You wouldn’t run a race without knowing where the finish line is, or without knowing how many miles you’ll have to hoof to reach the end.

Similarly, your content marketing must work toward your organization’s larger goals, and needs to be something you can measure. These measurements will inform your ongoing content marketing efforts, helping you understand whether what you’re doing—and how you’re doing it—is working.

Here’s how you can set content marketing goals and measure success at your organization.


Ask “Why?”

In these digital, social, and always-on times, most organizations feel that the pressure’s on to produce some sort of content. But, the purpose of content marketing is not content creation itself, and it’s not marketing for marketing’s sake either. If you’re doing content marketing right, you’re using content to change or enhance people’s behavior. You might try to get them to participate in your programs, benefit from your services, learn something new, make safer choices, take position on policy, or make a donation. What your organization must be clear on is why content is an effective way to get people to take that particular action.


Make a realistic assessment of your resources

Your content marketing efforts will be doomed if you set goals that you can’t achieve using the resources you actually have. Ultimately, you’ll need to craft workplans based on what’s doable with the capacity your organization can muster. Honestly evaluate the time, skills, budget, and other resources you can put toward your content marketing efforts. If you need to hire consultants, designers, or writers, or invest in staff training, make a commitment to do so. Do a content audit to figure out what you’ve already created that might be repurposed or that will need to be refreshed.


Reflect on your overall organizational goals

Your content marketing should motivate audiences to take an action that advances your organizations’ overall goals. So, before you move forward, are you really clear on what those goals are? If your nonprofit does not have a strategic plan, you can still gain valuable insight from reviewing materials like the organization’s communications strategy, individual program goals, fundraising plan, or even the milestones required by ongoing grants. Lacking those, talk with your executive director, board, and other stakeholders to establish goals. This way, you’ll approach content marketing with a focus on how it can support the critical work your organization is already doing.


Get clear on your audiences

You can’t create content that appeals to everyone equally. The general public is not an audience—and not everyone will respond identically to the same content. Segment your audiences very specifically so you can better understand them. With this understanding, you can imagine your audience’s lives, emotions, day-to-day experiences, problems, barriers, and end goals—which will help you create content that can get their attention and motivate action by being truly relevant, useful, timely, and persuasive.


Determine which content can engage audiences to take action

Your content must get your audience’s attention, motivate them to take action, enhance and change their behavior, and advance your goals—and most of the time, in that order. Content that doesn’t appeal to your target audience segment or, worse, bores them, won’t capture their attention. Content that is entertaining or funny, but doesn’t generate surprise, disbelief, or other appropriate emotional reaction won’t motivate your audience to do anything. Content that doesn’t relate to a problem or need your audience has, won’t inspire behavior change. Content that doesn’t drive audience action that’s directly connected to your organization’s goals won’t be worth your time. Create content that does all those things and you’ll have found the focus for your content marketing.


Choose what to measure

In content marketing, there are two wrong things to measure: Nothing and everything.

The right things to measure will depend on your organization, its goals and audiences, and its particular context. Try to measure everything and you’ll drown in data. And, this may seem obvious, but choose something you can actually measure without too much difficulty. Keep track of your content marketing metrics on this Strategic Measurement Worksheet and learn more about metrics that matter. It’s easy to adapt and customize the worksheet to suit your organization’s specific needs.


Now what?

At some point, you have to stop planning and start creating content. You won’t create flawless content every time. Measure and analyze along the way, not just at the end, and use that insight to improve your content over time.


Lauren Girardin

Lauren Girardin

Marketing and Communications Strategist at Lauren Girardin Consulting
Lauren Girardin uses her creative chutzpah to help nonprofits engage their communities and tell their stories. She shows organizations how to experiment bravely in their social media, blogging, content marketing, web content, brand messaging, and other digital and traditional communications. She counts Caravan Studios, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Essential Access Health (formerly California Family Health Council), GovLoop, NEOGOV, Points of Light, Rebuilding Together, TechSoup, TeenSource, and YTH among her clients. Reach her at
Lauren Girardin
Lauren Girardin