The Content Marketing Institute defines content marketing as the act of “creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” For nonprofits, that translate into a powerful, cost-effective method of acquiring new donors.

Many nonprofits have jumped on the content marketing bandwagon – publishing blog posts, videos and other rich media – which is great! However, one tiny misunderstanding about the nature of effective content marketing can sink those efforts before they even begin.

One of the worst things a nonprofit can do is simply transition their existing promotional content to digital mediums, and hoping that it will attract new donors. This shows little regard for the varied online audiences that your nonprofit currently has and can attract in the future.

The Three Audiences

When it comes to content, a nonprofit has three core audiences:

  1. non-donors who don’t know your organization
  2. non-donors who know your organization
  3. donors

Donor Funnel

Each audience is looking for and expects certain content from your organization. These three groups correspond perfectly to the stages of the donor funnel:

  1. prospecting (above the funnel)
  2. cultivation/asking (in the funnel)
  3. stewardship (below the funnel)

Nonprofits tend to be bottom-heavy in terms of their content: lots of cultivation and asking content (flyers, brochures, annual reports, newsletters, etc.) but little in the way of prospecting content. The good news is if you master effective content marketing, your current stewards will also draw value from that content.

Educational Content Wins Prospects

When it comes to attracting new donors, it’s important to understand that those individuals aren’t necessarily searching for nonprofits to donate to. They’re searching for the answers to their questions: What are early signs of alzheimer’s? How can I feed a family of five for under $10 without sacrificing nutrition? How can I get my child interested in reading? What can I do to avoid the flu in the workplace?

When your content is educational, you have a much greater chance of attracting potential donors to your organization’s website. Once they’re there, your existing cultivation/asking content can kick in and hopefully convert them into donors. Here’s a different way of looking at the donor funnel:

  1. prospecting (content marketing)
  2. cultivation/asking (existing promotional content)
  3. stewardship (donor communications)

By mapping content in this manner, you can see how someone who has never heard of your organization can organically convert into a supporter. While existing promotional and donor communications content can take a digital form, the bulk of your content marketing efforts should be focused on acquisition. Don’t flip your donor funnel! Create content that attracts, not pushes. Your current and prospective donors will thank you for it.

If you’ll be in or around Bridgewater, New Jersey for the AFP New Jersey 33rd Annual Conference on Philanthropy, be sure to catch my session on content marketing for nonprofits!

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