Content Creation Strategy for Nonprofits with @justincox #vcbuzz

Content Creation Strategy for Nonprofits with @justincox #vcbuzz

Thanks to digitalization opportunities, nonprofits around the world can build awareness and brand loyalty through creating great content.

But how to create content that resonates and reaches your target audience?

How should nonprofits utilize content to achieve their marketing goals?

Let’s discuss!

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About @justincox

Justin Cox has helped 150+ nonprofit organizations establish strategic plans and compliance procedures and is the co-founder of @WritingCoop, an international community of writers. 

Questions we discussed

Q1 How did you become a digital marketer? Please share your career story!

I began working in the nonprofit sector in 2005. I worked with teenagers and was responsible for marketing to them and their parents (two very different audiences with different mediums). Back then, digital marketing options were limited.

As the internet evolved, so did the way I marketed and shared information. During that time, Twitter went from a trend at #SWSW to the juggernaut it is today. New platforms and channels developed, and the way I marketed opportunities greatly expanded.

In 2014, I co-founded @WritingCoop. Over the years, I developed branding and marketing channels that helped us become @Medium’s largest publication for writers. The publication offered a different audience to expand my digital marketing upon.

Like many people, the pandemic brought a career change. In addition to managing @WritingCoop, I began consulting with nonprofit agencies on compliance, marketing, and strategic planning. Since mid-2020, I’ve helped 150+ nonprofits navigate these waters.

Q2 How is writing for nonprofits different from writing in general?

Writing is writing. Like any business, nonprofits have messages that need sharing with the community. The audience and purpose may differ from for-profit companies, but the importance is equal (or greater).

The biggest difference is that many nonprofits feature “poverty porn” in their marketing. They use images or language that manipulate people to feel bad for others, which encourages donations. This tactic, though common, is awful and shouldn’t be used.

Another difference is nonprofits have higher audience segmentation. Marketing something often requires different messaging for clients, the community, volunteers, and donors. Segmentation requires nonprofit marketers to constantly adjust messaging.

Otherwise, nonprofit writing is similar to for-profit marketing and writing, just with different jargon. Nonprofits develop strategic plans instead of business plans, nonprofits focus on development (fundraising) instead of sales, etc.

A common misconception about nonprofits is they cannot afford to invest in marketing. The reality is that, while budgets may be lower, the need is still there. Clients aren’t served and donations don’t arrive if the community doesn’t know about the nonprofit.

Q3 Are there any great examples of nonprofits using writing and content marketing effectively?

Nonprofit marketing isn’t about “poverty porn” or endless donation and volunteer requests. Instead, great nonprofits market by telling a great story. People want to connect with nonprofits that clearly share their mission and impact.

Here in Orlando, @fleetfarming is a sustainability focused-nonprofit that creates private and community gardens. Their social media marketing includes a mixture of education, ways to get involved, and recipes. All these convey the organization’s story.

On a global scale, @WCKitchen by @chefjoseandres provides chef-prepared meals to people in crisis. Right now, they are doing incredible work in Ukraine and Poland. Their marketing focuses on the individual stories of the people they reach.

When people see a nonprofit tell a compelling story, they want to get involved. Whether by donating or volunteering, a great story motivates people to act.

Q4 Where to start? What would you recommend a nonprofit that’s just starting their content marketing strategy?

The first step any nonprofit should take is to define its mission, vision, and core values. When these are clear and compelling, they help tell the organization’s story. As I mentioned earlier, people want to connect with a great story.

Someone once told me that a nonprofit no one knows about doesn’t benefit the community. It’s true. Sharing the organization’s message is essential to serving clients and attracting donations.

Thankfully, new nonprofits have many options to start marketing without spending a lot of money. The first tool is a website that conveys what, where, when, and why the nonprofit does what it does. From there, social media is a given.

Segmented newsletter lists are also important to send information to interested parties. Lists for donors, volunteers, and clients are great starting points. Also, local news outlets love human interest stories, so organizations should reach out.

As the nonprofit grows, it’s wise to invest in dedicated content marketing. Add a blog highlighting the organization’s successes while educating the community about its clients’ issues and barriers.

Ultimately, a nonprofit should take the time to create a strategic plan that encompasses operations and marketing. The organizations I highlighted before have a coordinated strategy to ensure the nonprofit’s story is told and received.

Q5 What are your favorite nonprofit marketing and writing tools?

Remember, writing is writing, so the tools are basically the same. Everything I write begins in @ulyssesapp before exporting to whatever the client prefers (Word, Google, etc.). I use @pixelmator for all of my graphics and social posts.

For new organizations looking to create a simple and easy to build website, I recommend @carrd. @flodeskinc is my go-to email marketing tool right now. All of these are pretty standard tools for all writers.

Nonprofit writing often requires data and research to highlight the organization’s mission. I use a lot of government websites, including the @uscensusbureau and @USDOL, for detailed statistics. @pewresearch is also a frequent tool for research data.

Ultimately, marketing a nonprofit is similar to marketing anything else. The tools are all familiar. The key to writing for a nonprofit is focusing on its mission and vision. Any marketing tool is just a way to enhance and amplify that story.

Our previous nonprofit marketing chats:


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