Revised with new information as of April, 2016

A free resource for nonprofit organizations, NGOs, civil society organizations,
public sector organizations, and other mission-based agencies

Jayne Cravens,


Outreach Via the Internet for
Nonprofit Organizations

(It's a lot more than just getting a World Wide Web site
or a FaceBook profile


Engaging in effective online outreach is way more than just putting up a Web site or creating a profile on FaceBook or other online social networking site.

Effective online marketing involves:

For online outreach to be effective, new and current audiences have to be continually cultivated and nurtured, and efforts have to be fully supported by all staff, from top to bottom (or the other way around), just as with all of your offline interactions (direct mail, phone support, onsite presentations, meetings, etc.). You have to revisit your online activities frequently to determine what impact they are having, and be ready to adjust accordingly.

Online outreach and online service delivery should accurately reflect your agency's mission and culture. Whatever impression you want people to have of your organization offline, via face-to-face and traditional forms of outreach, promotions and interactions, is the same impression you should strive for online.

Also, it's not only what you say online, but how you say it: replying to people promptly, providing complete information, responding to criticism without defensiveness, etc. The Internet is about connecting humans, not machines! Treat it as such.

Finaly, online outreach is not the domain of just one person; whomever undertakes activities relating to communications, donor relations, volunteers and clients/customers should have a role in online communications. Your web master or other technical staff should follow the lead of program staff (including the volunteer manager) and marketing staff when it comes to online activities, not the other way around.

What does effective online outreach look like? At minimum, it means:

That's not a huge amount of work - really, it's not. Engaging in those minimum activities requires a different mindset. Even if you are a solo communications person at your organization - you're a one-person marketing department - you should be able to manage all of those minimum activities.

At a more advanced level, effective online outreach means:

Of course, an organization must be very well-staffed and very well-financed, and have lots of time in order to engage in all of the online activities that are possible to undertake. Of course, not every activity is appropriate for every organization. But even just doing the minimal activities suggested above requires commitment, time, money and expertise -- even if you find a volunteer with the time and expertise to do all of these activities, you need to provide supervision and support for this person.

Before your mission-based organization engages in online outreach:

Once your organization is engaging in online outreach:  
For more on the the minimum of what your organization should be doing in terms of online outreach, and in what directions your online activities should be heading, see Stages of Maturity in Nonprofit Orgs Using Online Services.

Other Resources:

See more resources re: Outreach & Engagement, With and Without Technology

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