By Dennis Fischman
Give people information that matters to them and you will draw them closer to your cause.
This is the basic principle of content marketing. It’s a natural approach for not for profits to take. Many of us know a lot about the issues we work on and the communities we serve. We have stories to tell. We have news people can use. And it feels more respectful to us to engage our communities rather than to “sell” our programs.
So why are so many not for profits who are trying this approach feeling stuck?
Three Stages on the Journey
In her excellent new book Content Marketing for Nonprofits, Kivi Leroux Miller says organisations typically go through three stages before they get content marketing right: Doing, Questioning, and Integrating.
Doing: We know we should be putting the word out, but we’re constantly scrambling to find things to say, or pictures to share. It gets done at the last minute. Nobody is in charge, so it feels like extra work to the people who do it–or one person is in charge, but he or she has to beg program staff for content to use. We know how much we’re doing but not whether it makes a difference.
Questioning: We realise that it’s not about us–it’s about our clients and supporters. We have started trying to find out what they want to hear/see/read, and to give them what they want. We have a plan and a publication calendar. We’re looking for more resources and training to do communications in a way that makes people want to support our agency.
Integrating: We listen to our community as much as we talk. We bring what we know about our community back into every discussion about program, marketing, and fundraising. We fund and staff communications, not only for short-term goals like the next event or fundraising appeal but for the long-term health of the organisation. We find the right message for the right audience at the right time. People want to hear from us and engage us in conversations online and in person.
What It Takes to Move Forward
Which stage best describes your organisation? Kivi thinks most of us are in the Questioning stage. From my own experience, I’d say many smaller not for profits are in the phase of “just do it” and only just beginning to recognise that there must be a better way.
If you are interested in “engaging your community, becoming a favourite cause, and raising more money” (the subtitle of the book), then here are some steps I think you might want to take.
- Bring together the people within your organisation who “get it.” It doesn’t matter what area they’re in or what title they have. As long as they can see things from the point of view of your key constituencies, they can help you reach those clients and supporters (and help them reach you!).
- Find a champion. Someone whom everybody respects has to make content marketing a priority.
- Spend time. Free staff from some of their other duties so they are getting paid to do this work.
- Seek funding. Apply for a capacity-building grant if any are available. Perhaps ask a major donor or business to invest in your communications effort.
- Acquire expertise. An outside consultant may be just the guide you need to move to the next stage. If you are in a position to hire a Manager of Communications, he or she can lead the organisation. Not do it all, but lead you in the right direction, so you don’t feel stuck any more.
Are you ready to move forward? Can I help you? Then please email me for an initial consultation.
About Dennis: Dennis Fischman is a Cause & Effective Associate. Contact Dennis here to discuss how your cause-based organisation can win friends and get the support it needs to keep doing excellent work.