Taking a step that's relevant to nonprofit marketers, advertising giant Ogilvy North America just announced its appointment of a “Chief Digital Officer.” This move reflects the ascendancy of all forms of digital communications in today's marketing environment.

What would a Chief Digital Officer do at your nonprofit? It's a bigger and more crucial role than you might think. In fact, I'd argue that it's central to your survival. Here are some of his/her assignments …

  • Of course, maintain a first-class website that truly engaged visitors and inspired them to actually associate in some tangible way with your organization … not just browse and leave.
  • Design an overall communications strategy that sorts out what information and engagement should be proferred to your various audiences via online media versus other media … for example, is it time to retire your print newsletter or annual report or other publications?
  • Ensure that the best possible digital tools and tactics are being deployed both for fundraising and for education and mobilization of your supporters, and defining suitable metrics to assess these tactics.
  • Monitor the use of digital communications tools and platforms in other settings — notably commercial marketing and social networking — to ensure that your organization is learning from them and adapting/developing them when relevant for your organization's purposes.
  • Optimize the use of digital capabilities in all the customary activities of your organization — board meetings, staff collaboration, member/donor/client servicing, media outreach, event organizing, program advocacy, chapter communications, and so forth … look into every nook and cranny of your organization's daily functioning to identify opportunities for digital tools to make things more efficient, more compelling, less expensive.

These are considerable responsibilities. It's a bigger job than “webmaster.” It requires both broad vision and technical insight. It's a role that must challenge existing silos and old habits. It requires interaction with all other parts of your organization. It's a role for a champion. As such, it's a senior position, reporting to the top.

If you're running a million-plus dollar a year nonprofit and you haven't appointed a Chief Digital Officer, your organization is going to fall behind … and you oughta be fired.

Tom

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