Content marketing for nonprofits with limited resources can be very daunting at times. Smaller nonprofits may find developing a comprehensive marketing plan difficult. You maybe questioning where to start. No matter the organization’s budget or size, a nonprofit can get started with content marketing. It just takes a bit of creativity and the right tools.
The world of content marketing is extremely diverse. There is no one right way to do it. Content goes way beyond written words. Data visualization, videos, games, and apps are all types of content.
Content marketing is just one part of digital marketing. In terms of content, all the pieces of a digital marketing strategy require some type of content. Even traditional marketing requires a content marketing strategy.
What this guide hopes to teach about Content Marketing For Nonprofits:
- Orient you to the concept of content marketing for nonprofits.
- Provide you with a honey comb of what a content strategy looks like.
- Give you an understanding of consumer journeys, funnels, and personas.
- Provide a list of resources nonprofits
- Help you understand Search Engine Optimization (When you are done here read On Page Search Engine Optimization).
- Upcoming & Future – Auditing website content
What Is Content Marketing?
“Content marketing is 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.” – – Content Marketing Institution
Things To Do Before Creating Content For A Nonprofit
- Get stakeholders involved early to understand overall goals for content marketing strategy.
- Ask foundational questions. Why should the organization create content? Which programs would benefit from content marketing? What value do we want to provide with the content?
- Make a list of long term & short term goals.
- Create a list qualitative goals.
- Define quantitative goals.
- Develop a list of Key Performance Indicators for each goal.
- Track goals in Google Analytics.
- Learn how to monitor and track social media channels.
- Extract information from Content Management Systems or Custom Relationship Management Software.
What should be included in a content marketing strategy for a nonprofit ?
Let’s breakdown the definition of a content marketing strategy. First, the goal is to “ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Profitable customer actions for most nonprofits are donations and product sales. Remember, goals must be specific,quantifiable, measurable, and time focused.
Second, a content marketing strategy entails objectives. Objectives are the steps required to achieve the goal. At this point, it time outline the details of how you plan to reach the goals for the content. Content marketing objectives can list who should take ownership of creating a particular piece of content. Here’s where it’s also important consider the tools and cost required to develop content.
Third, there maybe unidentified constraints in your content marketing strategy. Stakeholder input can be valuable in finding any barriers. It’s important to get any objections outlined prior to creating any content (especially expensive content). A non-exhaustive list of constraints are 1) legal requirements, 2) financial, 3) or manpower. Understanding constraints allows you to develop a plan of action to remove barriers or determine if the new strategy will work.
The fourth most important part of a content strategy is………buy-in. Leadership may have strong objections about content marketing. The immediate benefits are not always apparent. It could take months or years for content marketing to achieve it’s goal or may not hit the targeted financial goals (which means a loss for the nonprofit).
For instance, a television commercial or a video can cost thousands of dollars to produce. If the commercial fails to produce enough donations to cover the expense, the nonprofit has lost money. Or has it? Where the nonprofit lost money, it may have gained in exposure.
Next, a good content marketing strategy will consider competition. A competitive analysis report shows how well your competitors rank for the position you want. The report should be based on the industry the nonprofit organization serves. Explore competitors content pieces. Learn how you can deliver better value. A competitive analysis report should include 3-5 organizations (both nonprofit and maybe one for-profit). The report can go into detail about social media,video marketing, search engine marketing, data visualization. But keep the report to the types of content you plan to produce or have the resources to produce.
A gap analysis is the sixth part of a developing a content strategy. Identify the content areas the organization should improve. The gap analysis is another report. It’ does not have to be complete, but shows where the holes are in your content.
The most important parts of a content marketing strategy for a nonprofit.
Undeniably, the audience is the most important part of a content marketing strategy. The definition provided early talks about attracting and retaining a clearly defined audience or the target audience. Clearly define who your target audience.
Do you want to attract new donors? What about donor retention? What about building an influencer community? Are your creating the content for awareness purposes? Is the new audience completely different from your current audience? Only you know the audience you want to attract to the content. Produce content with your audience in mind. Gain insight into what drives your target audience to take action. Content should deliver value to your target audience in the form of value propositions.
Value propositions are what the consumer will receive from your content. The value can be tangible or intangible. Here are a few hints of what value to an audience could be: emotional well being, feelings of altruism, a white white paper, a t-shirt, or a financial .
Hopefully, the value you receive from reading this guide will be an increase in your knowledge about content marketing. You may just get a list of tools to help with content marketing (see below). You may also get downloadable templates or worksheets.
Content Strategy Honey Comb
The content marketing honey comb is not meant to be circular or linear. In the honey comb method all of the pieces fit together. Each comb is individual but remains as part of the entire strategy. At any time, you can move between each piece. For example, you can move from Analyzing to Optimization, thereby skipping Experimentation. Just know this is how I visualize and theorize a content strategy. These are the foundations and methods I use to produce content. It’s not perfect, but it’s a tool. .
Here are a few flaws I have seen over the years with nonprofit organizations: 1) they produce new content without updating old content 2) don’t produce any content 3) don’t centralize the content to their own website. Content marketing is not a one time deal, nor is it something to create then forget about.
Content gets old and stale, which means it should be refreshed. I have done several edits to this guide since it has been created. Don’t get into a vacuum. Updated content that performs well. Remove content that does not perform.
Evergreen content is content that is created to live indefinitely. It can change a little but not much will transform with the content. You want to produce a lot of evergreen content when possible.
We have already discussed goals. However, within the concept of goals are conversions, the quantified number of times a person took an action(s) based on your specific goal. An example of a question you may ask would be what was the set of actions that lead to a donation, a purchase, or increase in revenue. Remember, the goal is to drive profitable stakeholder actions. You may have additional goals with this primary goal. Content marketing for nonprofits should focus on the end actions you want the user to take!
However, there are two types of conversions: micro-conversions and macro-conversions. Micro-conversions are the smaller conversions that potentially lead to macro-conversions. Micro-conversions are form fills, downloads, video watch rates, or other actions. Macro conversions are the big profitable conversions. Macro-conversions are donations, purchases, and anything monetary.
Segmentation is a whole blog post on it’s own. But know this, your target audience is not just one group of people. Segments are filters to find the best converting audience for your content. Your audience can be segmented by geography, behavioral,or demographic characteristics.
Analyzing Content: Metrics, KPIs, & Google Analytics
Producing content will require time. But analyzing content, will take additional time. Why? You have to apply statistical analysis tools to measure how well the content performs. Google Analytics is just one tool digital marketers use to analyze content marketing strategies. Know what tools are required to measure and analyze each piece of content. For example, video marketing requires extending Google Analytics implementations to capture additional data such as play back rates, how long users watch the video, or if the video was downloaded. Your goal worksheet MUST detail how you plan to capture, measure, and analyze data. Know your key performance indicators!
Testing What Works
A/B and multivariate testing are two types of experimentation that will help find out if altering content will increase or decrease conversions. It’s important to experiment with your content. If the content piece continues to perform poorly after several alterations, consider removing the content.
A/B testing is simply taking one piece of content and changing something like wording or a color. Multivariate testing changes many parts of the content and captures whether you have positive or negative changes. Then you can use a tool like Google Optimize to test the original against new design . Google Optimize can be connected with Google Analytics for a more holistic view of how well content performs. It’s not a default setting and requires additional implementation. Most email marketing platforms have methods to A/B test as well. However, you may not be able to A/B test or multivariate test expensive pieces of content.
Scale Content Marketing Efforts
Optimizing and scaling your content marketing strategy requires analyzing your data, experimenting, and finally producing new content as needed. You can scale, transform, and re-purpose old content into something different. For example, as you are reading, I am thinking about several new ways to scale and transform images within this post to moving graphics or videos. Maybe an infographic will work better for some individuals. Or for people who like to listen, a podcast or audio would be better.
At some point content will need to be refreshed. A solid content audit allows you to find outdated content. Once per year you need to list out all of your content sources, where it lives, and if the content has old information.
Tone of Voice
Guiding the user with tone and voice is that last part of the honey comb.
Brand Voice gives your brand a personality. You create the feeling and emotions you want to convey in your content (humanistic, professional).
Tone is how you want the content to sound. Also consider language (simply, complex, jargon) in your styling and editorial guidelines.
Consumer Journey, Audiences & Segmentation:
Earlier, you read how the content marketing strategy is not liner nor circular. Marketing strategies also have an additional component: the consumer journey, which is represented in the image above.
The consumer journey is synonymous with a decision tree. However, we can apply the concept of segmentation to the consumer journey. The journey is the funnels used to reach the conversion or action. Learn what content fits during each phase of the consumer journey. Two questions you must ask are 1)What content fits with our segment? 2) Where is the consumer in the the journey or funnel? Don’t serve awareness content to someone who is in the action phase! Don’t provide distracting content during the action phase. Why do you think Amazon’s shopping cart pages don’t allow you to go back? It distracts you from the purchase!
Discover who your audience with personas.
Now let’s move on to personas, which are part of segmentation and the consumer journey.
- Buyer /Donor Personas
- Each persona has it’s own journey
- Address stakeholder concerns in each stage of the journey
- Personas allow you to target what users actual care about
- Set the tone of voice (conversational, authoritative,etc.)
- Know where and how consumers consume information during each stage
- Conduct interviews and research people who interact with customers more often (Development Coordinators, Volunteer Managers, front line staff, etc )
- Speak with prospects
- Background, challenges, preferred content medium, objections, who plays a key role in the purchase/donation process
- Create a marketing message for each buyer persona
- Create a sample buyer journey
- Know what content to present based on person’s stage within the funnel
- Top of Funnel represents the awareness phase. Most new consumers enter in the journey during this phase. More than likely, users will not convert during this phase. Consumers may never return, because the could not find the content needed. Your content will not fit everyone’s needs!
- Middle of Funnel maybe return visitors, people who have engaged with the organization at events, through social media, or the website. Not all users make it to the middle of funnel.
- Bottom of Funnel is where your profitable actions are. These are the donations, people purchasing tickets to events, or buying merchandise. You know these individuals and can use prospecting and cultivation techniques. But again, remember the two types of conversions micro-conversions and macro-conversions. So a conversion, doesn’t have to be monetary.
- Consumers can re-start any part of the journey over again or be part of multiple journies!
What Tools Do You Need To Create Awesome Content For Your Nonprofit?
Make the nonprofit organization’s website the concentric place to store content. Great web hosting is an essential key to a successful content marketing strategy. If you don’t know, Amazon Web Services has partnered with TechSoup.org to provide nonprofits up to $2,000 per year in AWS credits. For a $175 administration fee, you can unlock the incredible power of a Virtual Private Server, Amazon Polly, & machine learning.
Microsoft also has similar offers. You can use as many as you wish and combine services.
Google For Nonprofit has offers G-Suite for Nonprofits, Google Ad Grant (up to $120,000 per year in ad credits), Youtube for Nonprofits, and Earth & Maps. You have the potential to unlock a ton of quality digital marketing services.
Let’s Talk Types Of Content & Content Creation:
- Big Piece Content 150-200 pages. Then you can break this down in smaller bits.
- Visuals (infographs, slide decks, etc)
- Charts graphs
- Create a video (supplemental to promote content)
- Blog post
- Cheat sheets
- Gating Content (Lead Generation)
- A form that ask for certain info to download content
- Gate all content
- Gate non-of your content (removes barrier of entry-helps grow branding and early stage content
- Gate based on consumer buying stage -can you do this with donations? (Helps with scoring leads with marketing automation)
- Thought leadership pieces or best practices pieces
- Mid stage assets
- ROI calculator
- buying guide
- Late stage
- Promotion strategy
- Create a strategy document that outlines topics. Audience piece address, goals, thesis, table of content. Buying stage, product promotions.
- Score content with marketing automation based on buying stage
- meet with stakeholder and go over goals and what assets should be used for.
- Create a promotion plan
- Assign a product manager
- Multi-channel promotional promotion strategy
- Test promotional strategies
- Promote Content/Merchandising Content on Website (Optimize for conversions).
- Where to put content
- Homepage Content
- Make sure you have a Call To Action
- Ads throughout site
- Banner ads throughout website
- Resource Section
- Categorize by topics\
- Forms for lead generation
- Visual ques
- Periodic Table of Storytelling
- Google Analytics
- Google Search Console
- Topic Ideas from Google Ads Account
- Similar organizations
- Social Media Listening & Search
- Google Alerts
- Google Trends
- Creative Writing
- Evergreen Content
- Potent Headline Generator Tool
- HubSpot Idea Generator Tool
- Senory, Call To Action, & Emotion List
- Google Docs (Online Collaborative Tool)
How To Write It
- Tone, phrasing,
- Dialogic Principle
- Connect with Audience using we, you, I, our
- Draw upon emotion
- Shift reader/viewer attention
- Learn to write for your audience
- Use audience worksheets for each piece of content produced
- Segment your audience
- Do you have any legality issues?
- Persuasive, informative, humorous, entertaining, action, desire
- Good Ole F – Pattern
Idea generation for content marketing nonprofits
What are your nonprofit’s priorities? Have you outlined a brand strategy or initiative? Do you have thought topics or Subject Matter Experts to help with content creation? Who is the primary audience for the content? Here are a few ways to find content ideas: Industry trends, Competitor Content, Stakeholder ideas, find a subject-matter expert. You need to determine who in your organization knows about your topic.
Finding & Creating Your Own Images
There are a ton of Creative Common resources for images. Don’t take other people’s images without permission. It’s copyright infringement. If you have a graphic designer, photographer, or videographer at your disposal, consider creating unique images and graphics that will be owned by the nonprofit.
Digital Rights Management (DRM) takes content copyright mechanisms to a new level. Don’t get DRMed!! Google and Bing take DRM complaints seriously. Google or Bing observe the right to remove your content from the web.
Here’s a list of image resources for content creation:
Pixaby.com (Creative Commons)
Unsplash.com (Creative Commons)
Canva.com (have accounts for nonprofits!)
Inkscape (can create Scalable Vector Graphics-SVG)
GIMP (Open Source-OS)
Google Image Search (Creative Common, Free to distribute, modify, & use)
SEO your images with titles, captions, alt properties.
If cloud hosting images, make sure your links are masked to your website.
Camera & Mic (Digital camera, excellent cell phone, or a computer with a camera & microphone)
Screen capture: Using an IPAD (has a screen recorder), Open Broadcaster, are a few to use.
Video Editing Software For Content Creation:
Adobe Premiere (See TechSoup.org)
Natron (Video Editing Software OS)
Youtube for Nonprofits (Must have a Google for Nonprofit Account)
Sprout Video (Paid)
SEO for videos bots can’t read videos!
Why Your Nonprofit Needs Editorial Guidelines
Editorial guidelines allow your nonprofit organization to maintain brand consistency across multiple platforms, media, and channels. The guidelines are a set of written instructions about brand colors, layout, design, configuration, permissible fonts, and more.
If you plan to have user generated content, you also need to have submission standards. Your organization outlines the quality standards for any content it accepts or creates. The document also helps remove repetitive task such as providing art direction. A few examples of excellent editorial lines are: BBC Editorial Guidelines, NTEN.org Q & A, Rit.edu.
Getting Organized For Content Marketing
The content calendar.
Cadence and timing of content production are extremely important. Social media networks are a perfect example of platforms that require new content daily. Editorial calendars help organize the “when” of a content marketing strategy. The calendar should align with important events for the nonprofit organization.
I strongly suggest all nonprofits develop a content calendar. Philanthropy Journal has a content calendar to inform academic researchers of when certain topics can be submitted. This is just one example of how to use a content calendar.
Know the right tools for the right job
Why Should Nonprofits Content Market?
The number one reason nonprofits should have a content strategy is to build and drive awareness to their organizations. Content marketing may have cost, but could lead to lower cost of acquisition when you have lead generation in mind.
There are many ways to jump into content marketing to drive awareness. You should consider the lowest barrier to entry, such as the organization’s website, as the starting point. Take the philosophy that all content should lead back to the organization’s website. The website is where you keep downloadable and gated content for lead generation.
- Key Take-Aways:
- Have a plan before starting content creation
- Know the type of content you want to create and have a budget
- Content creation does not start on it’s own. Start small and work your way to the bigger content types such as e-books and videos