A Subtle Sales Approach
I”m reading reports that say that 92% of nonprofit professionals use content marketing, and 65% are creating more content than they were a year ago – but I’m not entirely buying it. Content marketing has been getting a lot of attention for quite some time but I’m not sure the nonprofit world has fully embraced the concept and there are potentially some misconceptions about how exactly it works and why it’s good for nonprofits.
Content marketing is creating content that interests your constituents. Not direct sales pieces or donation pitches. Not overtly selling anything. The content is designed to get your name out in front of your constituents, show your expertise, get them more engaged and connected to your nonprofit and bring them back to the website or take some other action.
Ideally the content would be created by your nonprofit as opposed to curated content – sharing interesting content created by other people. Sharing content is obviously going to be a lot easier but you miss out on showcasing your expertise and building credibility with your constituents and you miss out on being able to use the content to draw people back to your website instead of someone else’s website.
Getting in the Habit
The best way to approach creating content is to start with content that is a MUST for fundraising. That content would show your impact and it would be easier to justify the extra time it will take. It may seem overwhelming, but once it turns into a habit and you streamline the process, it becomes much easier. Content showing impact really needs to come from staff – people on the front lines providing services.
So I recommend creating a one-page program report that key staff members submit weekly to management. The report would outline any significant activities, accomplishments, or potential stories for the week. The report would be accompanied by photos and/or video taken during the week. If the thought of doing this weekly is causing heart palpitations, then start monthly and work your way up to weekly.
These reports are perfect for generating content. The info on the report – accompanied by a photo or 2 – can be used directly as content or can help identify anything that has potential for a more in-depth article or news item. This gets staff in the habit of chronicling your nonprofit’s work which makes it much easier to show impact. This kind of content works great as News that you can post on your website and then repurpose in different ways in different media channels. See our article: How to Repurpose Content to Promote Your Nonprofit Event.
One of the biggest things that I think needs to be clarified is that the stories do NOT need to be specifically about fundraising or pitching a special event or whatever activity you are currently wanting to promote; the content just needs to be RELATED.
I recently made a list of content ideas for a client for a special event. One of the ideas was to do a write-up on an event partner including interviewing them about the relationship with the nonprofit and what they do. There was a big concern that the article topic was too far off-topic because it was not directly pitching the event. Pitching the event would be direct marketing which is not the purpose of content marketing.
I know this can be a strange concept for nonprofits. But if you put yourself in your constituent’s shoes what article would you be more likely to read? One pitching the event or one talking about the people involved in the event (no pitch)? When people find content that interests them, they will come back to read more content – giving you a lot more opportunities to get them more connected and more involved with your organization. This kinds of marketing creates better long-term connections to your nonprofit.
Starting with News
Developing your own news content is the most basic form of content marketing; after getting that mastered you can expand to creating more involved content like infographics or reports or coming up with some creative ideas to generate content from your users. Here is an interesting article form Capterra Nonprofit Technology Blog that shows some nonprofits having success with user-generated content: 5 Nonprofits with Successful Content Marketing Campaigns.