How to write a digital brief (for non-profits)

“Our plan is to run six Facebook Video Ads targeting everyone in Ireland, four Google Ad Groups, and six Twitter ads targeting our competitors’ followers.” I am pretty sure this is not the way you approach your agency when you contact them to plan and run a digital marketing campaign for your new fundraising project. So what’s the best way to approach your agency then?

In my experience working with charities I have received many digital campaigns briefs. A brief is not a shopping list. It is not a plan, nor is it a tender document.

Even if there isn’t a “right” way of briefing an agency, I think there are some things that a brief should contain if you want to make sure that your agency understands the needs of your organization and delivers the digital campaign in a cost-effective way.

Download our Guide “How to Write a Digital Brief”

First of all, why do you need a brief?

There are three main reasons. A brief is important to share clear objectives and criteria for success, so that you don’t waste time and money going back and forth with your agency every time you nee to agree on one of the numerous aspects of a campaign. Secondly, you need to provide your agency with critical background and information about your organization and your campaign. And thirdly, you need to get your agency on board, motivate them and draw them into sharing your enthusiasm, so that will lead to better and more creative work[1].

It’s quite important that your briefing focuses on your problem, rather than on what you think the solution is. You want to take advantage of the agency expertise, since the reason why you are using an agency is that you expect them to come up with digital and creative solutions you haven’t thought about, in addition to better quality of work.

What information do you need to provide about your organization?

The information you provide depends on whether this is a new agency or an agency you worked with before. If it’s a new agency, you should give them a good idea of your non-profit’s purpose, the groups you serve, how you plan to do so, and what is your long-term desired change. In short, your mission and vision.

You also need to tell you agency if you are running other marketing activities, such as TV or Radio ads, so that your digital agency can coordinate with them. You might also want to mention your competitors, or organizations whose work you admire, and how you stand out from competition (maybe you are the only charity that provides a certain service?).

Download our Guide “How to Write a Digital Brief”

Campaign’s Overview

Why do you want to run this campaign? Providing your campaign’s background will help your agency understand the core of your campaign:

  • Maybe something happened in your country or in the world; or your campaign is an annual event; maybe you want to integrate your current marketing strategies with digital marketing activities; etc.
  • Did you run this campaign before? If so, it would be useful to provide previous assets and an overview of your previous campaign key learnings.
  • Is there a background story that inspires?

What are your campaign’s objectives? There are many actions you might want your audience to take. The most important thing is to be able to measure them through a set of KPIs, that your agency will provide. Possible objectives include:

  • Grow your regular donors base
  • Petition sign ups
  • Single / monthly donations
  • Campaign-related donations: e.g. for a certain service; for a specific country or emergency
  • Grow Social Media base
  • Advocacy: social media sharing; getting users to sign a petition; getting users to advocate etc.
  • Event registrations
  • Disease Awareness
  • Get people to take some action: e.g. visit their GP; perform regular breast self-exams; be environmentally responsible; etc.
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Membership
  • Drive traffic to the website

Messaging and Design

The message of your campaign should be part and parcel of your digital brief. Once you’ve established your key messages (one or two), provide your agency with a list of primary and secondary messages as well. Keep in mind that digital advertising platforms often allow multiple versions of your ads to run at the same time with no extra cost, so different messages can be used and tested, for example in your Google and Social Media ads.

Don’t forget your hashtags. If necessary, ask your agency for recommendations and best practices for creating and using hashtags.

Brief your agency on design requirements: provide them with the campaign’s logo, if you already have one, and recommendations about the tone and imagery of your campaign. Providing examples of images you like can help the agency to better understand your requirements.

Finally, if you are working with multiple agencies, for example a PR agency and a Digital agency, messaging, design briefs and assets should be shared in a consistent way. In this case, it appropriate to assign a project manager to your campaign.

Download our Guide “How to Write a Digital Brief”

Landing Page or Microsite?

Work with your agency to determine whether you need a landing page on your current website or a microsite. The choice can depend on a number of factors:

  • Do you have a lot of content? Note that a landing page can also contain a lot of content, particularly if divided into different sections.
  • Do you need it for a temporary campaign or for a long-term project? In a long term project, you may need a microsite for SEO purposes or to add more content in the future.
  • Which assets and functionalities will you need? For example:
  • Donation forms
  • Petition
  • Interactive tools
  • Assets to download
  • Sharing buttons
  • Others

Is your website’s template flexible enough to build the landing page with your required features?

  • Do you need a specific domain for the campaign?

Target Audience

Provide your agency with a very clear description of who your target is. Possibly, there should be no such thing as the “general public” in a digital campaign. Digital channels allow to target your ads to very specific audience using fine-tuned, tailored messages. Audience can be targeted on different channels based on these characteristics:

  • Donors / supporters: what your current givers look like
  • Demographics: age, gender, language, education, relationship status, life events (birthday, anniversary, etc.), parents of children, politics, relationship, etc.
  • Location: nations, counties, cities, areas etc.
  • Job: title, function, industry, company name, years of experience etc.
  • Behaviours: digital activities, expats, travels etc.
  • Interests: business and industry, entertainment (music, movies etc.), food and drinks, hobbies, sports, technology etc.
  • Keywords: what do they search on Search Engines?
  • Emails: your email database
  • Web Visitors: behaviour on your website (remarketing)
  • Competitors’ followers

If your campaign has different target audiences, it is a good idea to provide a percentage split of them, so that the agency can, for example, adjust the split of your media budget between your two audiences. For example, if your donors’ base is typically made of 60% women and 40% men.

Download our Guide “How to Write a Digital Brief”

Budgets, Targets and Schedule

Finding a budget for a campaign is always a challenge, particularly in the non-profit sector. Nonetheless, having an idea of what your budget is will help your agency create a better plan: if your agency has a small budget in mind, they might overlook some good opportunities; if they are thinking of a budget much bigger than yours, a lot of time could be wasted in trying to adjust their plan to your needs after they find out what your actual budget is.

Keep in mind that your final budget will include your media budget, which is what you spend on digital channels, and agency cost, which is the cost of your agency’s time.

Also, by providing a target cost per acquisition you will enable your agency to select the most appropriate channels to reach your CPA goal and optimize the campaigns while they are running.

Finally, you will need to provide a realistic estimate commencement date and a campaign duration. When considering your campaign duration, you need to keep in mind that there will be an ongoing media spent for every extra month of campaign. You brief should also mention any specific dates such as a recurrence you might be celebrating with your campaign, like Human Rights Day or Breast Cancer Day, for example.


Here’s a non-comprehensive list of possible agency deliverables:

  • A concept
  • Digital Campaign strategy
  • Content: full copy / copy skeleton / taglines
  • A video or an animation
  • A landing page / microsite with specific features
  • Downloadable materials: a PDF, an infographic etc.
  • Interactive tools: a survey, an assessment tool, a quiz etc.

Download our Guide “How to Write a Digital Brief”

Other Media

Inform your agency if you will be using other marketing media other than digital, as there might be opportunities to coordinate them in effective ways. These could include:

  • radio or TV ads
  • traditional marketing
  • press releases
  • newspapers and magazines
  • direct mails
  • ambient advertising
  • catalogues
  • others

Tell your agency which platforms, social media and other online tools you are already using. Active social media account are far more effective than dead or new ones. Also, your agency will tell you the best way to give them access to your accounts as advertisers. These include:

  • Social Media accounts: Facebook page and ad manager account, Twitter page and ad account, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest etc.
  • Google AdWords Grant
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Search Console
  • Email Marketing Platform
  • Others

Finally, add to your brief any additional resource that could help your agency doing a better job including:

  • Appendix
  • Brand guidelines
  • Existing documentation or contents
  • Other websites
  • Competitive analysis
  • Background or reference material


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