Computer Love"Content Marketing" is a new term for many nonprofits. One way to think about the shift that content marketing represents is that this approach moves the emphasis off the specific communications channels used (such as a newsletter or website) and puts it on the people who are using the content provided through those channels.

For example, when donors read stories and see pictures in a newsletter and on your website that show the changes taking place because of their support, and they feel good about the choice to support you, they become a communications focus, rather than the website or newsletter itself. This may seem like a subtle difference, but in the hustle and bustle of overworked and underfunded nonprofits, it’s vitally important to understand and embrace it.

You want to focus on what you believe your participants' or supporters' reactions to your content will be. How will a particular article or campaign make them feel about your organization? Do you expect them to trust you more, or feel a sense of kinship? Will they feel inspired and compelled to learn or to do more? Does the content help build the relationship between people and your organization to the point where they would consider your nonprofit one of their favorite causes?

Kevin Schulman, founder of and partner in the donor relationship and experience company DonorVoice says nonprofits are too focused on specific communications and fundraising activities, which, he says, get talked about as if they were actual strategy. “It’s a false choice,” says Schulman, “to think you have to pick sides in debates about which channels to use to reach which people” (for example, how much to invest in direct mail versus online communications in order to reach a certain demographic).

“Nonprofits need to nail their core positioning and their brand in a way that really resonates and that differentiates [them]—it is a sea of sameness right now,” says Schulman. “If this becomes the focus and the litmus test for decision making -- does this content and message fit our positioning regardless of channel or form?—these questions of channel get relegated to tactics where they belong,” he continues.

Remember, people are crossing back and forth between communications channels all the time. “Yes, you should pay attention to tactical best practices, but what really matters is how donors think and feel about the nonprofit. That’s what causes giving, not the communications channel.”

The conclusion of the 2010 report The Next Generation of American Giving says it well: “[Nothing] is as important as the content you produce. There is not a single tactic or giving channel that is nearly as important as the quality of your message and your ability to inspire, arouse and engage the hearts and minds of your donors. Especially their hearts.”

This article is an excerpt from Content Marketing for Nonprofits (Amazon). 

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