The 2 Basic Questions You Must Ask to Solve Your Nonprofit Content Problems

If you’re a typical nonprofit or public sector communicator, you’re generally worried about sticking to your budget, meeting C-suite expectations, and… just getting everything done.

There’s just so much content to produce, so many platforms to watch over, and so many boiling pots on the stove.

It kind of feels like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping some of it sticks.

When “Just Do It” becomes your Achilles’ heel

If the above situation describes you to a tea, you’re what’s known as a “doer.”

You keep the ball rolling, but you’re pretty much a hamster spinning in its wheel instead of a cheetah bolting over the savannah after its prey.

It’s normal. Many nonprofit communicators are in the same position.

Because you wear more hats than the Queen: PR and media relations guru, editor and guardian of the official messages, content creator, marketer and brander, and even social media expert.

When you have a lot of roles with no clear strategy, it’s easy just to “do” things.

But of course, it can get downright stuffy under that stack of felt fedoras and fascinators.

Below are just some of your constant problems.

  • You feel like new forms of communication appear out of nowhere and disappear just as fast, leaving you breathless and unsure where to allocate your resources.
  • You feel stuck doing the same things over and over again because that’s what you’ve always done.
  • You’re constantly looking up the latest tips and tricks, hoping that this time you’ve found the “magic bullet.”
  • Everything you do feels kind of disconnected. There’s just no real focus.

So what’s causing all these problems?

Simple: A lack of strategy.

What’s the solution? Simple again: A strategy!

I know, I can already hear you saying, “Easier said than done, Amy.”

I understand: no one can wave a magic strategy wand and make your problems poof away.

But to get your content working, a solid strategy is the only way to do it.

It’s as simple as that.

However, getting into a strategy habit isn’t as hard as you think. To get your feet wet, let’s look at some definitions that will ease you into a more strategy-focused mindset.

Content marketing for nonprofits

These days, content strategy goes by many names: “content marketing,” “branded content,” “brand journalism,” “custom media,” and more.

The term I find most useful is “content marketing,” as it has become the most well-known term in the industry.

For the public and nonprofit sector, content marketing is “…a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and ultimately drive action” (Content Marketing Institute, 2015 Nonprofit Content Marketing: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends, North America).

With a content marketing strategy, you create content that attracts and inspires not customers but donors, volunteers, supporters and influencers to take an action.

And since you’re producing content on platforms that you own and that are measurable, you can see directly how these actions are driving your mission.

What’s interesting to note in the report cited above is that only 35% of the nonprofits surveyed considered themselves effective at content marketing.

What are some of the biggest challenges they face, aside from a lack of time and money?

  • Producing engaging content.
  • Measuring content effectiveness.

Given that only 23% of non-profit professionals report having a documented strategy, it’s no surprise they feel the pain of what I like to call “spinning-hamsteritis.”

Crossing the wide strategy gulf

If you’re in the “doing” phase, it can feel like a very big leap over to the “strategy” phase.

Because the need “to do” things never ends:

Ah, just one more Facebook post to edit. Hm, just one more Tweet to schedule. Oops, gotta add another hit to the media list.

But “doing” things haphazardly can easily become a habit and then an excuse for putting off a plan.

Which is normal. Because let’s face it, strategy can be daunting, even for the best of us. You have to ask a lot of questions that aren’t always easy to answer:

  • Where do I start?
  • How do I make the case to my boss?
  • Won’t we just come up with a humongous document that will sit on a shelf?

But these questions really amount to small stumbling blocks that are easily overcome if you ask the right questions.

So what are the right questions?

At the start of your journey, you simply ask yourself two basic questions:

  • Where are we now?
  • Where do we want to go?

That’s it. It’s not rocket science. There’s no secret handshake or magic strategy formula involved.

These two basic questions are what get you on the road to a 100-page strategy, a 1-page strategy or even a 1-sentence strategy.

However long your strategy, answering these questions is what separates the spinning-hamster organizations from their cheetah-ized counterparts.

Move on down the road

A roadmap has so many benefits for your organization:

  • You stop racing around on your little wheel. You can take a breath and ask yourself, “Why are we doing this?”
  • You don’t waste time delivering content your readers don’t want.
  • You have a decision guide: You can do what works and not focus on the latest tactic or social media fad.
  • Instead of creating long to-do lists, you create results.

The uber-benefits of the roadmap are that you feel much less overworked because you’re focusing on the content that matters, and you feel so much more productive.

And benefits for your readers?

  • They get content that focuses on their goals and not yours
  • They find out about your expertise and not your expert staff
  • They feel smarter and happier instead of annoyed
  • They get that “helping high” from working with your cause

When your readers get all of these benefits, they are much more likely to donate to your cause in droves.

Ready to stop “doing” and start “roadmapping”?

Imagine: to get all of these benefits, all it takes is asking couple of very easy questions.

  • What is our situation now and how did we get here?
  • Where do we want to go so that we can achieve our mission?

It’s amazing when you realize how small the “crevice of content strategy doom” actually is.

The gulf is really just two little baby steps wide, and anyone can cross it.

Ready to take those easy steps to feeling less overworked and more productive?

If not, what’s stopping you?

I’d love to hear what you think about making the transition from doing to strategizing.

Leave a comment below or contact me!