April 12, 2017
It's true: Nonprofit marketing faces many challenges today. In particular, nonprofit marketers must adapt in the rapidly shifting fundraising landscape — And rely on tight budgets to get the job done.
Yet by creating a nonprofit content marketing plan, your organization also has a major advantage: It can employ a cause-based storytelling approach, which resonates with donors' intellect and emotions.
Furthermore, effective content is evergreen, and it doesn't rely on a continual ad budget.
A 2016 CMI survey of nonprofit content marketers found that 42% of the best-in-class organizations have a documented content marketing strategy, while only 25% of average performers and 11% of the least effective could say the same.
It's common for nonprofits to invest resources in mission and value statements that speak to the cause. Yet these value statements won't drive donations alone. In truth, a nonprofit needs a content marketing plan to drive communications.
In an Independent Sector survey of 2,000 charitable community members, most nonprofits listed communications as a main challenge. Overall, these nonprofits billed communications as “an underutilized strategy in the sector.”
Participants of all sizes agreed they had “much to gain by focusing on effective messaging and marketing strategies.” Additionally, they noted the need to better define and communicate their nonprofit brands, as well as prioritize organizational-level marketing.
The key to communicating a compelling story about your nonprofit organization is developing a content marketing plan.
Abila’s Dietz and Kelly noted that “nearly 75 percent of respondents say they might stop donating to an organization based on poor content, including vague content, dull content, irrelevant content, and inconvenient formatting.”
How can you avoid vague, dull, or irrelevant content? Plan ahead to determine what will best resonate with the target audience — and monitor the data to see what's working.
While in-person events are ranked as the most effective nonprofit tactic (77% of respondents), most of the tactics on the list are content offerings: eNewsletters (69%), videos (65%), social content (64%), case studies (63%) and more.
Therefore, solid content techniques are important to motivating donors. We will cover several nonprofit content marketing strategies below.
First, determining your nonprofit’s voice is a critical starting point. A successful content strategy demands a unique voice and tone, which can be applied on an individual basis or across the nonprofit. And the voice should be natural and comfortable for the writers… yes, your content can showcase the voices of numerous writers.
This voice should be consistent through all content pieces — any blog articles, white papers, infographics, email materials, etc.
Next, remember to keep the audience at the forefront when determining content ideas for your marketing plan. When you focus on your donors' concerns or motivations, you will create better engagement and increased interest in your content offering.
Consider the top three reasons given for donating, cited in the Abila study:
These considerations suggest donors are driven more by individual experience and personal story than the nonprofit’s vision and grander goals. Therefore these concepts should all play into content themes.
71% of donors feel more engaged with a nonprofit when they receive personalized content. — Abila
Since donors value personal experience, it make sense to send targeted content based on their individual interests. Work on creating content for different interests — for example, an email campaign about helping the elderly (and a different one for helping children), or the impact of small, consistent donations for historically small-value donors.
You should send these campaigns to particular "lists" of contacts identified by previous donations, expressed interests, etc.
As you might have guessed, having a tool to measure the data and engagement with your content is key. This intel allows you to move forward with even more segmented campaigns, and analyze what's working across your segments.
Also, you can craft content with relationship-building in mind. Create VIP experiences by providing exclusive information or offering premium content to particular audiences (e.g. recurring monthly donors).
On Facebook, for instance, you might create a private community for volunteers or regular givers. Planning content specific to these groups can enhance experience and help drive brand champion enthusiasm.
Interactive content such as quizzes, contests, polls and surveys also generate user interest, require their engagement, and can enrich the nonprofit’s perspectives to fuel better content.
Attending a nonprofit event made 74% participants much more or somewhat more likely to donate. — Abila
Content planning is more than determining what will be published on which channel. A recent Content Marketing Institute blogger suggested mapping the content ideas against stages of the buyer’s journey — an idea that is easily applicable to the donor’s journey.
Additionally, create a publishing schedule that helps bring Google to your website with regularity and keeps readers exploring the nonprofit’s website, blog and social media.
In making the plan, don’t get so focused on content that design and user experience are overlooked. Nonprofit websites and social media can contribute profoundly to online fundraising and donor retention with smart content management and a strong digital strategy.
Abila’s Dietz, R. & Kelly, B. (2016). Donor Loyalty Study. https://www.abila.com/lpgs/donorloyaltystudy/abila_donor-loyalty-study.pdf
Content Marketing Institute & Blackbaud. (2015, November). Nonprofit Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends— North America. https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2015/11/nonprofit-2016-content-marketing-research/
Garvey, P. (2016, July 6). How to Measure Performance to Improve Your Content Marketing. https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2016/07/measure-performance-content
Independent Sector. (2015 October). Threads Insights from the Charitable Community. https://www.independentsector.org/uploads/ThreadsReport.pdf
M+R. (2016). Benchmarks 2016. https://mrbenchmarks.com/
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