Content Strategy for Nonprofits: Share Engaging Stories

Ryan Jones • Jan 11, 2021
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Content is king. Bill Gates said it in 1996, and it’s still true to this day. Why? It’s not enough to tell donors and supporters about what you do. You have to tell your nonprofit’s story in an exciting, engaging, and informative way—and a content strategy is your blueprint for doing that. 

Whether it’s a blog post, your website, video, social media, ebook, or the NEXT BIG THING™ (maybe VR?), content is what pulls a lot of your donors into your community, setting them on the path to becoming lifelong supporters of your mission. 

So, write a blog post, slap it up on your site, and start reaping the benefits, right? Not so much.

While creating individual pieces of content is essential, you need a plan to guide you to get the most bang for your content buck. Content strategy is the foundation that provides a framework for your creativity, helping you achieve your goals and raise more funds for your nonprofit organization. And it’s not so complicated to set up—you’ll be up and running in no time.

Why Is Content Strategy Important for Nonprofits?

Your nonprofit’s content strategy (or content marketing strategy) is an outline that helps you plan, create, and deliver your story to current and potential donors. By planning out your content in an intentional way that aligns with your overall business goals and considers things like time, budget, staff, etc., you can improve your organization’s marketing efforts, attract more supporters, and ultimately do more good.

But let’s get specific. Here are four reasons your nonprofit organization needs a content strategy. 

  1. Boost awareness
  2. Support donor engagement
  3. Bolster fundraising efforts
  4. Save money

Do you need help getting started on your content plan?

With this content calendar, you can start creating content that’ll help tell your nonprofit’s story, engage more donors, and maximize your marketing and fundraising efforts.

Boost Awareness

63% of content marketers who implemented a content strategy found success due to improved distribution.

A good content strategy defines which channels your content will be distributed to, which ones it won’t, and what types of content to produce for each channel. This allows your content to reach more people in more places with attractive and appropriate content for different audiences. The result is a better awareness of your mission. 

Support Donor Engagement

Whether you’re sending an email or replying to a comment on Facebook, the goal of your nonprofit’s communications is to build relationships. Developing meaningful connections between your organization and donors is the most reliable way to keep them engaged with your cause. Strategic content marketing for nonprofits allows you to target specific audience segments with relevant content they care about, using their preferred method. This builds trust and helps you steward donors toward long term giving.

Bolster Fundraising Efforts

Fundraising and content marketing often exist in silos, especially at large nonprofit organizations. But if you’re building a nonprofit’s content strategy the right way, content can support fundraising, resulting in a bonus for your bottom line. Starting in the early stages of planning, if your content team knows what types of fundraising will occur, they can easily slot in content to support it throughout the year. And since content boosts engagement and awareness, your fundraising team will have a large, primed, trusting audience that is ready to give.

Save Money

Building a content strategy lets you plan out your year, ensuring that time, budget, and staff resources are used as efficiently as possible, especially when compared to randomly creating content and hoping for the best. Plus, your strategy should also include tracking and measuring data that allow you to finetune your process over time, helping your content marketing team stay lean.

Setting Goals for Your Content Strategy

Before you get carried away, it’s a good idea to pull back on the reins and set some targets to help you aim straight and true. Goal setting is the first step in your content strategy, and it’s essential to creating, measuring, and tracking your plan. 

Since you want your strategy to be as effective as possible for all parts of your business, your content marketing goals must align with your organization’s overall goals and activities. That means you need to get the fundraising team involved during this stage so that your content marketing plan supports your fundraisers.

While every organization’s goals are different, there are three necessary steps to every goal setting exercise.

  1. Gather insights
  2. Define expectations
  3. Set goals

Gather Insights

Your audience is the central focus of your content strategy, and as such, you have to learn about them. From their interests to preferred donation amount, the more you know about your donors, the better you can customize and target your content to them.

Start the goal-setting stage by compiling as much donor data as possible. If you are missing some data points, you may want to conduct a survey to fill them in. Once your data set is ready to go, you’ll want to build some donor personas to help get your head around your supporters’ needs and wants.

This phase is foundational for goal setting since it shows you where donors are, what they want to learn, what they care about, and how likely they are to give to your cause.

Define Expectations

As you plan out your content strategy, be realistic. If you have only one social media-savvy team member? Don’t expect to get content onto every social platform out there (e.g., feel free to skip Twitter). If you have lots of writers on staff? It’s probably time to prioritize your blog and email newsletter.

Preface your planning sessions by hearing from your fundraising team since you want your content strategy to align with their fundraising strategy. If they are hoping to double your organization’s revenue next year, you better set some pretty aggressive goals for the marketing team. It may be helpful to use our fundraising forecasting tool to get a better idea of how much revenue your organization will need. Work together with your fundraisers to adjust your expectations based on the reality of your organization’s situation. 

Set Goals

Once you’ve gathered insights about your audience, your organization’s needs, and the synergies between your fundraising and marketing efforts, define your goals. Make your goals challenging yet attainable; too easy, and you’ll have left money on the table; too hard, and your team may become disheartened in the face of failure.

Identify Content Marketing KPIs

Now that you’ve set goals, how will you know when you’ve reached them? That’s where KPIs come in handy.

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are precisely what they sound like: specific metrics that highlight your organization’s performance. So while your goals are framed as statements explaining what you’d like to get from your content marketing strategy, KPIs are measurements using actual numbers that show how well you’re doing on your path to achieving your goals.

Based on the goals you’ve set, you’ll want to outline a set of KPIs that you can watch to gauge your progress and whether you’ve achieved success or not. Common content marketing KPIs include:

  • Unique page visits
  • Time on page
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Likes
  • Cost per click
  • Conversion rate
  • Followers

If you’re already familiar with KPIs, you can start using Google Analytics, Keela, an SEO tool, and social media tools like Hootsuite to gather data and track your progress right away. If you’d like a more detailed look at KPIs, this post is an excellent primer on the subject.



Take reporting to the next level with the complete Nonprofit KPIs Guide

This guide will help you understand how to choose the right KPIs for your organization, how to create a KPI dashboard, and how to use metrics to tell a story. 

Audit Your Existing Content

Before you start making content for the future, you should cover your bases by reviewing what you’ve done in the past. A content audit can show what’s been working, what hasn’t, give you a head start on your new materials, and save you from repeating old mistakes.

CharityNetUSA has an excellent post on how to do a content audit, but the broad strokes are:

1. List your content

In a spreadsheet, list all of the content that you have put out to date (within reason). This includes blog posts, email newsletters, marketing emails, web content, social media content, video, premium content, ebooks, etc.

2. Categorize

Fill out your spreadsheet with information like traffic, views, likes, comments, bounce rate, etc. Score your content according to these metrics. Low scoring items should either be rethought or eliminated.

3. Identify Gaps

Use the donor personas you created before to build a list of content that prospective donors might like to see. Compare this list to your spreadsheet to identify any gaps in your current slate of content. Those gaps are low hanging fruit for your brand new content strategy.

You may want to perform your content audit as part of an overall marketing audit, which is a more in-depth version of the same thing and encompasses all marketing activities.

Create a Nonprofit Editorial Content Calendar

The last and most enjoyable step of the content strategy process is building an editorial calendar. This is the master document that you’ll use to ensure that your content stays on schedule, doesn’t repeat, is targeted at your goals, and gives content creators plenty of time to do their best work.

A spreadsheet like this template from Keela may do the trick for an editorial content calendar, though more complex strategies may benefit from dedicated calendar software like Asana or Coschedule. Either way, your editorial content calendar should include:

  • Content type
  • Content name
  • Brief description (super brief!)
  • Timetable, broken down into days or weeks
  • Channel – Website, email, YouTube, etc.

Feel free to add more information as required by your unique situation, but here are some tips for creating your nonprofit editorial content calendar:

  • Score your content: Start by adding in content that scored highly in your audit. If your ongoing monthly feature interviews with donors are well-received, plan on continuing those. Cut anything that didn’t perform well. 
  • Analyze content gaps: Pencil in any ideas that came out of your analysis of content gaps. By this time, you should be able to see times of the year when you have too much or too little content, channels that are overloaded or neglected, and shortages of certain types of content (probably video—it’s a lot of work!) 
  • Create an action plan: Move, add, delete, or optimize content according to your needs. If you are stuck with many gaps, it may be a good idea to go back to the marketing and fundraising teams for a brainstorming session. Consider ways you can improve your content’s performance.
  • Assign tasks: Once your calendar is filled to your satisfaction, the last thing is assigning the work. If you’re a team of one, congratulations, you’re done with this step. But if your editorial calendar is packed and you need to make assignments to a team, make sure that you haven’t accidentally stacked up projects too close together for one skill set.

Learn and Grow

As you execute your content strategy, try your best to keep track of your goals, KPIs, and content calendar in real-time. If you have a project manager (or you’re the project manager), this should be a snap. If you see that you are nailing all of your KPIs and achieving goals earlier than expected, it may be time to add some stretch goals to keep your team motivated. If your numbers aren’t looking so good, don’t hesitate to make adjustments partway through the schedule and keep sharing engaging nonprofit stories. 

Hopefully, you enjoyed the process of creating a content strategy for nonprofits because when you’re getting close to the end of your calendar, guess what, it’s time to do it all over again. It’ll be easier this time because you’ll have a better idea of how to organize everything, what works, what doesn’t, and heaps of supporting data from your KPIs. All that’s left to do is make your content strategy better and better each time.

Do you need help getting started on your content plan?

With this content calendar, you can start creating content that’ll help tell your nonprofit’s story, engage more donors, and maximize your marketing and fundraising efforts.

Content Calendar and Planner

You’re one step closer to creating an effective content strategy for your nonprofit organization!