By incorporating content marketing into your nonprofit marketing and communications strategy, you’ll be able to attract new supporters, connect with donors and funders, and engage your stakeholders and team. In this post, we’ll share what content marketing is, how it can be applied to nonprofit marketing, and share different content marketing strategies and tactics you can apply to your nonprofit.
At a high level, content marketing is the use of content across your organization and various touchpoints to engage, educate, and inspire your audience, and it can take many forms. We’ll explore some of the different types of content later in this post.
Many of the nonprofits we work with aren’t familiar with the term content marketing, but they’re usually already incorporating it into their marketing and communications efforts in some way. Often, when people think about content marketing, they think of SEO and blogs that provide minimal value and are stuffed with keywords. Well, those days are gone. Now, content lives across so many different channels and touchpoints, and for it to be effective, it needs to truly resonate with your audience and provide value.
The challenge that we see with many nonprofits when it comes to content marketing, is that they are not being strategic in how they incorporate content into their overall nonprofit marketing and communications strategy and plan. This usually looks like pushing links on social media, promoting content once or twice (or on the opposite side of the spectrum, pushing the same content repeatedly), sending emails on an ad-hoc basis, inconsistent website updates, etc. Because of the lack of a clear strategy and implementation plan, the communications or marketing team (or individual) is left spinning their tires and feeling frustrated at the lack of results—and the nonprofit is missing out on many opportunities for growth, impact, and awareness.
Content marketing for nonprofits presents a HUGE opportunity to support your brand strategy, internal and external communications, and digital marketing efforts to allow you to inspire and engage your audience while building brand awareness, trust, and authority. All of which results in more funding and greater impact. It works because it nurtures your audience instead of trying to force them to convert. Great content at every touchpoint will engage, educate and inspire your audience to take action (convert).
If the term “convert” or “conversion” is new to you, this is when a user/visitor/target persona takes a desired action.
For nonprofits, examples of conversions are:
It’s important to note that content marketing for nonprofits differs from content marketing for businesses simply because the goals are different. The differences are largely in the messaging and measures of success. Your nonprofit content strategy and plan should touch on digital and brand marketing and internal communications because a great content strategy flows throughout the organization. Your strategy should include all aspects of planning, development, and distribution.
When we create content strategies for our clients, we always include an implementation plan AND an editorial calendar as part of the strategy, because without those in place from the start, it’s easy for things to get off track. These also help the entire team see how they impact the success of the marketing efforts, both indirectly and directly. Great content marketing involves most of your team and can also involve your board of directors and volunteers! Specifically, your nonprofit content strategy should identify:
Consider your overall goals/what you are hoping to achieve (these should map back to your strategic plan and organizational goals).
Identify the different groups of people you’d like to reach. This can include donors, board members, volunteers, community members, internal staff, organizational partners, etc. Identify who they are, why they would get involved with your organization, how they prefer to receive communications, and the different key themes that will resonate with them most at each touchpoint with your organization.
Map out your key messages and nuance them for the different audiences and key themes. Most of this work should already be done as part of your brand strategy, but if not, now is the time to start it.
What resources are realistically available to you? This is where you need to consider budget, internal capacity, external resources, available skillsets, tools, etc. You may need to draft a business case for additional resources once you start thinking through your overall strategy and approach.
Select the different types of content you’ll use, then create standards and identify your content governance framework.
How will you share your content? Simply pushing out a link or posting on your blog isn’t enough. Really think through all the opportunities to break up and share each piece of content you create.
These will vary based on your overall objectives and the objectives and goals of each piece of content. In general, for each channel and type of content, identify what your success measure is. It could be downloads of a report, email signups, new donors, new partnerships, website visitors, or media coverage.
We recommend building an annual editorial calendar and planning all of the key events, research, announcements, campaigns, etc., for the year. You’ll also need to leave space for news-related content and new opportunities. Your editorial calendar should also include tasks around planning, like who will draft, edit, review, post, interview, film, manage external vendors and timelines, key messages, tracking links, etc.
A big piece many organizations miss in their content strategies (and overall marketing strategy) is documenting processes. We like to document key processes as part of the strategy phase to help ensure the success of the marketing efforts. For example, for an annual content calendar, we recommend it’s reviewed quarterly for any major changes, monthly for news-worthy opportunities, and weekly to keep the development process moving and on track.
There are many types of content, and what you choose for your organization needs to align with your audience’s wants and needs and your resources. We’re sharing the top ten types of content that we’ve seen work well for our nonprofit clients, but this is by no means an exhaustive list.
When done well, email combined with social media has a massive impact on overall growth and engagement for nonprofits. And, it’s very cost-effective!
Email continues to be one of the most effective marketing channels, regardless of industry or category, but inboxes are cluttered, so you need to do email marketing well and make it as engaging and valuable as possible. Different types of emails can include announcements, newsletters, project updates, donor highlights, event promotions, welcome sequences, and drip campaigns.
Social media is where many nonprofits miss out on incredible benefits and opportunities! If you’re only pushing out links or your feed mostly asks your audience to register or donate, social media probably isn’t impacting your marketing efforts.
Use social media as a community-building tool to share valuable information, insights, and inspiring stories with your community. Use your nonprofit marketing funnel to help you find the balance between the different types of messaging for social media.
In addition to social media and email, video is another non-negotiable content format for nonprofits. With TikTok and Instagram continuing to thrive, and around 2.85 billion monthly active users on YouTube alone, nonprofits can no longer afford not to include video as part of their content marketing efforts.
Video is more accessible than ever, thanks to amazing cameras on our mobile devices. Production value can increase based on your budget, goals, needs, audience expectations, etc., but no matter what, video is an incredible storytelling tool. You can use video to live stream organizational updates, events, explainer videos, testimonials, donor stories, interviews, and SO much more.
Annual reports present nonprofits with an opportunity to foster trust and awareness throughout the upcoming year. It’s also a great opportunity to create an engaging and interactive piece of content you can break up and use throughout the upcoming year.
Because it’s often a large project, we really recommend that you ensure you have lots of time to pull data, quotes, etc., from across the organization that showcases the breadth of your impact, your successes, highlight your stakeholders and team, and share progress on past and present goals.
The term SEO has become ubiquitous over the last decade (or more), but is often misunderstood, and we’ve found most of our clients generally think of it as either keyword stuffing or too technical for them.
SEO can not be overlooked; from your website and blog to social media like Instagram and TikTok, SEO plays an important role in your content being found. We’ve found that thoughtful content that uses keywords and phrases in a natural way, combined with overall blogging and social media best practices, plus tools like Google Ad Grants and no technical SEO errors, makes it worth the investment for most of our clients.
Nonprofits often have incredible insights and access to experts directly on their team or board of directors or through partnerships and granting/funding programs.
Research and reports are incredible sources of content! Custom research often attracts media attention and almost always increases brand authority and awareness. Plus, it provides an incredible source of content to be broken down for social media, webinars, speaking engagements, and more.
Virtual events and webinars present an opportunity to connect with your audience, answer questions, discuss relevant topics, and highlight the mission and impact of your nonprofit, which in turn will increase brand awareness and authority. They’re also an incredible tactic for growing your email list and leveraging a drip campaign to nurture your audience.
Case studies are a great way to showcase the work your nonprofit is doing and the impact you have. They can be shared on your website, over social media, through email, or presented as part of an annual report or webinar. They also make a strong addition to your case for support and funding applications.
Free resources can drive extensive engagement and rapidly grow your email list. They’re also a great way to educate, inspire, or entertain your audience! For example, if your organization focuses on newcomers, you can create a cookbook (online or PDF), email or social media campaign focused on different recipes that show your community/audience how to eat well and make healthy food choices.
Content marketing is not just a tool; it's a bridge connecting your nonprofit to the world. It's about telling your story in a way that resonates, engages, and motivates. Whether through email, social media, video, or impactful reports, each piece of content is a step toward greater brand awareness and impact. Remember, your mission matters, and by effectively harnessing the power of content marketing, you're not only amplifying your voice but also fostering deeper connections with those who share your vision.
At Sidepony, we're committed to guiding and supporting you in this journey. Together, we can craft a customized strategy and narrative that not only highlights your cause but also inspires action and change. Book a discovery call to see how we can help.
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