What is Content Marketing for Nonprofits?

Steven ShattuckSeptember 11, 2017

What is Content Marketing for Nonprofits? header image

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is defined 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.

Since I had to read through that sentence multiple times to figure out what it said, let’s break down those pieces real quick:

  • “Marketing approach focused on creating and distributing”
    Content marketing is a mindset that results in both the creation and sharing of consumable material.
  • “valuable, relevant, and consistent content”
    Anything your organization creates should meet those three requirements.
  • “to attract and retain a defined audience”
    It might be a good idea to define your audience first, but the goal is to attract these people and keep them engaged.
  • “to drive profitable action”
    Attracting the right audience and retaining them will ideally result in some kind of profitable action.

Applying Content Marketing Strategies To Nonprofits

Content marketing for nonprofits is creating content (blogs, guides, videos, social media, etc.) that not only engages with your donors, but also helps prospective donors discover your organization.

In “Why It’s Important to Understand the Donor Journey,”we mentioned there are two types of marketing: push/outbound marketing and pull/inbound marketing. Content marketing is a type of inbound marketing. You are creating content your prospective donors are already searching for and “pulling” them towards your organization’s solution.

Content marketing also allows you to establish what marketers call “thought leadership”. When someone is looking for something related to your cause or mission, thought leadership means your blogs, articles, or website will be sought after for its authority.

For example, if you’re fighting human trafficking and someone is looking for stats or news on human trafficking, they will ideally come to your site first. By bringing more people to your website, your brand will become more recognized, and some of those people will hopefully convert into donors.

So what elements make up content marketing? Here are 3 different pieces of content.

1. Blogs

Most everyone has a blog these days, and there’s a reason for that. Not only is blogging a great way to keep your donors up to date with the happenings of your nonprofit, but it’s also a great way to attract new and prospective donors.

There are different schools of thought on how often to post blogs and what they should contain. A good rule of thumb is to post content as consistently as you can, but you shouldn’t post something just to post something. You want to make sure the content you produce is high quality so people see the value in it.

Here are some general blog tips:

  • Lists are awesome. Websites like Buzzfeed have shown us that we love reading lists. Lists are simple and straightforward, which is exactly what people are looking for: easy reads.
  • Include images. This makes your blog post more interesting and engaging for readers. Place images throughout your blog that are relevant to your topic, and include an image at the top.
  • Use links. One way to help your blog posts get found on search engines (like Google) is to link to credible sources outside your website. Another is linking to your other blog posts. Outside source links could be a website you used to find a statistic, or the original website of a quote you are using. Linking to other posts on your blog gives the reader additional options to keep reading, and keeps them on your blog longer, gaining more exposure to your nonprofit.
  • 2. Downloadable Content

    Another key aspect of content marketing is creating downloadable content. This is content that is a little more in-depth on one topic (like an ebook or guide) that people would be willing to give up their contact info in order to download. Once you have their contact info, you can start sending them information about your mission. Sending them content – whether that’s your monthly newsletter or an introductory email series – acquaints them your mission and background, and invites them to engage deeper.

    Did your founder write a short book or essay that people would be interested in reading? Is your nonprofit an expert on a certain topic? Then compile those ideas into an ebook! You can also repurpose a blog series you’ve created and make it into a downloadable ebook. Anything that shows value enough for people to give you their name, email, and address.

    3. Social Media

    When it comes to the donor journey, social media can be sprinkled throughout the entire thing. Social media is a great way to not only spread awareness about your organization, but also create evangelists for your organization.

    Create social media posts that are most likely to shared by your followers. This can include a powerful image, video, statistic, piece of content, etc. A great place to start is to go through your social media posts and see what people have responded to in the past. Are there certain posts that people share or like more than others? Create more of those! You don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to creating shareable social posts.

    Play up your hashtag game. Create hashtags around your cause and start getting your advocates to use and promote it. Hashtags can be used across all social media platforms and are a great to spread awareness about your cause. Try challenging your donors to do something – we all know how successful the Ice Bucket Challenge was. And while that challenge took on a life of its own, there are a lot of elements from that campaign that you can apply to your audience.

    Don’t forget to give your donors the opportunity to promote your mission. This includes things like promoting birthday campaigns, gifts in honor or in memory of someone, etc. Think of things that would be compelling for your donors to share and then test it.

    How to Get Started With Nonprofit Content Marketing

    Yes, we know we just threw a ton of different content ideas at you. It can feel overwhelming to create all of this content. The best way to get started is to think through your Donor Journey.

    Walk through your Donor Journey and figure out what topics would be the most helpful to your supporters or prospective supporters at each stage.

    Next, start mapping out your content marketing. Remember, your donors are going on a journey. Make sure the order of your content makes sense. You wouldn’t want to give your prospects an extremely in-depth white paper about something that only your current donors would understand.

    To help you out, we’ve created a Donor Journey Map worksheet that you can fill in with all your different pieces of content. So grab your team, find a whiteboard, and start brainstorming content ideas!

    Schedule a live demo with our partner Bloomerang, and we’ll show you how easy it is to create and automate reports, utilize online and offline fundraising tools, quickly integrate and access all your data, and ultimately create more time to engage your donors.

    Filed Under:   Communication