I know you’re probably thinking “both.”
Or maybe you’re thinking “awareness.”
That’s why, too often, nonprofit communications are considered the step-child of fundraising. A support function, rather than an essential one.
Because your answer to the question “What’s the purpose of our nonprofit content marketing” should be MONEY.
That’s the bottom line. Creating awareness is merely a pre-condition to sales.
I’m being a bit harsh here, I know. But I do so to open your eyes to the truth: It really doesn’t matter if folks are aware of your existence — if they don’t give two cents whether you continue to exist.
Think about that for a minute.
You probably have some sort of marketing communications program. It probably has a content marketing plan. What content you’ll create. Who you’ll target to receive it. Where and when you’ll deliver it. And so forth. But…
Are you asking the most important question?
What do you want to get out of the fact that folks see/read/listen to this content?
If you don’t begin here, your content marketing probably won’t work very well.
It will just BE. Something you check off your list of tasks. We delivered another newsletter. Created another annual report. Sent out another blog post. Made a video. Tweeted a link. Posted a photo. And so forth.
Patting yourself on the back for all these accomplishments?
What did you accomplish, exactly? Is it something you can use to further your cause?
- Did you get 1,000 new Twitter followers? Or 1,000 new donations?
- Did 50 people share your story? Or did 50 people with whom the story was shared become new donors?
- Did you show your video once at your event, and then it just sat in your archives? Or did you put it on your website, share links to it on multiple social channels, and include a donate link at the end?
Moving forward, as you plan your content marketing, I’d like you to ask yourself four questions about each piece of potential content:
- What do we want the reader/listener/viewer to feel now?
- What do we want the reader/listener/viewer to do next?
- What do we want the reader/listener/viewer to do ultimately (e.g., within the next month), and how will we follow up with additional content to get them to that desired outcome?
- How will we assess that this content worked?
It’s tempting to fall into the trap of preparing and disseminating content designed to do really vague things – “raise awareness,” “engage,” “involve,” and “empower,” for example.
Huh? That and $4 bucks will buy you a beverage at Starbucks.
It’s a bit like asking people to give in order to “restore hope.” What exactly does that mean? And how much does it cost?
Just as it’s important to be specific with your fundraising asks, it’s important to be specific with your fundraising and content marketing goals.
Precision is important when results matter.
If you’re investing time and money into your marketing efforts, you really should be thinking about results.
Side benefit? If you can demonstrate results, you’ll make a persuasive case to your leaders to invest even more resources into your marketing efforts (and I include fundraising as part of marketing).
This means you’ll keep your job, raise more money, save more lives (or trees, kittens, paintings or…) and maybe even create some new jobs. Cool, right?
All of this, to me, is pretty much common sense. But it’s so easy to lose sight of common sense when we cross the threshold of our places of work. And when groupthink begins to creep in. And we get into implementation mode, with little time reserved for thinking and planning and evaluating.
Make friends this year with your common sense!
Don’t do something without a really good reason for doing it!
If someone says “we need a video,” “we need a brochure,” “we need to post more often to Facebook,” “we need a blog,” and so forth, ask “WHY?” I’m not saying you shouldn’t do these things. I’m saying: Do content marketing with intention; establish bottom-line goals and measure progress towards those goals.
Think about all those terrific, award-winning commercials you watch. They may make you smile, laugh or cry. But do you remember what product they were selling? Sometimes yes. Sometimes they even inspire you to buy the product. But, more often, you can’t even remember what that great ad was selling. That means the advertising didn’t work.
Build a content marketing plan this year that works for you.
Consider what types of actions will get you closer to your goals. What will raise money so you can continue to fight the good fight? What will enlist new recruits to your army of supporters? What will grab you the type of attention you need to survive and thrive?
What will get people to care?
The fastest route to effective fundraising isn’t raising awareness. It’s getting folks to feel something on an emotional level. Something that hits them in the gut and grabs them in the heart. Something that provokes their giving spirit.
Just getting people to know about something is a pretty passive, and ultimately useless, act. We soothe ourselves with this platitude: “Awareness is the first step to future involvement and investment.” And, yes, that’s true. But it can be like a lead balloon.
Unless… you get ahead of the game. You don’t do anything that’s only a first step.
This year, figure out what will get people to act.
Time and resources are too limited to squander them on window dressing. Pretty videos and brochures and reports are just that. Pretty. Admire them on your own time. Better yet, admire someone else’s on your own time.
Then walk away with a smug little smile, satisfied in knowing that you didn’t squander your time on “pretty.” You created content with the power to get folks to take a specific, desired action. You called for that action. You did it so effectively that folks responded. They felt so good, too, that they even shared what they did with their networks. Why not? It feels good to invest your money to participate in something meaningful and bigger than oneself.
You made a difference!
And all because you took some time to think and plan before your leapt into the standard, same-old content marketing fray.
Now… pat yourself on the back.
I think it isn’t about awareness or money. Rather, it’s about engagement. Engagement (involvement in meaningful experiences, with valuable information, etc.) results in awareness and money.
So, the trick is to make sure your content is engaging.
The ten commandments of Engagement Fundraising can be found here: