Content Marketing for Nonprofits


Content Marketing for Nonprofits

The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as a “strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Does this definition hold true in terms of content marketing for nonprofits? 

Yes. But I’d re-phrase it as follows: 

Content marketing for nonprofits is the production of content that your audiences find valuable and that as a result, prompts them to engage with your cause and over time, give. 

Young woman viewing her laptop and taking notes, studying content strategy for nonprofits

Content marketing can be a big and scary topic. It’s also gotten a bad rap, as many opportunistic players have flooded the internet with “content,” overwhelming serious publishers that are producing value and showing care and respect for their audiences. 

In this post, I’m going to summarize where nonprofits, schools and corporate social responsibility initiatives should focus if they want to be successful with content marketing. 

1. Why invest in content marketing? 

In short, content is everything. Content – defined as anything from blog posts and webpages, to video, podcasts, images, graphics, thought leadership, data visualization and more – is what your audiences hunger for. It’s how you inform them of your mission, show progress in your organization and illustrate impact. 

The reason to invest both time and financial resources in content marketing is this: a potential donor that is interested generally in your mission will only become an actual donor if they are convinced – through your content – that your organization is worthy of receiving their donation.

You’ll do this by producing and sharing content that establishes trust, reinforces commitment to your mission and illustrates expertise in your given field.    

In fact, whether or not you want to invest in content marketing, you’re already doing it. Every webpage, every blog post, each email newsletter, every conference video that you’re already publishing is content.  The idea then, is to focus your efforts on what will achieve the greatest impact. 

2. What areas of content marketing will bring the most/quickest returns? 

It depends. You know your organization best. If your audience(s) are an especially “social” crowd, then investing heavily in both paid and organic social media is a good bet. If, however, they appreciate a consistent and careful briefing on your topic or mission, then perhaps a well-written email newsletter like this one, delivered on a consistent basis may be the way.  And don’t forget video – across all channels – which remains an enormously popular content format. And then, there’s the traditional form of thought leadership – the white paper – which provides audiences with a deep, expert knowledge on a specific element of your cause. 

Audience research and a bit of trial and error can help you determine what content formats provide the best return for your organization.  But there are two forms of digital marketing content that you absolutely cannot neglect:

  1. Website content
  2. A consistent, high-quality blog

Together, these two components establish a content baseline, upon which all of your other content efforts will fail or succeed. 

As I’ve spoken about before, your website is the crucial element in your overall marketing arsenal. It’s imperative that your site’s content is focused on your mission, is relevant, emotionally-engaging and underscores impact. The content you develop for your website represents the storyline of your cause; invest what it takes to get it right. 

If we think of website content as the foundational, storyline content of your organization, then a high-quality blog is the heartbeat that introduces new thoughts and ideas to the world at-large, reinforcing the vibrancy and significance of your mission. 

A blog is the multi-purpose tool of your marketing efforts; it serves multiple essential roles:

First, producing blog posts on a consistent basis fills your website with relevant mission-based content, which in turn validates your cause to potential donors. 

Secondly, as you or your team write blog posts, you are improving your own expert knowledge of your mission and topics, so there’s a team and expertise development component here as well.

Lastly – and most importantly in terms of fundraising – the regular production of content makes it more likely that search engines like Google will offer up your content to individuals searching on topics related to your mission.  

a potential donor that is interested generally in your mission will only become an actual donor if they are convinced – through your content – that your organization is worthy of receiving their donation.

3. How do I do it? 

In an ideal world, you’ll turn to a professional and experienced content strategist to guide you on the content development process. This individual will develop a content strategy that includes the following elements:

  • A content audit – an assessment of where your content resides, what that content is and how it’s performing. From this, they will then produce a content gap analysis.
  • A content gap analysis – what’s missing in your existing content? For what areas, channels and topics should you be providing additional or original content – and in what forms?
  • Specific content plans for individual marketing channels – in the case of a website, this might entail a sitemap, individual page titles/labels, content formats and so forth. In terms of social media, this might be an overall theme around which you’ll produce posts, sample content that establishes tone and voice, or even a series of templated posts for particular categories of discussion. 
  • Content production oversight (or content production itself) – in many cases, the strategist can recommend writers, designers and other content specialists to help produce what you need. In some cases a strategist may have the talent and capacity to do this themselves.  

And what if budget, time, resources, etc. prevent the hiring of a content strategist? 

My recommendation is to follow the content strategy steps above, and for each category locate an individual from within your network that can meet these needs. Look to volunteers with marketing savvy and writing or design expertise; pose your content strategy needs to board members with whom you’re well aligned and ask for their input and access to their networks. 

Additionally you might look to freelance platforms (we like Upwork) to locate individuals with talents specific to the content strategy roadmap outlined above. Or, turn to a qualified agency like ours that can help orchestrate and implement the entire process. 

No matter which path you follow, I urge you to mind this key rule: choose quality over expediency, because you will get what you paid for.  Content marketing for nonprofits requires patience, diligence, and resources. Given its importance to your mission and overall organizational well-being, it’s worth it to do it right. 

Good luck embarking on your content journey.  If we can be of any help to you in your process, we’re only an email away

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