Nonprofit Content Marketing Advanced Guide

With limited staff and tight budgets, it’s often difficult for nonprofits to focus on marketing efforts. Yet incorporating content marketing into your nonprofit’s overall marketing strategy can be a powerful tool for growing your organization and building a wide base of dedicated supporters to advance your cause.

Colorful collage of a woman and various items relating to data and nonprofit content marketing

What is nonprofit content marketing?

Content marketing uses the creation and sharing of online content to attract, engage, and educate a specific audience. Creating high quality content — in other words, content that your audience wants to engage in — is a win-win strategy for nonprofits. It’s the perfect avenue for nonprofits to take advantage of high impact storytelling to attract and maintain a loyal donor base. You can read all about how to craft a winning storytelling strategy in our guide:

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Content marketing channels for sharing your stories can include:

  • Videos & photos
  • Blogs
  • Infographics
  • Research articles
  • Analytical reports
  • Social media posts
  • Podcasts

Hosting interesting, relevant, and shareable content on your website and social media channels allows your organization to attract donors and volunteers as well as amplify your organization’s mission and educate people about why your cause matters — and isn’t that part of why your nonprofit exists in the first place?

How is content marketing different for nonprofits?

While perennially tight budgets can make content creation and other marketing efforts challenging for nonprofits, nonprofit organizations also wield a major advantage when it comes to content: your organization has so many important stories to tell.

That family that would have lost their home without your organization’s intervention? The elder beagle that has found a forever home through your adoption drive? The wildfire emergency relief efforts organized by your staff and volunteers? Whatever cause you are fighting for, or gap in services you fill — telling those stories will inspire your audience to get involved in your mission.

Nonprofit content marketing can not only increase brand awareness and drive donations, it can also educate people about the issues, show the impact of your organization through personal stories, and connect your nonprofit with a wide audience of people who care about your cause.

How do nonprofits create content?

Creating a content marketing plan is the first step to content that grows your community. You should rely on a mix of storytelling about your organization and education of the public on issues important to you. To build this kind of strategy, you’ll need

  • A clear goal in mind for your content (Fundraising? Volunteers? More awareness about a specific action?)
  • A platform to share your ideas on (Your website? Social media? Programmatic advertising? Email?)
  • A medium that makes sense on your platform (Blogs? Videos? Social media posts?)
  • Ideas for combining multiple types of content across different platforms to strengthen your message (For example, fundraising emails that link to a blog on your website that tell a story about your organization).

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What can content marketing do for nonprofits?

For nonprofits, content can inspire, educate, and build awareness about your cause by strategically sharing important facets of your organization’s work. With creative documentation in the form of photos, videos, or written content, events hosted by your organization and research conducted by it can become part of your content pipeline.

Content marketing drives donations.

Nonprofit content marketing can help your organization achieve financial sustainability over the long term by driving donations. Relevant, interesting content that engages and informs can bring new visitors to your website and social media platforms, generating leads and driving donations.

In fact, with the right tools in place, a strategic content campaign can create a flood of donor support for your cause.

Content marketing raises awareness about your cause.

For many nonprofits, educating people about why your cause matters is an intrinsic part of the mission. Nonprofit content marketing allows you to do just that by engaging your audience with compelling content that explains why people should give some of their limited time and attention to help you fight the good fight.

Fortunately for nonprofits, recent changes in how Google ranks web pages mean that content that answers user’s questions now tends to rank highly. As a result, you can create relevant, educational content that answers your audience’s questions about your cause, meaning you can spread awareness while also growing your online brand presence and SEO.

Content marketing promotes your mission.

In addition to educating and inspiring, nonprofit content marketing can detail your organization’s mission and demonstrate your impact. Using a variety of media to show how your organization lives its mission goes a long way toward building a wide base of support for your cause.

Content marketing recruits volunteers.

When you use content marketing to tell moving stories, your core audience wants to share the news with their friends and contacts, bringing in new volunteers and supporters.

How to create a content marketing plan for your nonprofit.

Set clear, realistic goals.

To make sure your content works for you over the long term, use SMART goals to shape your content strategy. SMART stands for

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Time-bound

For example, your first SMART goal might be to increase your email subscribers by 200 people within three weeks. The measurable and time-bound aspects of the goal make it easy to determine whether you have succeeded or not.

Remember, whatever goal you choose to pursue first, make sure it is realistic in terms of staff and other resources you have available to dedicate to implementing your nonprofit content marketing strategy.

In addition to overarching goals, every individual piece of content produced should have a specific goal associated with it, whether that’s driving attendance at a specific event, increasing social media subscribers, or encouraging volunteer recruitment.

Know your audience.

Knowing your organization’s audience personas increases the success of any marketing effort you undertake. Your choice of which kind of content to create, and where and how to share it, can all be affected by an in-depth understanding of the people most likely to support your organization’s mission.

Set a timeline.

Nonprofit content marketing can be a long game. It’s important to create an editorial calendar to help you organize and manage your content strategy. Long-term planning, combined with short-term pivots that relate to current events, can help your content succeed over the long term.

And remember, you can use your timeline to measure the clear, realistic goals you have set as well — the calendar can include check-ins to see how your past content is performing in your chosen metrics.

Craft your messaging and medium.

Nonprofit content marketing succeeds with consistent messaging. Key messages encapsulate what you want your audience to learn, share, and remember about your organization.

For instance, if your nonprofit is a Housing First organization working to increase access to stable housing in your city, a key message threaded throughout your content might be: By supporting our cause, you help us build a more humane community where our neighbors have a place to call home.

Once you’ve narrowed in on your messaging, you can choose the platforms you want to use to deliver it. Consider the following strengths of some common forms of content marketing

  • Video on social media platforms like YouTube to showcase your nonprofit’s impact and reach a wider audience.
  • Email to engage people already part of your community, and segmented audiences to match the level of engagement they show. You can add landing pages to your email campaigns that guide people to take specific actions on your website.
  • Special reports to draw in new community members through organic search. Reports can also be shared on other platforms like email and social media.
  • Instagram stories to put a face on your organization and tell your story visually.
  • Facebook posts to support fundraising campaigns via social media.

Analyze your results.

Remember those SMART goals you set at the beginning of your content marketing journey? Because you made your goals both time-bound and measurable, you already know how to analyze your success.

Did your email subscriber list increase by 200 or not? Rather than an abstract answer, you can say “yes” or “no” to whether your strategy achieved this specific goal.

As you create more content over time, you can use CRM analytics to find out which parts of your campaign are most effective. Which pieces of content drive the most new leads to your site? Which social media channels get the most likes and comments?

Analyze your content’s performance at regular intervals, and always at the end of a SMART goal’s time frame, to reap more benefits over the long term.

Keep it fresh.

One of the best things about high-quality content is the long-term returns. For instance, even when the SEO rules change, if you’ve produced high-quality content with real humans in mind, you can always refresh your content to increase your organization’s online profile, drive new engagement, and build a wider base of support for your cause.

Types of content that work best for nonprofits.

You may not realize it, but it’s likely that many of the activities your organization already performs can become the foundation for compelling content.

Annual Reports

While annual reports may seem like a thankless administrative task rather than fodder for excellent content, with some creativity, nonprofits can turn annual reports into visually pleasing, interactive reports that demonstrate the impact of your organization over the previous year.

In addition to helping create content from something you need to produce anyway, a compelling annual report shared widely can also show potential donors how far their dollars will go when they support your organization.

Webinars and Virtual Events

Virtual events can include:

  • Webinars
  • Teach-ins
  • Panel discussions
  • Volunteer training sessions/onboarding
  • Q&A sessions
  • Community feedback sessions

Virtual events can become an exciting part of your content marketing strategy. Most people today are comfortable with using virtual platforms for events. This allows you to reach a broad audience while spreading your nonprofit’s message and educating the public about your issue without the geographical, monetary, and physical limitations of in-person events.

You can also pair virtual events with other types of content to amplify your work. For instance, you could host a Q&A session after publishing an analytical report, or you could host a community feedback session after a large campaign concludes to learn how to better serve your constituents.


Podcasts are everywhere these days, which makes them an excellent way to reach new target audiences. While for many nonprofits the idea of producing a regular audio podcast is daunting, with the right partner to help you produce it, a podcast can become a unique force in your nonprofit’s content strategy.

When Big Sea partnered with Stetson University College of Law to produce the monthly podcast Real Cases, Stetson became a trendsetter in the legal field while giving prospective students 24/7 access to interviews with professors, students, and recent alumni. By centering each episode on a compelling legal issue and providing truly relevant content to prospective students and other interested listeners, Real Cases also positions Stetson as a thought leader and conversation-starter in the field.

Video Content

Video is the most-consumed type of content today, particularly on social media.

A short, featured video on your website that explains your nonprofit’s mission and impact is a powerful way to introduce new leads to your organization’s work.

Other video content nonprofits benefit from include interviews, live streams of events, educational videos, and impact statements from people who have benefited from your nonprofit’s services.

Video content can even be user-generated! For instance, if your nonprofit is a pet rescue, you could put out a call on social media for folks to take a short video of their rescue animal with a sentence or two about why they love their adopted pet. This type of user-generated content costs your nonprofit nothing to produce and can create an amazing sense of community around your organization and its mission.

Special Reports and Analysis

If your nonprofit performs research as part of its mission, special reports can be a major part of your content strategy. This is one case where the amplification of your organization’s message can be completely aligned with the goals of your content strategy.

After performing research and analysis, the most important thing your org can do is get the word out about what you’ve learned, and a savvy content strategy to share your work will give you a much wider audience.

Online Exhibitions

Museums have paved the way forward in this area of content marketing. By pairing online access to exhibitions with social media teasers about interactive exhibit elements, visual art museums and galleries have increased access to their collections as well as creatively advertising for in-person exhibitions and special events.

Visual Storytelling

Today’s online platforms allow nonprofits to use high-resolution, beautiful images as key features of visual stories. Combining photos with relevant statistics and/or interactive elements creates stunning content that engages viewers while educating them about your cause and encouraging them to get involved.

Work with an agency that understands nonprofit content marketing.

While content marketing is a long-term strategy, the upfront investment in time and resources pays off in amazing increases in donor acquisition, community reach, and brand awareness.  Not to mention: the efforts of storytelling can help drive your fundraising appeals across all media, including your printed postcards or hand-crafted letters.

Need help tackling your nonprofit content strategy? Partner with Big Sea today.