An Introduction to Content Strategy for Nonprofits
Does this sound familiar? “Hey, let’s write a thing to let our supporters know what we’re up to!” “Oh, hey maybe let’s write another thing!” “Oh, what about this thing? Wait – didn’t we already write something similar to this? What’s the purpose of this again? I have too many things to do! Who’s driving this ship?!
This is why a content strategy can be helpful for your nonprofit. The idea is to come up with your strategy BEFORE you start blasting people with emails or sharing the latest thing you’re working on in your social channels.
Phase 1 of content strategy: create a content calendar
You can start by making a list of all the key dates that might be important to your charity, such as:
- Quarterly board meetings
- Annual gala fundraisers
- Big volunteering days
- Grant application or reporting deadlines
- Dates of significance to your cause area, such as education or school-related dates if your nonprofit works with educating youth – this could be when report cards come out, when they start/finish school, etc.
- National holidays, e.g. Veterans Day if your charity works with veterans
- Conferences or major news events, such as the United Nations’ Global Goals Week
- Seasonal giving days, such as regional giving days or Giving Tuesday
- Other important days, such as April 15 being tax day in the United States
- What counts as a “news” event for your organization, such as a political decision, a natural disaster, or something where you might want to have a plan to share content in a timely way with your supporters, even if you don’t know when it might happen
Think about the kinds of content that you might want to share at these different times of year. Some content is going to be around the same time every year, such as year-end giving or if your annual fundraiser is at the same time. For other “news events,” it’s helpful to have a plan in advance so you can be responsive to supporters, even in the 24/7 news cycle. Political organizations do this really well – they are very timely about sending emails in response to news-related events to motivate their supporters to act. They know that to get you to act based on emotion, they have to get their message out while you still have some strong feeling about the news.
It’s also helpful to consider who is best to tell the story (maybe a colleague in program management), who needs to approve it, and how long they need to create or approve that content. But we’ll get more into the content process later.
Phase 2: Be strategic and define goals for each channel
This is where you get into the details of content strategy for your nonprofit. Let’s be mindful of what we’re putting out there so we’re not wasting any of our valuable time & we’re actually helping our fundraising team out. Enter: goals, objectives, audience, platform, etc.
For your annual fundraiser, you might want to see if email subject lines affect whether people register for the event or not. Your goal could be to increase registrations by 5% from the previous year.
For your donation page, you can test to see if adding a promo message (like “Select to give monthly and receive your reusable tote bag!) under a checkbox that says “make my gift monthly” leads to more people becoming recurring donors.
For your Facebook page, you can try posting a question rather than talking about your organization first, and see how many people engage with a post when you post a question on a Tuesday evening rather than share a story/photo of your work on a Tuesday evening.
Phase 3: Measure your impact for each channel
Do you know the impact of these things we’re writing? How do you know if the content you are creating is worth any of your time? Are you testing different types of content to see what does better? Wanamaker’s Dilemma is an old saying in advertising that “half my budget on ads is wasted; I just don’t know which half.” The good news is that with digital marketing, unlike billboards on a highway, there are LOTS of ways to measure what works and what doesn’t.
A few ways to do this are:
- A/B test content on your website to see if phrasing things differently helps get you more donations
- A/B test email subject lines and formats to see what does better (use this handy calculator to check for if you get a statistically significant difference)
- Does a supporter donate more when they get different types of content first?
You can think of yourself as a scientist: pick a hypothesis about what you think will do better, run an experiment, and check the results to see if it proves or disproves your hypothesis.
Then, when you know what works, you can do it again to make more of an impact!
Feeling excited about your marketing? For more advice on moving from content to results, download the Nonprofit Recurring Giving Benchmark Study research. This research analyzes actual donations to 115 nonprofits across 9 different verticals, analyzing 115 donation pages, 4,117 email communications, 534 direct mail letters and 83 phone calls to find insights you can use to get more recurring donors.
About the Author
Katharine Bierce manages the Salesforce.org blog and helps create research-based content at Salesforce.org. She is a lifetime member of Net Impact, a StartingBloc fellow, and has volunteered with TechSoup to produce “tech for good” events and content with the SFTech4Good Meetup (a NetSquared community) from 2014-2018. A self-described “full-stack human,” she is an avid meditator and yogi. When she’s not managing marketing content, you can find her teaching or taking yoga classes around the San Francisco bay area. Katharine graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Chicago with a degree in Psychology, and holds PMP and CSM certifications. Her favorite Sustainable Development Goal is #3: Good Health and Well-Being. Follow her on Twitter: @kbierce
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