Course: Becoming a Digital-First Organization

digital first organization two nonprofit tech workers

Twenty years into the web’s lifetime, we’ve reached a digital tipping point. Nonprofits need to reach their supporters through more channels (web, mobile, social, email, direct mail), at higher frequencies, and with better results than ever before. Organizations need capacity-building support for reimagining their online communications, marketing, advocacy, and fundraising in a digital-first world.

Becoming a digital-first organization offers the chance to make a bigger impact on your most valuable resource—your supporters—and almost always leads to higher ROI. But it’s challenging to make the transformation to digital-first without breaking the old models of how nonprofits are organized: who sits where, does what, and reports to whom.

This course focuses on how to optimize the people, processes, and structures that facilitate digital success. We begin with the question: How do you build a digital program that works? We’ll explore different organizational models for digital success, using real-world examples of those models in action, and practice adapting those models to organizations of different sizes, causes, and cultures.

Incorporating case studies, nonprofit management theory, and a strategy workshop, the course will cover what makes high-functioning digital teams tick. You’ll learn strategies you can use with your teams immediately, plus perspective on how to move to a model where digital teams can lead an organization’s communications strategy, rather than in reaction to events.

Learning Objectives

Participants will be able to:

  1. Evaluate an organization’s current digital capacity against its strategic goals.
  2. Map a digital ecosystem and other communications vectors. Differentiate structures for accomplishing digital work and determine which model(s) might work best for their current organization.
  3. Create a plan for transitioning an organization to digital-first ways of working, including staffing, hiring, and staff development goals; an organization chart; and key steps to accomplish a digital transformation.

Course Timeline:

Course Timeline
Course readings and pre-course quiz are available Sunday and due before the live event.
The live event takes place Wednesday at 11am PST (recording will be available shortly after).
Homework is due the following Sunday. Faculty provide feedback within a week.

Professional Credential Units
In addition to our own Nonprofit Technology Professional Certificate NTEN is an approved provider for a number of other professional credentials programs. This course qualifies for the following credits.

NTEN Professional Certificate 1 |  CFRE 3 | CAE 1.5

Speaker: Alice Hendricks
Alice Hendricks helps nonprofits find creative, people-oriented solutions to complex problems. Alice’s particular expertise lies in eliciting the emotional intelligence and wisdom within nonprofits to guide them through phases of transformation and positive change. She is CEO of Jackson River, a consulting and technology company which she founded in 2008, and which offers a Digital-First fundraising and marketing platform, Springboard, for nonprofit organizations. When she's not helping organizations transform or being a mom, you can find Alice reading, cooking, or watching crime procedurals. You can reach Alice at or on instagram at @alicehendricks07
Speaker: Misty McLaughlin
Misty McLaughlin works with Jackson River’s progressive clients to help them build their capacity with all things digital. Equal parts nonprofit coach, content strategist, and change architect, she has midwifed organizations through critical times of transformation, from creating website ecosystems to crafting team structures and processes to serve their cause. By night, she’s the mama of two young sons, an advocate for flexible and remote work, a writer, and a resident of Arnhem, Netherlands. You can reach Misty at or on Twitter at @mistymclaughlin.