less tangible.
In a time when employers are concerned about staff satisfaction, and employees have choices for where they work, using optimization strategies to integrate and remove manual, repetitive processes can lead to happier—and ultimately more productive—staff.
Use ROI to free your teams to delve into content strategy, writing, program design, or other creative, fulfilling work. Helping teams commit to meaningful work is at the heart of the mission-driven organizations we see succeed.