As we start 2014 it is safe to say content marketing is no longer just a buzzword for marketers. In fact long before the phrase was fashioned, marketers have created and distributed content that their target audience would find valuable. The difference today is the practice of content marketing includes so many options – both online and offline – that it is having a tremendous impact on strengthening an organization’s brand and furthering customer loyalty.

One of the first comprehensive reports to look at the content marketing practices of nonprofit professionals in North America was published in late 2013. Produced by the Content Marketing Institute and Blackbaud and sponsored by FusionSpark Media, Nonprofit Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America uncovers some of the key differences between those who consider themselves effective content marketers and those lacking in confidence.

1,714 nonprofit professionals responded to the survey electronically in the summer of 2013 and the results have recently been shared. Of those individuals who responded, 54% came from the healthcare, education, or human services industry and 65% came from organizations that employee 99 or less employees. Most interesting is 23% – the largest segment of respondents– classified themselves as having a fundraising role in the organization demonstrating that many organizations continue to assign marketing and communications responsibilities to their development staff.


The Content Marketing Majority

With so many facets to content marketing, it is no surprise that 92% of the nonprofit professionals surveyed indicated they used content marketing. A majority of respondents also indicated that their organization:

  • Has someone who oversees content marketing strategy (69%)
  • Is producing more content than they were a year ago (65%)
  • Cites fundraising as the top goal for content marketing (79%)
  • Uses Facebook to distribute content more than any other social media platform (91%)


Bridging the Confidence Gap

The report uncovered a significant difference between respondents who identified themselves as most effective nonprofit content marketers and least effective nonprofit content marketers. This confidence gap amongst nonprofit marketers was evident in the report’s profile of a best-in-class nonprofit marketer. Respondents who rated their organization’s use of content marketing as very effective also revealed their organization:

  • Has a documented content strategy
  • Spends 30% of their marketing budget on content marketing, and
  • Uses an average number of 5 social media platforms.

By contrast, those respondents who rated their organization’s use of content marketing as being not at all effective:

  • Had no documented content strategy
  • Spent only 12% of their budget on content marketing, and
  • Used an average of 3 social media platforms.


Size matters

Another difference that the report revealed was the variance between mid-size to large shops to small (10-99 employees) and micro-shops (organizations with fewer than 10 employees).

Overall, nonprofit professionals at large organizations rate themselves as more effective than their peers at smaller organizations rate themselves. Some other interesting results include:

  • 26% of small nonprofit organizations have a documented content strategy compared with 37% of large nonprofit organizations.
  • 71% of small nonprofits have someone who oversees content marketing strategy, surprisingly higher than the 62% of large organizations who have someone leading content marketing.
  • 79% of large nonprofits cite brand awareness as their top organizational goal for content marketing
  • Small nonprofits cite volunteer recruitment as a goal more often than large organizations do (45% vs 26%)


Measuring Success of Content Marketing Strategies

For both small and large organizations, increased fundraising was ranked as the organization’s top content marketing metric followed by website traffic. Further down the list are some more interesting ways to measure an organization’s success with content marketing such as social media sharing, subscriber growth, and time spent on website. These metrics may be more valuable to your organization as opposed to the tracking the number of visitors to your organization’s website, one of the things a fellow nonprofit communicator vows to stop doing in 2014.


3 Resolutions to Make Today

Becoming a more effective content marketer should be a priority for everyone in the year ahead and is possible if you commit to the following resolutions:

1. Resolve to create a documented content strategy

Just like it is important to have a written marketing and communications plan it is equally imperative for an organization to document their content marketing strategies. Identify your organization’s goals and how you plan to use content marketing tactics to achieve and measure those goals.

2. Resolve to focus on most popular tactics used by the most effective nonprofit marketers

Research what the most effective content marketers are doing and incorporate those tactics into your organization’s plan. The benchmark report recognized that the most effective nonprofit professionals use all of the following content marketing tactics more often than their least effective peers do.

content marketing tactics

3. Resolve to overcome the usual nonprofit communicator obstacles

Ask any nonprofit communicator about the biggest obstacles they face in any aspect of their job (not just content marketing) and you will inevitably get the same response: lack of time and lack of budget. This does not stop the best nonprofit communicators from achieving their goals and it should not stop you from becoming an effective content marketer. We are constantly challenged by not enough time in our day and not enough resources in our office, but with so many ways to create and distribute content now, find a way to get inspired to build the content your audience wants to see from you.


More content marketing resources

Here are a few interesting reads on your path to becoming an effective nonprofit content marketer:

Suzanne Hallsworth

Suzanne Hallsworth

VP, Development & Communications at Oakville Hospital Foundation
Suzanne Hallsworth is the VP, Development & Communications for the Oakville Hospital Foundation. In her role, she leads the annual giving, community fundraising, and special events teams and develops marketing communication strategies to help the Foundation reach its fundraising goals. Suzanne has been working in the nonprofit sector for more than a decade following an earlier career in the book publishing industry.
Suzanne Hallsworth
Suzanne Hallsworth