A Beginner’s Guide to Non-Profit Content Marketing (Using the Written Word)

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Non-profit content marketing has a built-in advantage. The fact that a non-profit business was founded because of a basic desire to help make the world a better place. It is a distinct benefit.

non-profit content marketing

Everyone can relate to the principle of helping others. So potentially there is a broad market out there for organizations who want to appeal to the basic human instinct of wanting to do good.

It’s too bad, then, that so many non-profit organizations find it difficult to take those universal principles and build upon them to create effective non-profit content marketing strategies.

In fact, a mere 26% of marketers in the non-profit sector say their content marketing is working for them.¹ For this industry, where marketing is essential for driving donations, the lifeblood of the non-profit, that dismal figure just isn’t good enough.

So, what can marketers do to improve things?

The Power of Story-Telling Through the Written Word

The most powerful message a non-profit can deliver is the good that they do. By telling the story of how donations change the world, non-profit content marketing can effectively turn good works into drivers of large businesses.

One of the best ways to tell stories is, of course, through carefully crafted written content. This step-by-step guide shows you how to generate the right kind of writing so you can start building an effective non-profit content marketing strategy.

Step by Step Guide to Non-Profit Content Marketing

Step One: Establish a Strategy

A CMI survey found that a content marketing strategy is more effective when it’s established and written down.¹ What’s the first step in doing that? Refer to the core values and the mission statement of your organization.

Rediscovering your core values will help you hone in on what’s called a “content marketing mission statement”.  Creating one of these will be your first step in developing a strategy.

Let’s say your organization’s mission statement revolves around the goal of eradicating hunger in rural areas of the U.S. You do this by seeking donations in location-specific areas so people are helping out in their own communities. A content marketing mission statement might go something like this:

Our mission: to generate content that speaks directly to and engages community members about the hidden problem of hunger in their very own communities.

Now you have a beacon to guide you when making decisions about what kind of written content to generate. To develop the actual strategy, you’ll have to decide which of the following, if not all, are appropriate for engaging your specific audience:

Short blog posts.

Are you starting from scratch? Need to cover a lot of keywords? Does your potential audience hang out on social media? Then a campaign that drives followers to your website will work so much better if there’s a good blog for them to engage with once they arrive at your site.

Contrary to popular beliefs – and even our own usual beliefs. Short blog posts do have advantages. If people can read your post in a short time they might be more likely to do so. Better yet, if you can answer questions or give instructions in a short “how to” article you just might have a hit. Can you say “viral”?

Long-form articles.

Are your potential donors the types who would be impressed by highly researched, long-form articles that establish your organization as a team of experts?

Long-form content is a hot topic and it is easy to figure out why. The evidence is clear that long-form is a results-driven approach.

The social proof by Neil Patel.

Posts that were under 1,500 words, on average received 174.6 tweets and 59.3 Facebook likes. Posts that were over 1,500 words, on average received 293.5 tweets and 72.7 Facebook likes.

Non-profit organizations can prosper significantly from social media sharing … but that’s a story for another article coming soon.

Here are some great advantages of long-form articles:

  • They are typically well-researched and backed up by data.
  • They are credible sources that bloggers and journalists alike can link back to. (And who isn’t looking for more trustworthy backlinks?)
  • They take the extra time to tell why.
  • They make your entire website more authoritative.
  • The search engines will love you for it and view you as someone who knows their stuff. Almost used a four-letter word there and then thought better of it! Insert your own if you are so inclined.

The above list of the advantages of long articles for non-profit content marketing is spot on. But there is another big reason why going long works. As a non-profit organization, donations often rely on pulling the heartstrings and generating emotions from readers.

Long articles give you a chance to tell a story, to give a real example of how your organization helps those in need. Make it personal to relate.

Guest Posting.

Do you need to increase exposure and awareness of your organization? Landing a guest post opportunity on a well-known name in your industry can be the golden ticket to success.

A guest post can help you position yourself as an authority. They can give you great exposure that translates into traffic back to your own website. The backlinks, of course, help too.

Step Two: Communicate Your Strategy Throughout Your Organization

Once you have a clear non-profit content marketing mission statement and a strategy, you can work on getting everyone on board.

Integration of your strategy is key since if not everyone in your organization understands the strategy and the mission, there can be discord and misunderstandings. Eventually, that sort of imbalance will seep out and potential donors may be turned off from your brand because of inconsistent messaging.

non-profit marketing

Plan regular meetings to make sure everyone gets what you’re trying to do with the articles you’re generating. It’s especially important if you plan on utilizing staff or volunteer content at some point in your content marketing.

In the non-profit world, staff contributions are vital. Only the staff that is in the trenches can truly help get the word out about how your organization aids others. They know the real-life stories of how people are helped.

Step Three: Engage, But Don’t Hype

Integrity is the heart of any non-profit content marketing, so writers should stay clear of exclamatory headlines and other clickbait-style writing. Genuineness is your pillar and your strength, so use it.

Along those lines, one way to engage donors is to let them peer into your organization. As mentioned in Step 2, staff written contributions are like gold. But what if they don’t like to write? It can be in the form of an interview, where a writer actually writes the final piece.

Writing about the good people who work for your organization lends the type of authenticity and interest that spark engagement with readers. It’s fresh, original, authentic, and never in short supply.

Likewise, it’s always a good idea to make potential donors (and past donors) feel good about donating. Write about how donations made a difference in someone’s life by interviewing recipients of donations, for example.

non-profit writing

If you work for an environmental organization, see if you can get an on-site interview with someone whose life was changed for the better because of your organization. Maybe they live next to a forest you helped save. Maybe they drink the clean water you helped bring about.

Step Four: Embrace Thought Leadership

People who donate to charitable organizations want to be reassured that those organizations know what they’re doing. Therefore, you might want to consider writing some authoritative, whitepapers or even eBooks.

These can be posted on your website, offered as free downloads in exchange for joining your mailing list, or used as guest posts on other websites. The third option has a bonus benefit, and that’s increased exposure (plus maybe a little SEO).

The idea is: you’re trying to get people to be thoughtful about your cause. Therefore, you should come across as thoughtful, too. Writing influencer-style articles is one way to do that.

Forming your non-profit organization doesn’t just magically make you succeed. Competition within non-profits is real. According to Guidestar, their database has information on more than 2.2 million nonprofits in the United States; more than 1.8 million are active organizations. Not marketing your organization is frankly not an option.

Step Five: Test Different Techniques

To begin, initiate a revolving carousel of themes and topics. This is your A/B testing.

Depending on your publishing schedule and your resources, choose a different topic each week or each month. Let’s say you focus on staff stories one month. You highlight the good people who work at your organization, allowing potential donors to get to know your staff.

Maybe the second month you’d switch focus to some political issues that have an impact on your organization.

Be careful not to voice your opinion on politics.  As a non-profit that is a big no-no.

Then, switch things up again the third month and generate stories around some of the recipients of your organization’s charitable work.

Eventually, you’ll have enough data and you’ll be able to notice trends in your analytics. The topics that drive the largest volume of donations will emerge and you’ll have a formula for success.

Only after completing Steps One through Four, however, can you properly launch Step Five. Once you’ve hit the carousel stage and you’re seeing results with some topics, it’s time to put it all into overdrive and ramp up production. Good Luck!

At Ranking Edge, we love providing non-profit content marketing. If you are a non-profit organization, contact us about our special rates.

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