Tired of sharing "updates" all the time? Simply changing the format is a great way to repeat your core messages while making the content feel more fresh and interesting. Let’s look at what I consider the tried-and-true Top 20 formats for nonprofit content.
In an easy-to-follow format, provide your readers with clear directions on how to do something related to the issues you work on. Is there something your readers could do on their own to advance your mission? Do people call your office asking how to do certain tasks?
It’s your basic advice column, but with your own twist. If people call your office for advice, use some of those questions in your content. Encourage readers to send in their own questions. You might try rotating the person who answers the letters among experts in your organization or field. You can also write humorous, fictional questions with subtle true-life lessons in the answers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pick a topic and write down five to seven of the most common questions you hear about it. Then provide your answers. This is a great way to share information about your programs and to answer common questions about your organization as a whole.
Hearing about an experience directly from the person who lived it is usually more interesting and believable than someone else talking about it. Ask someone with a good story to share to write an article or essay in the first person (i.e., using the words I, me, and my).
Help your readers keep up with the latest lingo in your field. Or help them understand terms everyone should be familiar with (e.g., Internet terminology). You’ll be surprised how many people have questions about special terminology, but are too afraid to ask.
Put events, statistics, and other information in context for your readers by reporting on trends in a specific segment of your field. What patterns do you see developing? What issues are people talking about now more than before?
Give your readers quick summaries of the latest news, with just a few sentences per news item. Gather news by looking at newsletters and websites in your field, by searching social media like Twitter and YouTube, and by scanning mainstream media headlines too. Be sure to link back to your sources!
Reviews or Recommendations
Share your thoughts, both positive and negative, on the books, websites, new reports, places, and events your readers are likely to be interested in.
Let your readers share in your successes and in the successes of others in your field. Write about a recent accomplishment and how you made it happen. Or pick a topic and write about several organizations or people making progress in that area. Highlighting a successful endeavor is also a good way to enliven an otherwise boring case study.
Personal profiles are a great way to say thank you to donors, volunteers, and other special people in your organization. Have someone on your staff conduct a brief interview with the person you are profiling and then write up the article. Profiles of people in need or those facing difficult situations can also be useful in urging new donors and volunteers to contact you or pressuring public officials to act on an issue.
Popular Facts and Figures
Impress your readers with the latest statistics on the issues they care about, especially if the figures change frequently. You’ll also save your readers the effort of searching for facts and figures relevant to your issues by providing them with regular updates.
People love lists. They can be made up of just about anything and can be used to provide advice, offer checklists, or simply entertain David Letterman-style.
Where to Find . . .
Do the research for your supporters on the best places to find the things or people they might be looking for. If you’ve recently conducted a search for something, odds are your readers may need to do the same search themselves.
Policy debates and politics in general can be difficult to follow, especially when deals are made behind closed doors. Give your readers the latest information on legislation that will affect your organization and either help or hurt your cause.
Few nonprofits can afford everything they need to accomplish their missions. What does your organization need? Or what can friends donate to you, so that you don’t have to spend limited resources buying it yourself? Wish list items can include everything from inexpensive office supplies, to computer equipment, to large cash donations for specific purchases you’ll need to make in the near future. Or get more creative and make your wish list changes you’d like to see in legislation or around your community.
Use “man on the street” interviews with several of your readers to get perspectives on a particular topic. Or you can draw quotes from letters you’ve received, presentations you’ve seen, meetings you’ve attended, etc.
If your organization works in partnership with many other organizations, take the time to explain the importance of those relationships to your readers. Why are you working with the organization? What do they bring to the partnership? What can you accomplish together that you couldn’t on your own?
Be careful. The traditional “letter from the director” and other rambling from executives tend to bore readers. However, if you focus this first-person piece on a strong opinion or an insider’s perspective on a particular issue or theme, this kind of content can be very powerful.
Take a poll and share the results with your readers. Get in the habit of asking a question in your newsletter, on your website, via social media, or when you see your supporters in person and share the responses in your content.
Fact Versus Fiction
What are the common misperceptions in your field? Are there any tales you’d wish would die forever? Lay out the fiction and the facts for your readers.