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Consider your content strategy a roadmap for content activities

Strong nonprofit content has power. To understand and unleash that power, your actions must be guided by a content strategy. If you skip strategizing and head straight to implementation, you may end up with content that confuses, alienates or fails to engage your audience. After all, the goal isn't content creation itself — but to educate, motivate and inspire action.

What is content strategy?

Think of content strategy as a roadmap for your nonprofit's content activities.

Content encompasses all the stories, blogs, photos, videos, press releases, white papers, case studies, reports, infographics and other kinds of information your organization shares externally. Your content strategy is the plan that lays out what you're going to tell people about your nonprofit as well as where, how and when you plan to do so.

Why take the time to create a content strategy?

Systematically planning, producing and distributing content can help you achieve business outcomes, including sales and revenue goals. An effective content strategy ensures that your content:

  • Aligns with organizational values and messages
  • Enhances your nonprofit's credibility and visibility
  • Stands out from that of other nonprofits
  • Supports your organizational and marketing objectives

And, as content specialist Madeleine Sugden writes, the process of developing a strategy can be useful in itself. It forces to you assess the way content is produced and used in your organization. It makes you ask questions and gather data to back up your assumptions.

What does a content strategy look like?

No two content strategies are exactly alike. Effective content strategies share several similarities, though. For example:

Clear objectives

Don't create content just to create content. Instead, link content development to your nonprofit's goals.

In the words of content strategists Hannah Smith and Adria Saracino, "A content strategy is the high-level vision that guides future content development to deliver against a specific business objective." To translate your nonprofit's priorities into your content strategy, you might review the organizational goals listed in your strategic plan. You might also set out some of the weaknesses of your current content, and identify ways to improve them.

Messaging guidelines

Messaging is what you say as well as how you say it. It's how you approach the point you're making and tell your organization's story. Ultimately, your goal should be a steady and true editorial tone, from weekly blog posts through promotional videos and annual reports.

Plain documentation

Verbal or implied content strategies are less effective, so write it down! A documented content strategy directs your content development efforts and serves a role in measuring return on investment afterward. It's also useful when you have multiple authors contributing content, so they understand where their contributions fit into the larger picture.

Whether you use internal editorial resources or contracted support, documentation enables your nonprofit to develop and plan budgets for projects such as videos, annual report microsites, infographics or gif designs — thus decreasing the likelihood of "random acts of content."

What are some best practices for content strategy development?

Within your content strategy:

  • Define content success. Think about what you want your content to achieve over a certain period of time, such as increasing donations, boosting volunteerism, increasing web traffic and social engagement, positioning your organization as a trusted thought leader, and so on.
  • Describe your organizational voice and tone. Are you formal and academic or casual and conversational? Or maybe somewhere in between? Illustrate with examples.
  • List specific platforms you'll use to tell your story. You might describe when and how with specifics such as an editorial calendar for your website and a social media outreach plan.
  • Prioritize the information you want to share. In any platform or channel, be careful not to overwhelm readers with all the information you can think of (whenever you think of it).
  • Specify your nonprofit's unique selling point. Focus on the central themes important to your nonprofit. What does your nonprofit stand for? What is your nonprofit best at? What drives your nonprofit? What sets it apart from other nonprofits in the sector?
  • Include a plan for capturing baseline metrics from the outset. Consider what you should measure and who'll take responsibility for the task. The data will help you better understand what's working and what's not.

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Disclaimer

MissionBox editorial content is offered as guidance only, and is not meant, nor should it be construed as, a replacement for certified, professional expertise.

Disclaimer

References

WiredImpact: 3 crucial elements of any content strategy for nonprofits by Britt Vogel (2015)

npENGAGE: The essentials to writing a content marketing strategy: Every nonprofit communicator needs to see this by Kevin Sparkman (2014)

CauseVox: Tips on nonprofit content strategy from David Hartstein by Eric Jokinen (2012)

Content Marketing Institute: Developing a content marketing strategy

Distilled: What is content strategy? by Hannah Smith (2014)

FusionSpark Media: 4 essentials of effective nonprofit marketing by Russell Sparkman (2015)

Directory of Social Change: Do I need a content strategy? by Madeleine Sugden (2015)

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