The 5 Most Common Nonprofit Content Mistakes (And How To Fix Them)

What can be so hard about content?

Don’t you just write some words down on a web page, send it out into the universe, and watch the magic happen?

If you’ve tried this approach with disappointing results, you’re not alone.

As you probably realize by now, the Field of Dreams “if you build it, they will come” approach fails for the vast majority of nonprofits (and businesses!).

The first step is to realize where your content mistakes are happening so that you can provide content that your audience wants… and get much better results that drive your mission.

Here are the top five mistakes that nonprofit brands make with their content with tips on how to fix them right now.

1. Your mission is vague and generic

Nonprofit mission statements are filled with bland descriptives like “more effective,” “improve,” and “impactful.”

Your mission is meant to inspire. So if your mission statement is uninspiring, then it’s hard for people to get behind you.

The Fix: Don’t just have a mission, be on a mission. By extension, think about how you can snap people out of a state of inertia.

Think about how can you get people to take action. How you can give people hope and courage and inspire them to get up off their butts? Those are the missions that people can get behind.

2. You don’t have a distinctive persona, character or voice

Many nonprofit newsletters sound very “annual reporty”: here is what we did, we accomplished a lot, here are our numbers at a glance.

Even if you think your donors are uptight professionals, they don’t want to spend their spare time reading legal documents.

They want to get to know your nonprofit as they would a friend.

Otherwise, your content is too easy to forget.

The Fix: Simple branding tools can help you figure out your personality. For example, Big Brand System has very easy tools to do this.

Option 2: Hold a workshop with all stakeholders to figure out you are, how you want people to see you, how you don’t want them to see you, and what you want them to do. Getting to know yourself is sometimes all it takes to make your content stand out.

3. Your content assets are all over the place

Let me guess, you’ve got hard copies of your direct mail pieces in a dark corner of your office, while half-started blog posts are withering away in the netherworld of your hard drive.

When you don’t know where things are, you’re much more likely to reinvent the wheel with every new piece of content.

It’s also hard to repurpose things and provide clear structure to your website and other assets when you’re always on a treasure hunt for your latest versions.

And let’s face it, keeping on top of version numbers, file extensions and revisions make your content production cycle as slow as a turtle race in molasses.

The Fix: Go beyond Microsoft Word docs scattered in twenty folders and get yourself a content management system to wrangle that content.

4. You don’t have a content action plan

An editorial calendar is about more than scheduling posts and tweets.

In the best sense, it’s an action plan for your story ideas that are developed beyond the “here is what we did” model.

An editorial calendar on its own is easy to lose track of and put aside.

An action plan is more purposeful and ultimately, more powerful.

The Fix: To start your action plan, look at the stories that need developing. Look at the pieces that are missing. And plan a year in ahead!

5. It’s all about you

Imagine you go to a party and get stuck in the corner with “that guy.”

You know, the one who goes on and on about how great his kids are and how much he knows about lawn care.

Then, after you make some excuse to get away, and you run into an old friend, who immediately asks about you, your life and your problems.

Who would you rather spend time with?

So, which nonprofit are you? If it’s the former partygoer, you have some rethinking to do.

The Fix: When you write content, do the party test: if you were listening to yourself at a party, would you stay and chat with yourself?

Get fixing!

These fixes will get you faster at creating content and will help get your emails opened more often and get more website traffic and social shares.


Next article: How to Fix Your Mission Statement Right Now, Once and For All

Back to Nonprofit Content Marketing Series