How to Create a Content Strategy for Your Nonprofit
Content tends to be an all-encompassing word these days. You have influencers on social media who call themselves content creators, posting videos and content online, and people like myself who consider themselves content writers, because, well, we write for a living. While content can certainly encompass both of these things—and more—for this blog post, we’ll focus on the written type of content—any element you write for your website, marketing materials, whitepapers, etc—and how to create a content strategy for driving reach, engagement, and loyalty.
Whether you’re the one writing and creating content for your nonprofit, or you’re looking to hire someone externally, having a solid content strategy is essential to your nonprofit’s success. Great content will help inform your audience and provide critical resources to both supporters and the people you serve.
So, how do you create a content strategy? And what should it include? We’ll help guide you along the process in this blog post.
1. Develop your brand voice.
Before you get started in building a content strategy, you should first ensure you know your brand voice. A brand voice is your reference point for how your organization speaks to various audiences, both internally and externally. This provides a good ground for comparison of what speaks to your brand and what does not.
If you don’t already have a set of brand guidelines, now is a great time to put them in place. This can help set the tone, style, and best practices for writing (capitalization of certain words, the oxford comma, etc.).
Creating these guidelines will help ensure your content sounds the same across all avenues. It’s also helpful to have in case you’re working with external writers, and in general, can help guide your company toward consistency.
2. What are your content goals?
Every nonprofit has its own mission, and that means that what each organization creates for content will vary. If you work to maintain a National Park, for example, you may want to develop resources about how to get around or prepare for a visit. If you provide resources to your local community, you’ll want to create content that can inform your potential donors, and materials to support anyone looking to access your services.
All of your content should be tied to your mission and work to move it forward. While you may feel inclined to write a fun blog post on a random topic, if it doesn’t tie into your goals, it probably shouldn’t go on your site (maybe that means it’s time to start a personal blog!). There should be a common thread throughout your content that links back to your nonprofit. It can be fun and light-hearted, but it should all support your mission.
3. Assess your existing content.
Take a look at what content you already have. It’s great to bucket it out before you analyze it, breaking down categories like whitepapers, blogs, and case studies. You may want to get even more granular and break it down into the topics you are writing about. Your content audit can be as big or as small as you’d like. We recommend doing a large initial assessment and then regular check-ins to see how everything is performing.
This is a great time to assess any old posts that have great content, keywords, or traffic, but may be outdated and need a refresh. If you have a popular post that has outdated info in it (i.e., there have been changes to platforms), take the time to make updates. It can also be helpful to plan for regular refreshes so that when your supporters are reading your content, they have the most relevant information. Similarly, if you have a well-written post, but it’s not optimized for SEO, it’s also worth taking the time to edit the content to be more discoverable.
An initial audit can help you identify what’s working and driving traffic and what content might be outdated, need some editing, or no longer speaks to your brand and can just be removed. You can set a long-term plan to make these updates, as there will likely be a few items you need to take a look at.
4. Identify gaps and opportunities in your content.
Once you’ve pulled all the data and assessed your existing content, you can dive a little deeper to see what it’s telling you.
What are your biggest traffic drivers? Can you create more content around these topics?
Are there any areas of your nonprofit you’ve never created content on? Anything people search for but can’t find?
It won’t always be obvious, and that’s okay, as this is where SEO can once again play a vital part in creating a content strategy. Take a look at what your competitors are doing. Search for keywords and questions that you might be able to rank for. Once again, an in-depth SEO strategy can help guide you through the gaps and identify where to grow.
5. Create a Content Calendar
After performing an audit, identifying any gaps in your existing content, and planning for refreshes, you’ll likely have a lot on your to-do list. But that doesn’t mean you have to tackle it all at once. This is where a content calendar (and project plan!) can come in handy.
Map out what you want to create and when. Perhaps you want to publish one new blog weekly—plan this out and ensure your content is created in advance. Some items—like a whitepaper—will take a bit more time to develop. Identify when you’d like to publish a piece and work back from there. It’s also great to include the content you want to optimize and update in your content calendar, as this will give you more time to make the updates so you don’t have to rush through them all right after the content audit. Using a project management tool, such as Asana, can help you keep on track and assign tasks to each member of your team.
Content calendars are also great for aligning with any critical dates in your yearly plans—do you have a big event or fundraising moment? How can you create content around this time to build momentum? Perhaps it’s a blog during year-end fundraising season to emphasize why supporters should donate to your nonprofit on Giving Tuesday. Or maybe you work with women and want to amplify your programs or efforts during Women’s History Month. A content calendar helps ensure all your content is aligned with any key dates for your organization.
6. Start writing.
Congrats! Now that you’ve got your content ideas, and you know when they need to be ready, it’s time to start writing. Depending on what your nonprofit does, you may be writing fun and upbeat content or more serious content about dire needs. Here’s a recap of what we went over, in the beginning, to use as your guide as you begin writing:
1) Make sure you’re writing with your brand voice in mind
2) Consider the tone of the content, and that it’s appropriate for your mission and your audience
3) Use your audit, and your calendar, to gut-check the relevancy and timing of your topics (or possibly spark new ideas!)
4) Write clearly and concisely
5) Follow SEO best practices by sprinkling a few keywords throughout, and using subheaders to help identify topics
6) Use tools like Grammarly to check your spelling and grammar, and Easybib to ensure what you’ve written doesn’t borrow from other sources
7) Have another colleague read your piece before it goes live
7. Rinse and repeat
Once the initial audit is complete, a quarterly check-in will help you gauge your content health and see where you can further develop or alter your strategy. A content audit is also a great place to assess your SEO health, as SEO strongly correlates to content. Learn more on SEO why SEO is important and 4 tips to improve your SEO
Every nonprofit has a powerful story to tell, and your content strategy is one of the most impactful ways to do so. By building a solid foundation for your plans, you’ll find it easy to create content and will no longer be sitting around brainstorming ideas or scrambling to pull a piece together at the last minute. You and your supporters will feel more at ease and informed.
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