Content Strategy for Nonprofits: Make the Most of Your Story
If you are involved in your nonprofit’s marketing efforts, and especially if you’ve decided to see what the internet has to say about nonprofit marketing, no doubt you’ve come across the term content strategy. And if you had the courage to enter “content strategy” into a Google search, you were rewarded with scads of articles and resources.
My own search for content strategy yielded more than 1.8 billion hits. Refining my search to “content strategy for nonprofits” narrowed the results to a not-yet manageable 13.8 million links and resources. Clearly, this is important stuff, but it’s not always clear where to begin.
The bigger issue is how a content marketing newbie can cut through all the research and advice to come up with a workable plan for their organization. Stay with me and I’ll break it down for you, so you can make the most of your organization’s story with content marketing.
What is content strategy for nonprofits?
Content strategy for a nonprofit is everything involving the planning, development, and publication of content used to tell your organization’s story.
Chances are good that you are already implementing a content strategy of sorts. If you are printing brochures, sending press releases to local media, or posting fliers in local store windows — heck, even if you are telling your neighbors about a new program or service — you are sharing your nonprofit’s story (content) with the public.
The good news is that you know your nonprofit’s story and therefore are well on your way to a strong nonprofit content strategy. And today’s technology offers opportunities for taking that strategy to a whole new level.
What do you want to get out of your content strategy?
When you’re first starting out, it’s helpful to ask questions before you start plotting your strategy. Think about things like:
- What are you hoping to achieve through your marketing efforts?
- Do you want to encourage people to take advantage of your organization’s programs and services?
- Are you hoping to recruit new volunteers?
- Do you want to engage or recruit donors?
These are important questions to ask and will help you set a manageable set of goals specific to each audience that you hope to reach.
And while mission and vision are at the core of a nonprofit organization’s story, it is important to think about how you can tailor your message for each audience that you decide to target.
What does content marketing include?
Content marketing encompasses all the channels and communication methods you use to tell your nonprofit’s story.
Great stories have always been part of the nonprofit sector’s DNA. It’s the story and impact of an organization that keep a nonprofit’s employees, donors, volunteers, and other supporters engaged and invested in the mission.
So what’s different now? The possibilities for sharing those stories that have exploded in the last decade. Most nonprofits I work with continue to produce some print materials. Brochures and fliers still look great on street fair tables and library information kiosks. But it would be a mistake for any nonprofit to assume that their audience can’t be reached digitally.
The Pew Research Center reports that nine in ten adults in the U.S. use the internet. Facebook has 2.4 billion monthly active users — more than a quarter of the world’s population. With the help of mobile devices, 91 percent of consumers use email daily, and it is predicted that there will be 4.2 billion email users by 2022.
Your organization will benefit most from using a combination of channels – social media, email, website, and blog – to get your story out into the community.
Focus on providing valuable content
Before you set fingers to typing or cameras to recording, think about what content you can provide that will bring value to your target audiences. What will grab their attention, and keep them coming back for more?
People love pictures, so be sure to give them image-rich posts and emails. Don’t be shy about using nonprofit video content. Most smartphones have a decent-to-excellent camera and video function that you can use to capture special moments at events. (Just remember to get appropriate permissions from any people who are included in your videos, particularly if they are children.)
Beyond that, though, it can be hard to picture exactly what content strategy looks like for a nonprofit. After all, it isn’t like you are selling tires or designer jeans.
So, in an effort to help you get the ideas flowing, I decided to challenge myself to come up with 10 content strategy ideas, each for a different type of nonprofit. Every idea is something you can use right out of the box or as a springboard for developing your own awesome ideas.
10 creative content strategies for nonprofits
Senior Citizen Center
Use your content strategy to dispel some myths about growing older in the 21st century. Find out what your seniors are up to these days and circulate a series of profiles. Interviews, photos and videos can paint a vibrant portrait of your Center and its clients.
Animal Rescue/Adoption Center
Who doesn’t love pictures of puppies and kittens? How about circulating “adoption day” videos showing people getting to know their new pets? Offer sponsorships to local businesses to add their logo with the statement, “This adoption day moment was brought to you by…”
Support Center for Teen Parents
Circulate instructions for making a simple toy or game for a young child out of inexpensive, easy-to-find materials. Offer to give a toy-making kit to parents who attend your next open house, during which you share information about the social and educational services that you offer.
Theater fans are fascinated by what goes into a production. Rehearsal videos, backstage photos, and interviews with the “stars” help to build excitement for upcoming shows. Consider hosting a private dress rehearsal party for donors.
Art Education Program
I love the recipe videos that I see posted on Pinterest. In just a minute or two, I can watch two hands make an amazing one-pan meal. How about adapting that idea to art projects? Build an audience for these videos and then invite them to a community class to create something more complex.
A photo contest is a fun way to get people engaged. Use the best images to create a calendar that you can later sell to raise funds. The winning photographers get a little free publicity as well as bragging rights.
Community Food Pantry
Circulate delicious, nutritious recipes that rely on pantry staples. Plan a fundraising event around a potluck that uses the recipes, asking each volunteer cook to donate the ingredients used in his/her dish.
After-School STEM Education Program
An after-school STEM program would do the parenting world a huge favor by regularly featuring ideas for kid-friendly science projects. Make it fun by inviting children and adults to complete experiments side by side for the video camera, to see who are the more successful “scientists.”
English as a Second Language (ESL) Program
Once, many years ago, I volunteered to teach ESL. My client was a woman from Taiwan who spoke English beautifully, but would get stuck on common American phrases. Circulate a series featuring common idioms from around the world with their definitions, to raise awareness about the challenges of living in a new country.
History museums and societies often have wonderfully weird things in their collections. Circulate photos of the most curious items and ask people to guess what they are, posting their answers on social media. Plan a follow-up exhibit to display the items, or organize a fundraising event that features demonstrations or discussions explaining how they were used.
A final recommendation: celebrate your donors
Include your loyal supporters in your content plans. Celebrate them like the heroes that they are. A regular schedule of donor profiles using written content, photographs, audio, video or all of the above gives you many opportunities to get to know your donors, shows them how much you appreciate them, and inspires others in your community to give. It’s what I would call a win-win-win.
So what are you waiting for? Build a simple content strategy and start taking advantage of digital tools to engage your followers and grow your audience.
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