3 women gathered around a table of lego and a big piece of paper. One woman is looking at the others and smiling.

Follow a flexible and collaborative process that makes strategy development less daunting. Produces a strategy that’s tailored to your context and easy to update.

This resource is for:

  • Leaders of small charities who need a digital strategy but do not know where to start
  • Digital or data leads who need their organisation to make the most of digital opportunities

It covers:

  1. What is a digital strategy?
  2. Understand your organisation’s situation and its needs
  3. Making your strategy a process not just a document
  4. Creative ways to involve other people
  5. Going beyond having a separate digital strategy 

What is a digital strategy?

A good digital strategy is not a fixed plan that outlines how you will use digital tools and technology. 

Instead it emerges out of a process that involves learning, adapting and intentionally evolving your approach to digital. In this way it will help your organisation to adapt to changing circumstances and opportunities. It will work for you.

This means that a digital strategy is a process you do, not just an asset you create. It also might not be a stand alone document; it could be part of your other strategies or vision documents.

Why you need a digital strategy  

As a small organisation, creating a digital strategy can seem like a daunting task. It can be challenging to know where to start and what you might get out of it. 

Thinking about digital, and making decisions about it, is something all organisations need to do. Digital is part of the world we work in. A digital strategy will help your organisation achieve its goals. It will help you make the most of the opportunities digital brings.

How to make strategy creation work for you

By focusing on the process rather than the end result you will create a more effective digital strategy. It will respond to the needs of the people you work with. By taking people on the journey with you, those who work with you will be more invested in the outcome.

Begin by defining digital in a way that aligns with your organisation's values and goals. 

1. Define 'digital' for your organisation

Start by looking at what the word 'digital' means to your organisation. Defining digital goes beyond simply technology and tools you use. Instead it is the broader use of digital ways of thinking and working to help people do their jobs. 

Catalyst provides a number of options with its definitions of 9 different types of digital

This definition should sit at the top of your strategy.


A group of charities in a federation wanted to work together better. They agreed to develop a shared digital strategy as this was an area they could benefit from closer working on. They needed to define what they all meant by ‘digital’ to ensure the strategy made sense to everyone. They decided to use the Public Digital definition so they could ensure their strategy went beyond the tools they used and also covered how they wanted to work.

Make it your strategy, not someone else’s

You may think you can copy and paste someone else's strategy. It is worth a look at what’s out there, but the process of creating a digital strategy is more important than the output. During this process, you look at where you are now, identify opportunities and threats, and define your approach.

2. Understand your organisation and its needs

Every organisation is different, and works in a different context. The first step to creating a digital strategy is to understand your organisation’s needs. 

Assess your digital maturity 

Conduct a digital audit to assess your current digital capabilities and identify areas where you need to improve. You might want to start by looking at what you have already in place in terms of knowledge, confidence and approaches. For example, does your existing strategy mention digital anywhere? 

You could use NCVO’s digital maturity self-assessment matrix. You can do this as a team or organisation, and then repeat it later to see if your strategy is working.

Involve people from across the organisation

Creating a digital strategy should not be the responsibility of one person. It is important to involve users, trustees, staff, and volunteers. This will ensure that the strategy supports the organisation's goals and stakeholder’s needs and everyone understands how.

Bring people together to talk about where you are now, what is working and what is not. Then discuss your ambitions and what you can see digital doing for you. You can also discuss any risks, fears and mitigation around digital. The NCVO has some good guidance on how to involve people in your strategy development.

3. Make your digital strategy a process, not a document 

A digital strategy should not be a static document that sits on a shelf. It should be a process that changes as your needs and technology change. It is important to make your strategy manageable and easy to update. This helps it remain relevant. This is a lot easier if you can make it a short document or public webpage that people remember being involved in. One page could be enough to set out what you hope to achieve and your priorities to get there.

Aim for ‘good enough to try’

Creating a digital strategy doesn't have to be scary, even if you feel you are not 'techy'. This is about making digital work for you, so you can spend more time doing the things that matter. Remember that the goal is not to create the perfect strategy, but to create a strategy that works for you, for now. 

4. Be creative in how you develop your strategy 

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a digital strategy. It could be a document, it could be a one page diagram or photo, it could be part of your wider strategy. The strategy to try things out could be your strategy. 

Don't let perfect be the enemy of good; you can learn more from delivering your strategy than wordsmithing it.

Different ways to create a strategy

Look for an approach that works for your organisation, supports people to take part and creates a shared understanding. 

  • Build your vision from LEGO together, using something like the Serious Play approach. This involves using the pieces to set out different themes of the strategy, which can be moved around and adjusted as needed. It can also work with clay or sticky notes. Your final creation can be your strategy, or you might turn it into a different form.
  • Use design thinking. A design thinking workshop is a collaborative, people-centred approach to working out the best way to solve problems. It also looks at making the most of new opportunities. People work through exercises to share their needs and motivations. You also identify pain points and opportunities, and generate ideas that can then form your strategy.
  • Run a Business Model Canvas workshop. This workshop results in a one page document that helps organisations to map out their business model. It identifies key areas for innovation and improvement.

Identify the type of approach that might work for you by considering a few things.

To increase collaboration, a method that emphasises group work may be the best fit. The size of the team also plays a part, with smaller teams working well at coming up with lots of ideas together, and larger teams needing to be split up into groups that later report back. 

If you know everyone is willing to participate, a more interactive method may be appropriate. 

If you think people may be less engaged or resistant to change, a more structured and directive approach may be a better fit. 

Test out different methods and adapt as needed. Try a variety of approaches on a small scale and gather feedback from people to find out which is most effective.


A small organisation was struggling to engage people in their digital strategy. They brought in someone who helped them build their vision using LEGO. This creative approach enabled people to share their thoughts in a new way. People felt more comfortable with it and built both consensus and a shared understanding. 

5. Try to make your strategy redundant 

In the fast-changing world of digital, strategies can quickly become outdated. So take an agile approach. Try things out, learn from them and use that to decide where you go next. This means you are building flexibility and adaptability into your strategy process. 

For example you might focus on digital principles. These could use themes such as ‘inclusion’, ‘sustainability’ and ‘trust’. You could do this rather than defining the technology you use. Then test the new digital methods and techniques you try against these.

In the ACEVO resource on creating a digital strategy some organisations think it is better to view your organisation’s main strategy through a digital lens. This could mean you using your process to lead you to a greater understanding and definition of where digital fits in your overall goals and ambitions.

Further information

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