After reading and recommending Kivi Leroux Miller’s previous book The Nonprofit Marketing Guide this summer, I was really looking forward to diving into her second book, Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause and Raising More Money.  Reading them within a few months of each other, I was amazed to see how much has changed in our nonprofit communications landscape in the three short years between the publications of the two books.

From the beginning, Leroux Miller is clear that this book is not just an update. Instead it is a guide that explains how communication has fundamentally shifted with the adoption of content marketing in our current online, social landscape, and how nonprofits can take advantage of this shift. It also aims to outline solutions to common challenges faced by today’s communications directors. While the content covers some basics and can sometimes go into fairly advanced tool and techniques, Leroux Miller has put herself in the mindset of communicators and fundraisers who have begun to transform the way they interact with their stakeholders, making their content more relevant and valuable to them.

Content Marketing 101 and much more

The book is a manual to help typically small- to mid-sized organizations in their evolution to become more responsive to their participants and supporters. It offers structure and direction for this shift towards an integrated approach to marketing and communication. And it delivers in spades. From understanding what content marketing for nonprofits actually is, “creating and sharing relevant and valuable content that attracts, motivates, engages, and inspires your participants, supporters and influencers to help you achieve your mission”, to changing your thinking from talking to “target audiences” to engaging Participants, Supporters and Influencers (grouped as PSIs), to knowing what to post on each social media channel takes planning and new ways of doing things.

Straightforward layout makes content easy to access

As in the first book, the table of contents is clearly laid out and makes things easy to find. The book is divided into five sections:

  1. Finding a New Path: The Power of Content Marketing covers what it is, how it’s different, setting goals and measuring progress
  2. Who Will Go with You: Redefining your Marketing Relationships lays out what your stakeholders want from you, how to decide on the voice/style you what to be known for and ways to staff your content marketing strategy
  3. Envisioning the Journey: Preparing your Content Marketing Plan outlines how to map it out including the big picture, core topics and content, building an editorial calendar and original content, repurposing content and preparing for the unexpected
  4. Set out on your trek: Implementing your Content Marketing Strategy includes the creation of relevant content, types of effective content, curating the content of others and uses of technology
  5. The right provisions for the journey: What you need to know about the channels you choose includes a unique description of the strengths and weakness of communication channels including websites, blogs, email, print newsletters, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, video, images, Pinterest and mobile devices.

Insightful research and story telling makes this book work

What is so effective about this book and the reason it’s a must read is Kivi’s research and relevant examples from nonprofits of many shapes, sizes and sectors. Much of the research presented is Kivi’s own, including a survey of 1535 nonprofits, polls during webinars and personal communication, and some is current demographic data, selected deliberately and that builds her argument effectively.

Both veteran and new communicators will get a lot from the liberal use of great examples from nonprofits. I found myself humming along to many of the stories, because Kivi captures the tune so well. She gets the realities of nonprofit communications and fundraising, and gives examples of organizations that have done aspects of it well and creatively.

While it’s eminently useful and practical, it’s also a great read. She likens the journey that nonprofits take with long-distance hiking, and while the premise sounded a bit contrived at first, I found it really grew on me, and it really works. The chapters headings are fun markers of what to expect, from “Mapping it out” to “Conserving energy on the trail” (about repurposing content) to “Best trail mix recipe ever” (encouraging the use of similes and humour).

While I understand that in many organizations communications and fundraising go hand in hand, I was disappointed that there was not a lot of information for nonprofits that communicate primarily to other businesses and don’t have the same focus on securing donations. I also thought it was strange that there was no mention of LinkedIn as an effective social media platform for nonprofits.

All in all, the book is insightful, practical and definitely worth the investment. Also worth checking out is the companion site and its online resources.


Janet McCausland
Janet McCausland is an enthusiastic, energetic, results-oriented communicator who adds value with her ability to think strategically, motivate others and get things done. For almost 20 years, Janet has delivered targeted and engaging communications solutions and has established programs that create awareness and action for the environment. Janet’s non-profit clients include Toronto Atmospheric Fund, Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur, WWF-Canada, ArtsBuild Ontario and the Natural Burial Association.
Janet McCausland
Janet McCausland