“Content marketing is the heart and soul of all your marketing. In essence, it’s a synonym for branding because your content defines you. It’s all of your marketing, all of your branding and all of your social media.” – Claire Axelrad, Clairification.com

Content Marketing is the Whole Enchilada

With content marketing, the goal is to create brand-related content that is so good, it’s better than anything else your constituents could be consuming. Marketing and fundraising have to be integrated, along with social media, into one cohesive strategy that encompasses all the elements of “marketing communications.” By following who/what/where/when/why in creating content, you’ll be able to control quality, present consistent messaging across your publishing platforms, and engage your constituents in a manner that leads to measurable gains in awareness, action and loyalty to your cause.

  • Who – Intimately know your intended audience: their concerns, interests and emotional triggers. What do they care about and what is useful to them? What about your cause gets them excited to participate with you? Who are you reaching that may need your assistance? Who are your donors? Who are your volunteers? 
  • What – What do you want your audience to do with this piece of content/information? Case statements can describe a problem, explain how you intend to solve it, and show how they can help. Have clear calls to action such as signing a petition, making a donation, volunteering, sharing your message, etc. 
  • Where – Your audience may include offline as well as online constituents. Content should be geared to reaching them where they are. Online would be your social media channels, email and your website. Offline could be direct mail campaigns or hosted events. Wherever your supporters hang out online, you should be there, posting relevant, useful content. Local communities are also a valuable resource for like-minded constituents and volunteers. 
  • When – Researching behavior patterns of your supporters will help you know when the best time is to post content for maximum engagement. Do your supporters spend more time online during the weekends consuming content, or late night hours? Be consistent in publishing. You can build a larger audience if you provide expectant viewers with regular posts, as opposed to random blogging. Post content more than once to reach everyone; Facebook on Wednesday, blog on Friday, or an email on Saturday morning. 
  • Why – Telling your story consistently will keep supporters focused on why they care about you and your mission. Sharing needs that align with your constituents’ concerns will keep them engaged with your content. You can even build daily themes that discuss topics of particular interest, tying into news stories or local events. Success stories will show what you’ve accomplished together, strengthening the relationship and encouraging deeper commitment and investment in your mission. 

Storytelling is at the heart of content marketing and storytelling gets people to lower their marketing defense systems—briefly—just long enough to get them to notice you. And once you’re noticed, your objective is not to blow it. –Claire Axelrad

Volunteers—A Critical Asset

Volunteers are a unique asset to nonprofit organizations. When someone is willing to give you their time, that contribution should be greatly appreciated. By investing some time in teaching and training, volunteers can significantly enhance the work of an organization. Having specific tasks or responsibilities outlined for volunteers will help make it easier for them to quickly jump into action. You may need five volunteers every Friday to stuff a mailing, seven volunteers on Saturday to babysit the children of people attending an event, or 15 signature takers to circulate petitions on the weekends. Making specific needs and opportunities known can help potential volunteers see where they fit. You can make things even easier by allowing online signups. Routine office tasks can be successfully manned by volunteers who can then help train new volunteers, saving paid staff time.

Turning away a volunteer because they can’t “do enough” is unkind and a big mistake. Even an offer of two or four hours a week can be valuable, as well as relationship building with that individual. One goal of working with volunteers is to get those individuals more engaged and more invested in your organization, turning them into “mavens, connectors and persuaders” (Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point). Volunteers can become powerful influencers by:

  • Sharing your content in their social networks
  • Emailing your appeals to their friends
  • Tweeting your calls to action
  • Pinning to your Pinterest board
  • Crowd funding for your organization
  • Inviting others to volunteer

A volunteer who promotes you by word-of-mouth to their own circles is worth their weight in gold, since their friends will likely share similar interests and trust a friendly recommendation to get involved with your organization. Volunteers should be welcomed, respected and praised.

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.” –Eleanor Roosevelt

Content Marketing Goals, Measurement and Evaluation

No matter how altruistic your cause might be, there is still the real business of running your organization. Efforts put into a content marketing strategy and checklist will be best optimized by the structured framework of a content marketing lifecycle–a repeatable process for success—such as The Examiner’s seven-step lifecycle of Goals, Strategy, Calendar, Produce, Publish, Engage and Measure.

Setting goals always happens first, and typical marketing goals for nonprofits include growing the number of people helped, getting more supporters in the form of donors, ambassadors or advocates, increasing the number of volunteers, increasing earned income, and hitting fundraising targets. Define specific goals and assign KPIs (key performance indicators) to those goals so that progress can be measured.

Put measurement tools in place, such as Google Analytics, to monitor activity surrounding your content and provide metrics for evaluating the impact of your content. Be persistent, it takes time to build your content, your platforms and your audience. Monitor and evaluate as you go, assessing what is working, what is not working, or where changes need to be made to realize maximum potential for your content marketing activities.

Join the Conversation:

  • How successful have you been in addressing the “who/what/where/when/why?”
  • How effective has word-of-mouth been for your non-profit organization? 
  • What are some productive ways you have leveraged the volunteers within your organization? 

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This article highlights selected excerpts from CMX’s interview with Claire Axelrad of Clairification, and Martin van der Roest of the Examiner on the topic Content Marketing: Strategic Planning for Non-profit – October 17, 2013.