Are you getting the action you desire from your nonprofit marketing efforts?
If not, you may be focusing on the wrong thing.
Your content marketing strategy should not be about:
- Output, but about
- Demanding, but creating demand.
- Your actions, but your readers’ actions.
Too often in nonprofits marketing communications become a bit divorced from fundraising objectives. I’m not saying that marketing departments are oblivious to desired outcomes. I’m just saying it’s easy to lose sight of these aims.
In the quest for perfection, sometimes a focus on craft (wordsmithing, visuals, design) comes at the expense of assuring the content delivers its’ required punch.
In the rush to get things checked off the list, sometimes the purpose gets buried under the work-plan — layers of ‘to-do’s’ such as who’s going to write, design, photo shoot and promote the content, and when.
One of the reasons I continually implore nonprofits to formally integrate their fundraising and marketing functions is because, otherwise, something inevitably gets lost in the translation.
Here’s another type of scenario that may sound familiar:
You need to get more donations for a program for which you have a matching challenge grant deadline looming. You tell the marketing department you’d like them to showcase a compelling article about that program in your upcoming blog or newsletter. They put in on their “to-do” list. A few days later, the E.D. emphatically tells marketing to feature an article about an award your nonprofit just won. She wants the top sidebar to feature a photo of her receiving the award. Her request moves to the top of the list; your article gets bumped underneath where folks have to scroll down to even see it. And instead of a big donate button calling folks to action, there’s a small link.
How to Assure Your Content Marketing Stays Focused on Desired Actions
Always begin with the why.
Don’t get so focused on the form your content will take, and the words and visuals you will use, that you forget why you’re creating this content in the first place.
It’s not to win an award for design! It’s not to stick to your schedule of one blog post per week or five newsletter articles per month. And it’s not to create a mirror into which you can look and say “aren’t we awesome?”
It’s to take your readers on a purposeful journey.
- A journey from wherever they are with your organization now to wherever you want them to be next.
- A journey that goes from awareness… to interest… to engagement… to investment.
- A journey that prompts your reader, after reading your content, to feel, think or do something specific.
- A journey that makes your reader want to demand that you not only continue to fulfill your mission, but that you strive to do even more – with their active participation.
- A journey that, ultimately, makes your reader feel awesome.
If your content doesn’t get your reader to these journey end-points, you need to re-focus.
1. Begin with Awareness
If you’re not on peoples’ radar, they’ll never see your content – no matter how brilliantly it may be crafted.
So spend time figuring out where your current and prospective constituents hang out. You’re focusing on the wrong thing if:
- You’re on Pinterest; they’re on Instagram.
- You’re on Facebook; they’re on LinkedIn.
- You’re not mobile-optimized; they read 66% of their emails on smart phones or tablets.
And if you’re not rocking social media yet, this is the year to begin. Next to email, social media is absolutely the most useful tool you have for putting forth nonprofit messaging that can raise awareness. And it has a much broader reach than just about anything else you can do (just think about the Ice Bucket challenge; what an awareness-builder that was)!
2. Cultivate Interest
Do you know what your readers care about? If not, you may be producing the wrong content. Also, don’t just think features. Think benefits. Readers don’t so much care about all the nuances of what, how and when you deliver your programs and services; they care about how it might benefit them.
Show folks your “youtility”. Be useful. For example:
- Offer tips related to your mission (e.g., “How to Child Proof Your Home;” “5 Ways to Curb Global Warming;” “What to Say to Someone Who’s Been Diagnosed with Cancer”).
- Share gifts of content (e.g., “Recommended Summer Reads;” “5 Inspiring Justice Quotes;” “Nutritious After-School Snacks”).
- Suggest opportunities to volunteer, meet other like-minded folks and advocate for your cause.
3. Engage to Involve
Have you made your content engaging enough that it’s shareable?
Sharing is good not only because it gets more folks to act on your calls to action, but also because it adds more folks to your mailing list! Here’s some food for thought from Hubspot as to what will optimize the chances your content gets shared on social media.
Image courtesy of Hubspot
Make sure you take the steps to:
- Make content conversational so folks want to share it with their friends.
- Make content easy to share with share buttons and links in your email and social media.
- Include photos, videos or infographics; visuals are shared significantly more often than content without visuals (at the least, include one ‘pinnable’ image for folks who use Pinterest).
- Ask questions that demand a response.
- Make your readers part of your community using content that excites them to join you.
- Ask for feedback politely (saying please increases retweets); then make it easy to respond via comments or a link to a quick survey.
- Simply ask folks to share; then thank them to keep them engaged.
4. Cultivate Advocates and Influencers as Social Media Ambassadors
When it comes to sharing, everyone is not alike. Some folks have huge networks of people who are members of your target audience. Find these influencers and cultivate them so they’ll advocate on your behalf and share your content with the right people.
One strategy I like is to simply ask your current constituents if they would like to become social media ambassadors on your behalf. The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina has an ambassadors program they promote right on their website!
They tell folks exactly what is required and include lots of constituent-centric incentives for joining too.
You can make your social media ambassadors program attractive by coming up with a fun name like “Cure Cancer Emissaries” or “Champions of Art-for-all Ambassadors.” Then you can promote your program by sending an email inviting your entire mailing list to join this select group. You can also share a link to your website promo on social media.
This is a great way to involve folks who may not be quite ready to make a monetary donation. Just explain the impact they’ll have by sharing your appeals – $$ raised = more people served. You can even offer incentives for the most shares, the most money raised, etc. (e.g., raffle prizes, logo swag, discounts from sponsors).
The more specific you can be with your requests, the more likely you are to get the actions you seek. Don’t just send a generic message (“Help us promote this on Facebook!”) making your ambassadors do the work.
For example, some organizations will send out weekly emails during their year-end fundraising campaigns that assign targeted tasks (e.g. sending out a pre-written tweet, sharing one of your page’s Facebook posts, or sharing or commenting on blog post). The tasks you assign should be something folks can easily do while waiting to pick up their kids at school or watching TV at night.
You can also arm your ambassadors with unique graphics and eye-catching photos that include a link back to your website or blog. Ambassadors can then easily cut, paste + share, or adapt language to make it more personal to their networks.
5. Call for the Action
Don’t just wish and hope folks will do what you want them to do. Ask them to do it!
- Please give.
- Sign our petition.
- Attend our event.
- Sign up!
- Please retweet.
- Forward to a friend.
- Give us your opinion.
Use active verbs.
Make it simple. One choice is better than several. Do it/don’t do it.
Don’t Forget the Importance of Focused Leadership
If you really want your content marketing to drive desired fundraising actions (i.e., you want to raise more money!), please make this the year to integrate your fundraising and marketing communications leadership. In other words, have the buck stop with one person. When you have two separate departments, and neither reports to the other, assuring that your content marketing achieves your desired fundraising action outcomes becomes exceedingly difficult.
If you want to raise more money you can’t silo your marketing and your fundraising efforts. They’ve got to work together seamlessly if you have a dream… a vision… values… a mission you want to spread. Understand that from the outside looking in, you are ONE organization. No one cares which department created or implemented which strategy. They simply want value and consistency.
If you do these things strategically and steadily, you’ll generate the actions your organization’s mission deserves.