The Road Ahead

Our analysis of the major opportunities and challenges facing the voluntary sector in 2024. Learn more

Understanding digital communications, campaigns and content

This page is free to all

Use this page as a very basic introduction to digital communications, campaigns and content in the charity sector. The third quick link above takes you straight to our support section. It signposts you to organisations with more information.


These three areas overlap. Where individual organisations choose to draw the lines between them can differ. But they are often divided as follows.

Digital communications

How you talk to people, your stakeholders. This tends to include the following.

  • PR – communication with the press.
  • Marketing – communication with the people you currently help or would like to help.
  • Internal communications – how you engage your staff and volunteers.

Digital campaigns

Often means one of three specific things to an organisation.

  • Online fundraising campaigns – raising money for your organisation.
  • Campaigning and advocacy – aiming to influence policy and change the way the government does things.
  • Behaviour change campaigns – aiming to influence how and why people do things.

People often talk about 'marketing campaigns' for a specific event or activity as well. So you can see how much overlap there is.

Digital content

This covers absolutely everything you put online. Words, images, videos, layouts.

It has some key strands.

  • Content management and strategy – how you handle permissions for creating things to post, where they can be shared, and when. And how you make sure everything stays up to date.
  • Content design – thinking about how words work alongside designed elements, and about text readability.
  • Content co-creation – ways of getting different people involved. Small groups and organisations should create content with the people they are supporting. Collaborative content is most often used in the context of social media.

Basic principles

Communications, campaigns and content all share three principles.

1. You need to know who you want to reach

'Everyone' is not a good answer. You need to think about who you want to reach and what you already know about them. This means knowing how to find out about people. Use a mixture of techniques including such as stakeholder mapping and user research.

2. You need to plan and prioritise

Plans can be a whole strategy or a list of conversations you want to be part of on social media. There’s a way to do this at the right scale for every organisation. The important thing to remember is that if you don’t plan and prioritise you will waste time and possibly money.

3. You need to know what your aims are so that you can measure how well you are doing

What does good look like for you? What realistic targets can you set for your campaigns? You’ll want to get ideas from other organisations of a similar size and scale to you. You’ll need to learn about online tools such as social media schedulers and web analytics that can help.

Support and resources

The good news is that there is a lot of help out there and much of it is free or very low cost. When you're starting out you don’t need to pay high membership fees or attend any expensive training.

We recommend doing these things.

  • Make sure you are well-connected in your local area. Look up your local infrastructure support and advice group. They may offer free or low-cost training, or toolkits and guides.
  • Sign up for regular emails from key voluntary sector sources. Skim their weekly update and read articles when they interest you. Sign up for webinars and training events when the topics are relevant.
  • Google topics that interest you. Add the name of a key organisation to your search. You’ll then find content written with charities, groups and organisations in mind.

Key organisations

Charity Comms

Charity Comms is a membership network for communications specialists. Their members create articles, videos, and podcasts. They help everyone deliver effective marketing and social media campaigns. They cover branding and working with the media too.

Free communications, campaigns and content resources

Most resources are available online. A small number ask you to sign up to receive emails. Membership of the organisation is not necessary to use the resources.

Other key topics

Charity Comms also focus on work-life balance and other aspects of management.

Three places to start

Charity Digital

Charity Digital provides advice about all things digital. Their aim is to help you achieve more with digital technology. They track digital trends and offer a mix of events, articles, short videos, podcasts and webinars. They also have a digital fundraising hub full of information on fundraising campaigns.

Free communications, campaigns and content resources

Charity Digital’s content is free. Once you have viewed three articles, the site will ask you to create a log-in using your email. Then you can read on.

Other key topics

They also have information about discount software deals for charities, groups and organisations.

Three places to start

The Media Trust

Media Trust’s Resource Hub has free guides, toolkits, blogs and tips created by industry experts. All of this is designed to help charities enhance their communications and digital skills.

Free communications, campaigns and content resources

Online resources are free. There are templates that are free to download when you sign up.

Other key topics

The Media Trust runs partnership programmes. They include volunteer matching and helping under-represented communities make themselves heard.

Three places to start

Last reviewed: 02 March 2021

Help us improve this content

This page was last reviewed for accuracy on 02 March 2021

Back to top

Sign up for emails

Get regular updates on NCVO's help, support and services