Is your organization or are some of your staff the “go-to” people in your field? Do people recognize you as an authority on a specific topic? Do others look to your writing for insights and guidance? If so, then you are likely a nonprofit thought leader!
Nonprofit Expert + Marketing = Nonprofit Thought Leader
Marketing is the main difference between experts and thought leaders. Experts are smart but don’t necessarily market themselves well, so few people beyond their inner circle recognize them. Experts who aren’t thought leaders often grumble about why reporters never call them. They get jealous that they are never asked to speak at that conference because they, after all, are the real experts! And so on . . .
Experts who invest time in marketing their expertise, for example, by writing thought leadership articles, see those results. And you don’t have to work for a big national nonprofit. People trust their local nonprofits’ expertise!
Thought leadership writing is one of the seven writing styles that all nonprofit communicators should master. Whether your organization is full of thought leaders or you wish it were, these insights and resources will help.
Is Thought Leadership the Right Strategy for Your Nonprofit?
Some people see thought leadership as a vanity marketing goal. Your executive director or board members want to see their names in print (Ugh).
Instead, think about the value of thought leadership with your peers and peer organizations. Are people paying attention to what you are saying or writing? What will you do next with that attention? Do you want them to advocate for policy changes? Change the way they work on issues you work on too?
If you can pin down those answers, thought leadership is a legitimate nonprofit marketing goal.
Getting Started with Your Nonprofit Thought Leaders
Before writing press releases or blogs for thought leadership, consider what kind of thought leader your organization will be. Three different types of nonprofit thought leaders dominate:
- The Boots-on-the-Ground Real-World Expert
- The Insightful Visionary
- The Reporting Expert
This decision plays into the type of content that you will create. Great thought leaders know how to write and speak, although most people are generally better at one or the other. Lean into those strengths!
As you coach your thought leaders, beware of the “curse of knowledge.” Nonprofit thought leaders can have a hard time seeing issues from the perspective of those who are less informed. Here are some ways to manage that.
Nonprofit Thought Leadership Also Requires PR Skills
Also, consider the role that PR will play in your nonprofit’s thought leadership strategy. Getting media attention is another skill your thought leadership team will want to develop. For thought leadership especially, you must be prepared to answer journalist inquiries.
Resources on Writing Op-Eds
Our favorite resource for learning how to write op-eds is the aptly named OpEd Project. Check out their great resources.
We’ll update this page with more resources soon, so bookmark it if you want to learn more about nonprofit thought leadership.