How to Produce a Content Strategy for a Nonprofit in 6 Easy Steps
For nonprofits, producing content is an incredibly powerful marketing tool. Simply talking about what you know best can build your brand and generate interest in your mission. There are so many examples of nonprofits that have reached new heights of success with a killer content strategy, but before we reveal all, we want to give you the tools to do the same. Here are 6 simple steps to building effective nonprofit communication.
- What is a Content Strategy?
- #1 Define Your Goals
- #2 Decide on a Type of Content Strategy
- #3 Choose Your Channels of Communication
- #4 Create Your Plan
- #5 Define Your KPIs
- #6 Adopt a Test and Learn Mindset
- Examples of How Content Strategies Are Used in the Nonprofit Sector
What is a Content Strategy?
Let’s begin by taking a look at how to define content strategy. It is a long term marketing game plan that is aimed toward achieving a tangible goal that you have defined for your nonprofit. Producing content, whether it be videos, a blog, newsletters, social media, or other forms, brings in potential members, donors, and volunteers who are interested in viewing what you create. An organization’s content strategy is highly related to inbound marketing, a highly-effective growth strategy.
Here are just some of the benefits of implementing a content strategy plan:
Reinforces your branding
Keeps donors and stakeholders updated on trends related to your organization
Requires only creation time and basic resources, which is inexpensive compared to an advertising campaign
As you look to build your content strategy, streamline the effort by following our 6 steps.
#1 Define Your Goals
As with any strategy, the first thing you want to do is create clear objectives. Write them down, and have them in mind throughout the entire process. Some example goals for your content strategy can include:
Increase traffic to website by X percent
Increase number of donors by X amount
Increase number of event attendees at next even by X percent, compared to the last
Increase community engagement, measured by X additional requests for the organization to participate in food drives or other external efforts
Increase number of volunteers by X amount
Oliver is framing up his content strategy goals.
#2 Decide on a Type of Content Strategy
Next, you want to decide which strategy you will adopt. Make sure you choose one (or a combination of strategies) that aligns entirely with your goal and your organization.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you may be wondering, what it is and how it can help your organization. When an entity’s content is optimized for SEO, it ranks high in the google search results, which generates more clicks to your website or blog. An SEO content strategy centers around producing content (e.g. blog articles, ebooks, website pages) that are optimized for ranking. To optimize your content, you need to know what the search engines take into account. For example, Google considers:
Quality (Google’s algorithms can pick up whether an article offers value. Freaky, right?)
Date the content was created
Page loading speed
If your content is mainly on your website or blog, your nonprofit website should be quick to load, attractive, and simple to navigate. Not only is page speed a consideration for your ranking, it impacts the overall usability of your content. After all, what is the use of great content and a high ranking if users are directed to a page that is not welcoming and engaging? Take the time to make your website effective.
An example of focusing on SEO is an organization that builds useful blog content in an attempt to drum up interest in their product. They may research the appropriate keywords for a particular topic and ensure as many are included as possible. Additionally, they will focus on maintaining the optimum word count and ensure the article is updated frequently so that the content creation date is constantly refreshed.
Pro Tip: Remember that while ensuring that your content is SEO optimized is important, it should always come second to writing for humans. Always be sure that your content is structured in a manner which is readable, coherent, and makes logical sense when read.
This strategy is about getting your name out as a leader in your field. By providing valuable knowledge and helping people in the same sector as you, you become a resource. When you are a resource for someone, they will listen to what you have to say. Some examples of thought leadership include:
Starting a podcast
Creating and running a Facebook community
Publishing professional publications like ebooks
Getting started as a thought leader may seem daunting. However, you can build your credibility, and reach, one step at a time. For example, the first step towards marketing yourself as a leader can begin with something as simple as focusing on your LinkedIn profile and overall presence. Be thoughtful about what content you post and watch how the engagement of your connections grows.
Lead Generation is all about getting people to interact with your organization in some way. This can take several different forms:
Opting into an email list
Subscribing to a webinar
Ensuring that your website is well-designed with an engaging landing page
Use chatbots or instant messaging for content uniformity on your website
Social media ads
Lead generation content differs from thought leadership content. Rather than in-depth content, it should be short, snappy, and exciting. Once someone has interacted with your organization and has become a member of your community database, the next step is how you choose to nurture them. How you decide to do this will depend on the overall goal that you previously defined.
Which content strategy should Sadie go with?
An example of using lead generation to achieve a goal for your organization would be to use the information gathered from participants at a webinar to send targeted nonprofit email messages. To participate in a webinar, a user will have to input a name and email address, and these can be then used to send fundraising emails, emails to encourage attendance at an upcoming conference, or emails searching for volunteers. It all depends on what your particular goal is.
#3 Choose Your Channels of Communication
What channels you choose for your strategy will of course depend on the type(s) you have chosen. They could include any of the following:
Email (e.g., an email newsletter)
A regularly updated blog
The best channel for your organization will depend on your message, your audience, and your team. Here are a few specific examples that may be helpful.
Your message: If you are a nonprofit co-op preschool that was able to secure an interview with a world-renowned early education teacher, your members, and prospective members, may want to hear every word of that dialogue. A podcast may be the most appropriate method of relaying this information.
Your audience: If your organization is focused on helping other nonprofits reach their goals through transforming their outreach through social media, first: we want to talk to you so reach out to us, and second: focus on reaching your target audience through social media may not be ideal since they are not there yet! Other communication channels would be more appropriate to spread the word about your mission.
Your team: Perhaps you recently hired someone who has a love, and a knack, for YouTube. Having this person focus their efforts on creating email campaigns may not only dull their spirit but force you to miss out on what could take your organization to the next level. When choosing channels for your organization, keep in mind the talents of your staff and, where possible, leverage their strengths and interests.
When you have your style chosen, it should be simple for you or your team to decide how to implement it.
#4 Create Your Plan
Once you have your goal, your strategy, and your chosen channel of communication, it is time to create a detailed plan to put the strategy into practice. To do this, you want to outline the following things:
The subject matter of your content (this will depend on your industry/ focus)
The order of content production
Your timeline of content production
Planning your content strategy should be a top priority. Your content team ought to be aware of the plan overall and their individual responsibilities for executing it. For example, the team member in charge of the website should have ample line of sight into any updates that need to be made regarding upcoming events so that they can properly plan for content updates. Additionally, there should be a strategy to regularly review and refresh static information like contact information, organization hours, and services provided. Including all members of your content team in the overall strategy, and specifying distinct responsibilities and timing for each person, will ensure that your content is up-to-date and that certain tasks do not fall through the cracks.
Pro Tip: An editorial calendar will help you to keep the timing of your content releases straight. We even have a template you can download to get you started.
An important aspect of planning is creating a clear profile of your target audience. Of course, it is impossible to have complete control over who is going to interact with your content, but it is a best practice to have a picture of the "ideal donor" or "ideal member" in your mind. This will help you to target your approach. For example, will your content be created for a younger audience, with informal language and pop culture references? Or are you reaching out to a mature audience who expects a more formal approach?
#5 Define Your KPIs
To track how your strategy is performing, you will need to decide which key performance indicators (KPIs) you will be recording. Some examples of KPIs include:
Matt is laying out his KPIs in his CRM.
Number of newsletter sign-ups
Number of unique blog visits
Average time spent on page (viewing blog or ebooks)
Number of new followers on social media
Percentage of new visitors vs. returning visitors to your website
Number of likes, comments, and shares on social media posts (and which platform performs best)
Choose the KPIs that align best with what you are trying to achieve. For example, if you are really looking to increase your social media engagement, tracking the follows, likes, comments, and shares can give you a great idea of how your content is hitting with users. On the other hand, if you are really leaning into your newsletter, tracking the number of new sign-ups and the unsubscribes is one of the best ways to understand how you are doing.
Pro Tip: Try not to panic at the first sight of trouble. Content is a long-term strategy that will take a bit of time to pay off for your team. That does not mean that you should overlook your KPIs though. Instead, monitor for at least three months to aggregate enough data so you can make decisions based on the results of a solid base of work.
#6 Adopt a Test and Learn Mindset
Finally, no matter what content strategy you choose, you want to make sure that it is actually performing. Your reporting will be key to making this happen. Once you have the necessary infrastructure to track everything, the next step will be to develop a test and learn mindset.
That is to say, test out different theories based on your regular cycle (e.g., monthly) and optimize your content creation based on what the data tells you. If what you are doing is working (i.e., you are hitting your KPI targets) then carry on. However, if your KPIs are falling short, then change your approach. It may be as simple as changing the voice of your content to align better with your audience. Remember that content strategies will not offer you a quick win. Be open to trying different strategy combinations to see which ones are best received by your audience over time.
Examples of How Content Strategies Are Used in the Nonprofit Sector
Now that you have a better idea of what content strategies look like, let’s talk about some examples of nonprofit marketing plans that have helped boost specific organizations’ efforts to do good in the world.
The American Heart Association offers loads of related content on all subjects pertaining to the heart and cardiovascular health. They are consistently ranked high in search engines, and when a user is rerouted to their page they have a website that loads quickly to a landing page for donations. They also have several well-placed donation buttons (both for one-time donations and recurring donations) and quick access to a volunteer page. They take advantage of their well-written and SEO-optimized content to get both donors and volunteers for their organization. As an added bonus, the website is visually appealing and is a great example of graphic design for nonprofits!
The North Carolina chapter of the Multiple Sclerosis Society serves a constituency of individuals affected by MS, and they created a podcast to share information, make the work of their chapter accessible to a broader segment of their core constituency, and to reach more people under 40.
The podcast offers a variety of topics, including interviews with researchers and people living with MS. The resulting numbers of downloads and live listens of the podcast demonstrate a generous broadening of reach for a relatively small investment.
The Make a Wish Foundation has a YouTube channel where they share all of their children’s wishes. They also use this channel to share videos of every wish fulfillment, as well as posting these stories to their social media sites, Facebook and Twitter. This strategy has increased interaction as well as funding for their program and is an excellent example of social media for nonprofits boosting numbers.
Launching a content strategy plan can create a real impact on your organization’s bottom line. High-quality content can rally supporters, help develop credibility, share data, and draw new donors or members. Whether you create flyers or launch a weekly podcast, content creation is a sure way to keep things engaging for your audience. Marketing strategy for a nonprofit organization is an exciting way to grow your association while also boosting member retention. Use the simple tips and strategies shared in this article to get started on your content strategy plan today!
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