In Not Using Content Marketing Wisely? Your Nonprofit’s Leaving Money on the Table I defined ‘content marketing’ so you could better understand the centrality of this concept to the success of your overall fundraising and marketing communications strategy. We talked about how to create a nonprofit content marketing plan, and how to manage that plan.
Today we’re going to look more closely at using donor-centered content marketing to significantly boost your fundraising results. And that means considering both your message and your medium.
In other words, in answering the question: “Is it the message or the medium?” my answer would be both. They are inseparable in today’s digitally revolutionized world. And medium is more important than ever – because people have so many choices!
Humans are wired for storytelling. They’re the form of content folks are most drawn to, and they’ll keep your reader’s/listener’s attention better than any other format. You can use them to lay out the problem your clients face (choose a specific protagonist with whom the would-be donor can identify), the obstacles they must overcome, and the ways they can be rescued. Then all you need to do is show a would-be donor how they can be the hero who gives the story its happy ending!
Image ignite imagination. They can tell a story in and of themselves, especially with the addition of a caption. They can set the stage for further storytelling with the addition of a link back to your website. The best photos are close-ups of faces that enable you to discern emotion and put yourself in the subject’s shoes. If that was you, or someone you know, you’d want someone to help! Content that includes a photo is more likely to be shared than content without one.
Videos are photos on steroids. Images plus narrative creates a compelling storytelling mechanism. They’re best when filled with images, true stories of people in need and/or being helped and emotion, rather than a bunch of data and speeches about what you do and how great you are. Video used to be prohibitively expensive for nonprofits. Today anyone with a smart phone can make one. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Some things I like to do with videos:
- Take folks behind the scenes
- Offer donor and volunteer testimonials that serve as social proof you’re a worthwhile force for good
- Offer client or influencer testimonials that demonstrate your outcomes
- Interview donors, clients or community leaders to tell their story and showcase your mission, vision and values
- Personalize a message to your donor
These bring data to life, making statistics easier to understand. They’re useful when you have powerful information to share and don’t want it to land with a thud. Next time you’re contemplating a traditional annual report, contemplate an infographic in its stead. Or add an infographic to a story to show how a donation might yield concrete results.
The more useful you can make your content, the more relevant it will be to readers. Help, don’t sell. Look at the valuable information you use every day, perhaps with your clients or volunteers, and consider how to put that into a format everyone can access. (e.g. “How to Spot Signs of Dementia;” “How to Recycle at Home;” “How to Baby-proof Your Home;” “How to Care for a Rescue Pet;” “How to Introduce Children to Classical Music.”). You can put this into the form of a downloadable E-Book, Template, Checklist or even a “how to” video. Consider offering these gifts of content as what are known as “lead magnets” – impossible-to-resist downloads that entice folks to sign on to your mailing list in exchange for something of value to them. Offering appreciated content works much better than simply saying “Please join our mailing list.”
You’ve no doubt lots of helpful stuff to share based on your area of expertise. Maybe you can recommend the best books to read on your topic. Or the best places to take kids on the weekends. Or the best assisted living facilities. Or the best places to introduce children to art. Or the best movies dealing with the topic of women’s rights. Get creative!
Position yourself as a thought leader by sharing recent research. It may be a study you’ve conducted yourself, or it could be something of which you’re aware that you’re planning to use. When you explain the research in easy-to-understand terms, it helps constituents feel smarter. And this makes them feel good.
Inspiration and Humor
People love inspirational quotes. And jokes. And cartoons. Think of what you might share to give folks a little smile.
These days if you don’t have a good website you’re not even in the game. Stop reading NOW and go directly to build yourself a plan to create a user-friendly, content rich, regularly updated website that offers fresh, relevant content to potential constituents.
- Optimize it for search engines.
- Make navigation logical and user-friendly.
- Clearly state what you do and why you do it.
- Make sure when folks land on a page to which you’ve directed them, they find relevant information.
- Keep your information fresh and up-to-date.
- Make it easy and enticing for folks to give you their contact information.
- Make it easy and compelling to donate.
- Optimize for mobile, as today more folks will find you using a phone or tablet than a desktop.
A blog is like a mini-website. In fact, my blog is my website. If you’re a small nonprofit, you may choose to go that route as it’s relatively easy and inexpensive. If you already have a website, a blog can serve the same function as an e-newsletter, but it’s better (IMHO) because it’s searchable online – making it an easy way to keep folks apprised of news, priorities, activities, campaigns and more. Plus blogs tend to be fresher than most websites. Blog posts can be repurposed into other types of content as well, and you can link to them using social media and email. So they can serve as the hub of all your nonprofit content marketing activity.
The truly great thing about your email list is that, unlike social media, you own it. No one can take these contacts away from you. So it behooves you to have a robust email list building strategy. Email is the most mature form of social media, enabling you to deliver any content you choose direct to people’s inboxes (e.g., blog post, video, e-book, white paper, how-to instructions, breaking news, etc.). Today, what makes you stand out is personalization and relevant messaging. Consider not just the salutation, but also the preview pane and message content. The more you segment your list based on what you know about your donors, the more personal and relevant you can get.
How about this? 55% of people who engage with nonprofits on social media end up taking some sort of action. And 59% of those people donate money! Like email, social platforms offer the option to send folks new content you create. It will go to your fans and followers, and if you use hashtags and/or compelling visuals, you’ll reach out to new folks as well. It’s good practice to prepare multiple posts from the same piece of content in order to make the most of the work you’ve already done. Have a blog post or video you want to share? Simply pull out interesting quotes, statistics, concepts and still images from your content. Or create new images in an app like Canva. You can even schedule these posts ahead of time using a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer. And don’t forget: if you have a desired action response (e.g., please share; please comment; please complete our survey; please take this quiz; buy tickets; sign up; donate), ask for it! Now, from one piece of content, you’ve got multiple messages to share on multiple mediums!
Use Content Marketing Wisely; Do More Good!
Content is king; medium is queen.
Please help them rule together!
The more they’re in alignment, the wealthier the realm.
And your nonprofit is the realm!
Whatever your official title at your nonprofit, if you (1) care about getting the message out to more people and(2) raising more money so you can do more good, then part of your job is content marketing.
You don’t have to be everywhere.
Commit to get started making nonprofit content marketing an organization-wide priority.
Please stop using “we can’t afford that” as an excuse.
You really can’t afford not to do this, because your competition is doing this.
If people can’t easily find you, interact with you, benefit from your content and build a relationship with you over time, they’ll do so elsewhere.
Pretty soon, you’ll simple cease to matter to anyone.
People won’t know you exist.
The money you left on the table will go elsewhere.
Your salvation will be the salvation of others; those who found a way to focus on return on investment, not just the current price tag.
- Decide what forms of content make sense for you based on (1) your mission and how it is best conveyed, and (2) your current resources (i.e., staff skills, volunteer talent and budget).
- Decide which marketing channels make sense for you based on (1) what channels you’re using successfully now; (2) what channels your top constituencies use most, and (3) what your current resources enable.
- Build a plan to develop relevant content.
- Incorporate into your plan ways to leverage content across multiple channels.
- Decide what tools and skills you need to make your content marketing plan manageable.
Want to begin with my favorite nonprofit content marketing hub and tool?
Check out Get Started with Nonprofit Blogging: Top 10 Reasons. Use this to persuade your ‘powers that be’ of all of blogging’s many benefits. Blogging helps you raise awareness, integrate and leverage your content marketing and build dynamic donor relationships. Ultimately, if you want to become a real “player” in the blogosphere, check out my Nonprofit Blogging That Drives Engagement Playbook with worksheets, blogging tactics, a content checklist and everything you need to make your content relatable, conversational and actionable. It also includes tip sheets to get your constituents to promote your content on your behalf. And much more! Questions? Feel free to email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Are you ready to give your donors the content they deserve? Here’s a Donor-Centered Content Marketing worksheet you can use as a template to enhance your donor communication efforts.