“Content marketing? You mean like blog posts, videos, white papers, and those crazy infographics?” they ask.
“Yep,” I say. “You can either attract supporters to your organization with useful content or make endless cold calls. Which do you prefer?”
Silence. Now I have their attention.
To makes sure I don’t lose it, I explain that content creation may be the most important thing they can do to connect with supporters and raise more money.
Although we can define a brand as what people feel when they come into contact with your organization, a nonprofit brand is different than a for-profit brand. As Jeff Brooks has explained to me, a nonprofit brand makes two promises:
The first priority for a nonprofit should be building its brand. And while most nonprofits are having an impact, they do a terrible job communicating that impact clearly and powerfully. This is why creating and publishing content is so critical to the success of your organization.
It’s not like you have a choice. Creating quality content about your organization isn’t an option. Generating useful content that informs, educates, and inspires is a requirement for three reasons:
Share Our Strength, charity: water, March of Dimes, Make-A-Wish, and many other top nonprofits are all content creators. The Water Log—the blog for charity: water—features stories on successes and failures, but it always keeps its readers informed and inspired. If you’re smaller than these organizations, it doesn’t matter. The benefits of content creation are open to everyone, regardless of size or budget.
Mark Horvath of Invisible People TV has developed a national reputation for his small nonprofit by filming the stories of the largely “invisible” homeless population from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C. Horvath’s nonprofit is small—just him!—but his videos have spread the news of his work and caught the attention of many large companies, including Virgin Mobile, Ford, and Hanes. You might not be big, but content can help you be a top nonprofit brand, even if it’s only in your community.
According to the National Center for Charitable Statistics, more than 1.5 million nonprofit organizations are registered in the United States. Tiny Rhode Island has more than 7,000 registered nonprofits! Content is a key tool in separating your nonprofit from the rest of the pack. This is especially important as people use search engines to find and research organizations. Several factors determine how search engines rank and deliver search results, but one thing is clear: If you don’t produce high-quality content and links, online searchers won’t find you. Period.
Sorry, but making the world a better place isn’t enough anymore. If you’re as old as I am, you may remember the days when there were only a handful of television stations to watch. These days, there are hundreds of stations to choose from, and the competition is brutal. It’s the same with nonprofits. Charities such as the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital were all lucky to establish their brands during simpler times.
Charities that have quickly succeeded in the past decade or so have been largely driven by celebrities, such as U2’s Bono for (RED) and Lance Armstrong for LIVESTRONG. For most of us, Oprah isn’t calling. And, as we learned from the LIVESTRONG fallout, having a celebrity ambassador isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. That’s why you need to fall back on yourself and tell your own story with text, pictures, and video. Focus on being interesting, useful, and credible. Publishing is your path to stardom.
As a cause marketer, I frequently write and speak on how content creation can help you succeed with businesses. I speak from experience. I started my blog, Selfish Giving, in 2004 shortly after I was hired to launch the cause marketing program for a large hospital. I blogged to share success stories and to show other businesses how we could work together. Content helped! During my tenure, we partnered with dozens of businesses and raised millions of dollars.
But the real benefit of content creation extends beyond business giving. It truly is the rising tide that lifts all boats. The better you communicate your impact, the more your organization will become a magnet for all forms of giving. You’ll raise more money from businesses, individuals, and foundations.
If you’re like most nonprofits I know, you’re stuck in the shallows with no current or wind. Engaging in content marketing is having deep waters beneath you and a full sail on deck. Trust me, you’ll need both to reach your destination.
Curious how content can impact nonprofit marketing? See Skyword’s case study of United Way.