5 Ways Nonprofits Can Grow With Content Marketing

nonprofit content marketing
nonprofit content marketing

Nonprofits may have different goals than traditional brands, but when it comes to content marketing their objectives aren’t as different as you might think. In fact, nonprofit content marketing drives revenue, brand visibility, and engagement much like it does in the for-profit world.

While nonprofits aren’t looking to make sales, they still must communicate a need and drive their audience to act. In some ways this task is more challenging for nonprofits because they aren’t offering a product or service in exchange. Instead, they are entirely reliant on their content and messaging to achieve results.

The good news is that nonprofits inherently have a powerful mission and message to share. Using the psychology of giving often used to drive donations, nonprofits can also enhance their content marketing strategy to grow their audience, increase engagement, and see bigger results.

Quick Takeaways

  • Most traditional content marketing best practices apply to nonprofits as well.
  • Specific, detailed storytelling is a powerful tool in nonprofit content marketing.
  • Leveraging the time-ask effect and incorporating giving options into your content can lead to larger contributions.
  • Just like for-profit brands highlight satisfied customers, nonprofits should highlight how previous donors have already made an impact.

5 Ways Nonprofits Can Improve Their Content Marketing

The Time-Ask Effect

Studies have shown that when you mention a monetary donation early in the giving process, donors begin to think more analytically and conservatively about their own resources. On the other hand, when donors are asked to share their time, it creates an experience that induces emotion.

This emotion has proven to motivate donors to give more than if they’d been directly asked for money in the first place. Researchers call this the time-ask effect.

The time-ask effect

So what does this have to do with content marketing?

Well, nonprofits must think about what the central message is across the content they share. Is it aimed solely at driving monetary donations? For many nonprofits, the answer to this question is yes.

Indeed, nonprofit content marketing should include messaging that invites people to donate funds. But it should also invite them to share their time (through volunteering, visiting a site, attending events, and more) or other personal resources that could be impactful (like knowledge or expertise).

This cultivates a giving mindset, in which donors are not just feeling the pressure of potentially giving money, but feel welcome to think about many different ways they might contribute. And that delivers on the non-propfit growth content marketing provides.

Help Your Donor Connect

If you know anything about traditional marketing and advertising, you know how important it is to create a connection between your brand and your potential customer. The same applies for nonprofits. The difference is that nonprofits are connecting their potential donors with the audiences they serve.

This connection between profit and purpose is a much more powerful driver of giving than any message focused on the organization itself.

Let’s consider an example:

A donor is looking to give to a nonprofit organization that benefits patients and families suffering from cancer. They’re researching different organizations before making a decision about where to contribute.

  • Organization A shares information about their (very admirable) mission, activities, team, and goals.
  • Organization B shares information about their mission, but puts most of the focus on the patients and families they serve. They share photos, videos, testimonials, and stories of how donors have made a difference for those families.

If you’re thinking the donor is more likely to choose Organization B, you’re right. This isn’t because Organization B is better than Organization A. Instead, it’s because they created a real connection between donors and the impact their donation will have.

Tell Detailed Stories

Let’s expand on the idea of telling stories that motivate donors to act. Studies have found that emotional impact is larger when you connect your potential donor to an individual. When you’re sharing stories through your content, always be specific and, when you can, talk about individual people and scenarios.

Using media content like images and videos can make your stories even more impactful. In fact, content that includes visuals gets 72x more views than text-only content.

Let’s look at some good examples.

Piedmont Healthcare created this infographic that tells a specific story with statistics to demonstrate the larger impact of organ donation and a testimonial from a real patient whose life was saved by a donated liver.

piedmont healthcare infographic

Image Source

World Bicycle Relief drives home the importance of bicycle transportation in Zambia with a video telling the story of Georgina, a widowed dairy farmer whose life was significantly changed when she received a bicycle.

Neither of these stories ask for anything specific from the donor, but both create connection, use emotion to demonstrate the importance of their mission, and motivate the reader/viewer to act.

Communicate Options

Creating options for your audience to get involved with your organization can have a similar outcome to the time-ask effect in that when donors or volunteers choose their contribution (vs. are asked for something specific), they tend to give more than they would have otherwise.

Here we’ll stop to say we totally understand there is a proven strategy — science, even — in the nonprofit fundraising field for soliciting monetary donations. We know that especially when it comes to major gifts, sometimes you have to get specific about a number.

But we’re focused here on nonprofit content marketing, through which you’re communicating to a large audience full of people with different motivations, personal backgrounds, and giving capacities.

In this case, using your content to communicate the many options people have for contributing to your organization can capture greater results than choosing, say, one specific dollar amount and asking all of your readers to make that donation.

One way to give options is to provide suggested giving levels that allow donors to choose the amount that’s right for them. Another way is to offer alternatives to monetary donations, like volunteering their time, donating items, or helping to spread awareness.

Share Your Impact

You know how you look for reviews before you buy a product or service? You want to see how it worked out for other customers, whether or not the company delivered on their promises, and if the customers are happy with their experience.

Companies know this is a common consumer behavior and leverage it as a marketing strategy with tactics like customer success stories and positive reviews displayed on product web pages.

Nonprofit organizations can do the same. Just like for-profit brands highlight satisfied customers, nonprofit content marketing can highlight an organization’s impact to show potential donors how their contribution will make a difference.

If you’re telling powerful stories, they’ll likely highlight your impact in many ways already. Our point here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to highlight it often in your content. Never get caught up in the altruistic trap of not wanting to “toot your own horn.”

When you provide specific and compelling evidence of how your organization has already made an impact, you grow your potential for making an even bigger impact in the future.

What’s the Takeaway?

Nonprofit organizations have goals and marketing strategies that differ in many ways from those in the for-profit world.

But when it comes to content marketing, nonprofits can leverage the very same best practices that traditional brands are using to accomplish their own unique goals.

If you’re ready to jump-start your nonprofit organization’s content marketing strategy, check out our Content Builder Services or schedule a free consultation to learn how Marketing Insider Group can help!

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

1 thought on “5 Ways Nonprofits Can Grow With Content Marketing

  1. A better spin on #2: make the donor FEEL the victim’s feelings. Those sappy commercials work so well for a reason… they make you feel.

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