How to Leverage Content Marketing for Fundraising

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Marketers of non-profit initiatives embraced content marketing early, and only have grown more confident about their efforts at this point in the year 2015. In addition to becoming better story tellers, they’re opening up to using different tactics and more social media platforms. The numbers from “2015 Nonprofit Content Marketing” by Content Marketing Institute and Blackbaud prove this. According to the publication, 61% of non-profit marketers use content marketing for fundraising, with 35% saying that their brands have become experts. Realizing what the tool can do, 33% of marketers’ budgets are allocated to content marketing.

With 69% non-profit marketers creating more content than they did in 2013, it’s about time that you follow their lead and tap into the power of content marketing. To help you in this regard, here are ten steps you should follow.

1. Develop a Content Marketing Strategy

strategizeContent strategy is a process that entails planning for creating, delivering and governing useful, actionable content. It allows businesses to evaluate their needs and customer requirements to determine how marketers can achieve their objectives. As a result, creating a content strategy is a dynamic, continuous process. To create an engaging strategy which is likely to lead to donations, try the following five tips.

  1. Design a plan that allows you to consistently create high quality content. Use our blog editorial calendar to organize your plan.
  2. Make sure that your plan contains a wide range of content types. By adding images, videos and text to your content marketing channels, you can boost your reach and even add a few popular distribution channels.
  3. Create a document detailing the tone, style, voice and core messages of your content. This can be helpful if you plan on outsourcing your content.
  4. Identify the problems of your industry as well as your audience and their questions. This will help you create content that solves problems, establishing your position as an authority in your industry.
  5. Spend as much time marketing your content as you do creating it.

2. Document Your Strategy

After establishing a strategy, you should document it to ensure the success of your campaign. According to the Content Marketing Institute, 23% of the marketers surveyed documented their content marketing strategy before sharing it with other members of their organization. However, non-profits are bound to embrace this practice since a majority of organizations rating their efforts as effective had a documented strategy.

Now there are numerous aspects which you can detail in this important document, but you can use the following questions for guidance:

  • What challenges is your non-profit trying to solve?
  • How often are deliverables going to be produced?
  • What’s the need for content marketing and what does the organization wish to accomplish?
  • Why is this strategy more important than other things you are taking care of?
  • What are the details of your buyer personas?

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The best way to decide what to include is by imagining that this document will be viewed by a new employee. So it should detail what the non-profit does, aims to do and how the content should be written clearly enough for a totally unfamiliar team member to successfully create content.

3. Set Aside a Budget for Your Content Marketing

According to “2015 Nonprofit Content Marketing,” 56% of non-profit marketers cite lack of budget as one of their main challenges. The document reports that an average of 20% of companies’ total marketing budgets is spent on content marketing, an amount that doesn’t even include the staff. However, 46% of non-profit marketers intend to increase their content marketing budgets; and, amonf these, most have a documented content strategy in hand.

So, after spending time documenting your content marketing strategy, allocate a budget for the following two efforts:

  1. Fusing Digital Marketing with Content Distribution – Distributing content which engages readers is important for success and driving important leads. Paid advertising is one of the ways to engage the right audience and ensure their willingness to donate to your non-profit. So set aside a considerable sum to distribute through paid channels as well. To ensure maximum ROI, test and analyze the platforms you plan to invest in before launching a full-fledged campaign.
  2. Tracking Tools – 21% of marketers have reported their ability to successfully track the ROI of their content marketing efforts. As 2015 is expected to become a more analytically-driven era, marketers should allocate the necessary funds for tools which accurately track and determine which content pages influence the largest donations. We detailed which KPIs to report in this guide.

4. Determine the Best Content for Your Efforts

For years, email was the type of content most favored by donors. However, the breadth of the industry is changing, especially since social media has made communication quicker and easier. In addition, 2010’s “The Next Generation of American Giving” report by Convio, Edge Research and Sea Change Strategies highlights the fact that mobile, text, website content and social networks are excellent channels for generations X and Y. Therefore, marketers should offer high quality, social-media-friendly content to generate the donations they need.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, 2014 was the year of infographics and microsites. Infographics are visually-appealing representations of important information. In general, photos are five times more likely to facilitate interaction and engagement. However, infographics offer more value to your potential donors since they offer information rather than just making them smile or think.

As for microsites, 19% of non-profit marketers have started using them. Microsites, which are mini-websites that focus on a specific campaign, are action-oriented despite being graphic-heavy. Therefore, they hold visitors’ attention, allow campaigns to go viral, and ensure a larger audience which includes people who aren’t familiar with the non-profit. If you need a little coaxing to create a separate web presence for different campaigns, here’s a statistic from the Content Marketing Institute: 53% of non-profit marketers using microsites reported successful integration.

5. Refine Your Storytelling Skills

storytelling_marketingThere’s a reason 66% of non-profit marketers want to dedicate the year to becoming better storytellers. Donors and cause supporters appreciate the combination of success, urgency, statistics, quotes and humor over marketing materials. Besides, storytelling over a long time ensures that the non-profit’s brand becomes synonymous with the cause(s) you advocate. Therefore, marketers should have four out of five posts, updates or tweets related to storytelling.

If you’re new to the world of storytelling, here are some techniques you should consider.

  • Have an Enemy and a Hero – Every story needs a good and bad guy. In the case of non-profits, things such as the habitat or the social system can be the enemy whereas the donors can be the heroes.
  • Add Conflict – Conflict is what happens when the enemy and hero cross each others’ paths. Conflict can also be used to describe the obstacles encountered while trying to succeed. For instance, the bad weather preventing supplies from reaching their destination on time is a point of conflict.
  • Don’t Forget Pictures – You should include images in your story to bring it to life.  In fact, since a picture is worth one thousand words, using one will spare you some of the work needed to creat a heart-wrenching story.
  • Choose Different Story-telling Mehods – Not all stories have to be written. You can vary your content between video, articles and text to grab the attention of all. Take Make-A-Wish Foundation for instance; in addition to sharing video wishes on YouTube, the non-profit shares content on its website, Facebook and Twitter to ensure maximum interaction and show the world its mission.

6. Work on Your Email Marketing Campaign

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Many marketers have started walking away from their email marketing campaigns since eNonprofit Benchmark reported that fundraising response rates dropped 21% by 2012. However, email can still be very effective since it yields results quickly and allows marketers to send personalized messages with a sense of immediacy. The fact that there are also other channels should not move you to neglect email all together. The trick is to create different types of emails combined with great copy, calls-to-action and list segmentation. To inspire you a little, here’s a quick look at methods marketers used to generate more than the industry average 0.42% click through rate (CTR).

  • Provide supporters and donors with something of value such as a free guide or video. Heartwaves achieved a 9% CTR by offering supporters a book called Zip-Line, which offers advice to children living with an open heart surgery scar.
  • Keep the conversation going with donors even after they make a donation through a follow up email. You can use the email to encourage readers to share their action with others, getting them involved as well.
  • Initiate a survey to find out about your clients’ recent experience with your organization. The Society for Financial Awareness (SOFA) was able to ensure a 34% CTR.
  • Show your gratitude to ensure similar response in the future. You should also describe how the donor or supporter’s contribution has made a difference to those benefiting from their funds or efforts.

7. Expand Your Presence on Social Media

Aside from Vimeo, marketers gave higher effectiveness ratings to almost all social media platforms in 2014. While Facebook is the most popular (94%), you should use multiple social media platforms. That way, you can target a larger group of people and ensure their contribution to your current campaign or cause. According to “2015 Nonprofit Content Marketing,” marketers are using an average of five social platforms as of the end of 2014. The same source reports that Instagram has the biggest increase in usage at 38%.

To choose the best platforms for your non-profit to be active on, take into consideration the following:

  • The type of non-profit you are
  • The resources you have in hand
  • Your client’s social media goals and short- and long-term requirements
  • Your current audience and ideal persona

To further ensure that you get the best value for money, here’s a quick look at the purposes you can use the following social networks for (more in detail in thisarticle):

  • Facebook – Perfect for connection with 20-somethings and 60-smethings, this platform allows you to create and run online events, support offline events, raise funds, recruit volunteers, connect with potential sponsors, collect reviews, and complement your digital marketing efforts.
  • Twitter – A very fast social media platform, Twitter can drive a lot of traffic to your website while helping you promote events, find sponsors, publicize press releases, spread your NPO’s message, and launch products and contests.
  • Pinterest – This visual platform may be new, but it can help build brand awareness, promote the brand and its message, build audiences, boost donations, tell the brand’s story, and reach donors, especially female donors, as the majority of Pinterest users are women.
  • Instagram – Though it’s a purely visual platform, it offers community engagement and the ‘instant’ factor, allowing people to know what’s going in quickly. In addition to helping marketers reach out to millennials, Instagram provides behind the scene peeks, promotes events, connects with supporters, highlights volunteers and their work, facilitates cross promotion, and showcases direct impact.
  • LinkedIn – LinkedIn may be the last option for non-profits, but it can help spread your message as well as ensure corporate sponsorship campaigns, gather and share industry news, and recruit volunteers.
  • Google Plus – Google+ allows non-profits to enjoy SEO benefits such as establishing online authority, demonstrating expertise, and supporting local search. Google reviews, content curation and community involvement are also great advantages of this platform.

8. Market Your Content to Ensure its Spread

After launching your content, you need to start marketing your content marketing. That way, you can spread information beyond your regular donors. Some of the tactics you can use are sending emails, following up with news releases, videos, newsletters, and mentions on social media. However, you need to spread your reach to paid advertising methods as well. According to the most effective non-profit marketers surveyed in “2015 Nonprofit Content Marketing,” the following are the best paid advertising methods:

  • Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – 56%
  • Promoted Posts – 53%
  • Offline Promotional Content – 51%
  • Social Ads – 45%
  • Content Discovery Tools – 43%
  • Online Banners – 37%

9. Track the Results of Your Efforts

Creating and marketing content doesn’t mean that your work is over; you still need to ensure that your efforts are actually influencing donors to open their wallets/purses or donate their time. This is why you should track your results, especially through the following popular metrics:

  • Increased Event Attendance or Participation (choice of 55% of non-profit marketers)
  • Website Traffic (54%)
  • More Funds (49%)
  • More People Helped (40%)
  • Higher Supporter Loyalty (38%)
  • Feedback from Supporters (38%)
  • Time Spent on Non-Profit’s Site (33%)
  • Increased Organization Awareness (30%)

Based on the results of the metrics you set, you can determine which content is more successful and which isn’t. Therefore, you can create more of the former and less of the latter. If you like to learn more about metrics, we wrote an article aboutSocial Media KPIs

10. Tweak the Campaign Anyway

Even if your campaign is successful, consider making a few changes from time to time to make your non-profit relevant. For instance, you can introduce new channels and content formats after a while to attract new supporters. Even if your changes aren’t successful, it’ll show both your audience and Google that you’re always evolving and trying to keep up with their demand.

With these steps, you can’t go wrong. However, make sure to customize them according to your non-profit’s needs to properly utilize the allocated budget effectively.

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