If you’re a marketing professional, or any private-sector professional whose role bumps up against anything marketing related, you are probably very familiar with content marketing. But if you work on marketing for nonprofits, this may be a new concept to you.

I’m hoping to change that. As the owner of a content marketing services agency, I of course believe strongly in the value and importance of content marketing — but I have a specific goal of educating the nonprofit sector about this cost-effective and increasingly crucial means of reaching out to your target audience.

Content marketing is an alternative to the commercials and press releases that consumers (or potential donors) have learned to skip, fast-forward through, ignore or delete.

Instead, content marketing allows your nonprofit to reach your audience by putting out valuable information and insight they want to consume. It brings the audience to you, also sometimes called inbound marketing.

The theory of content marketing is that if you put out excellent material aligned with your strategic goals your audience will come to you. Or, as I put elsewhere, the “karma bank approach” to building relationships with your audience. You get back what you put out into the universe. In the case of content marketing for nonprofits: Donors will value the content you’ve created; they will appreciate the information, they will respect your expertise and they will turn to you more for further thought leadership.

Why tech companies will look enviously at content marketing for nonprofits

You may be thinking that sounds great for those tech companies building a user base for their app. You are, after all, not-for-profit, busy working to solve problems and probably without the resources of a venture capital investment.

But I actually think that nonprofits are better situated to use the power of content marketing.

Why am I convinced that it is especially suited to nonprofit organizations? Three key reasons:

Empathy. Content marketing is about trying to understand what your target customer needs and wants and would find useful, and then trying to provide that. Nonprofits are in the business of helping people. So, a marketing strategy built around helping people is a natural fit.

Patience. You can’t write one blog post and expect it to start yielding results; most content marketing projects accumulate results over time. Nonprofits can use that strategy because they are committed to their communities and they’re not going anywhere. They don’t have stockholders or investors expecting a quick return on their investment.

Trust. The whole point of content marketing is to communicate authority, authenticity and trust so that customers, prospects (or donors, in this case) will be more receptive to your message. Most community service organizations have already established that.

In short you have a greater reservoir of audience understanding, trust and patience to draw from than the high-flying tech startups that have already proven that content marketing works.

Getting started with content marketing for nonprofits

So, why don’t you try it? Sit down with your team and start brainstorming with these questions:

  • Who is your audience? This can be broad segments or something more specific.
  • For each segment, ask: What is their awareness and commitment level now, and where are you trying to get them to?
  • What is a specific step on that awareness journey you’d like a given segment to take?
  • What type of content — blogs, articles, etc. — do you want to develop?
  • What topics do you want to explore in your content?
  • Who is going to write what?
  • Where do you hope to publish it?
  • What is your timeline?

Each of those questions are very layered, and I will expand on each in more detailed articles on each of these topics. I’ll also provide information on some of the best tools out there — many of which are free — for planning and executing your own content marketing plan.

But for now, realizing the potential of content marketing for nonprofit organizations is an exciting first step.

Have you seen the rest of the Give to Get series?
Part 2: What Nonprofit Communications Can Learn From Content Marketing
Part 3: Let’s Get Honest About Your Nonprofit Marketing Strategy
Part 4: How Nonprofit Branding Using Content Marketing Can Get Results
Part 5: Your Nonprofit Blog is Not the Same as Content Marketing
Part 6: 5 Easy Ways to Create Great Content for Your Nonprofit Website



Robert McGuire

Robert McGuire


I have a vision of a content marketing agency that consistently produces standout material aligned with my clients’ business goals.

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