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Nonprofit Marketing
23 Apr

Nonprofit Marketing: How to Be Strategic with Content Marketing for Nonprofits

Let’s keep this simple. In a nutshell, there are two ways you can enhance your marketing for your nonprofit this year. Focus on (1) strategy and (2) content. That’s it. For the following post, I’ll be discussing a high-level overview of planning for your nonprofit's marketing strategy.

The challenge, however, is planning ahead, executing, continuing to analyze on a regular basis and making impactful decisions to effect your brand in a positive way. You aren’t in the minority. Most of our clients verbalize they have a hard time with their marketing efforts in general. Why? Because it’s not the focus. A couple years ago, almost half of small to medium-sized businesses admitted focusing only two hours a week or less on their marketing efforts (source 1 main, source 2). I’ve spent about two hours alone on this blog with research, writing, and editing. Bottom line: it’s not enough. 

Nonprofit Marketing STRATEGY

Does marketing strategy make you sweat? It shouldn’t. The strategy shouldn’t fall solely on your shoulders. Your organization is full of key stakeholders that should engage during the planning phase. 

For one of BigWheel’s website design and development clients, Family Matters Foundation, our team spoke with the owner, co-partner, technology manager, some of their deeply involved volunteers and even a few of the families they served. Though you don’t want to invite 50 employees and 50 outside stakeholders to be a part of the planning process, having a representative from each sect could positively impact your strategy for a certain project or for an overall plan. 

One of the biggest things to keep in mind is simplicity. You only have (1) so much time, (2) so much budget and (3) so many resources. You need to be effective and efficient. If you have a marketing agency you partner with, be sure to include them during the discussion, and keep them in mind when evaluating your organization’s capabilities. 

What to Do Before the Marketing Strategy Meeting

Delegating tasks and gathering the right materials will help your first nonprofit marketing meeting go well. Getting your marketing agency as much information as possible all at once is effecient for your both parties.

Gather Important Information on Your Nonprofit

  • Previous marketing strategy if available . Find analysis of the past year’s digital efforts, for example: website, AdWords, social media and social advertisements, listings, other online advertisements, eblasts/newsletters, etc. Also get an analysis of the past year’s traditional efforts, for example: events, PR/media, print advertising, speaking engagements, etc.
  • Marketing budget and actual spend
  • Donations contributed   
  • Send organizational-wide, volunteer and client surveys; find out what was liked, what was not liked, what they wish they did, how the volunteers responded, how donors responded, what stood out, etc.  Use these responses to create a SWAT analysis.
  • Create a competitor analysis by researching trends in the marketplace so you can be prepared for talking through how your organization can utilize marketing trends.

Create the meeting agenda

To ensure time and attendees stay on track, share an agenda before the meeting to all attendees. Plan on the marketing meeting to take all day, leave room for breaks and/or breakout sessions if needed. 

What to Do During the Marketing Strategy Meeting

  • Have someone record notes. This is important to check details you may have missed during the discussions. 
  • Set goals and expectations for the new marketing year. There will be items to work on before some marketing tactics are put into play. For instance the design of collateral (ads, brochures, one-sheeters, social media images, etc.) will need to be scheduled. A window of time should include brainstorming of creative, first draft of creative, feedback from the necessary team members, and possibly a few rounds of edits. Leave room for this work at the beginning of the year (and throughout the year) to help set timelines. It’s okay that these are rough goals, expectations and timelines. You won’t know until you try something new to know what to expect. 
  • Ensure that all parties voice their knowledge, experience and opinions. 
  • As tactics are brainstormed during the meeting, walk through potential timelines and ownership of these tactics.
  • Revisit the marketing budget during this meeting. This will help prioritize the tactics your team brainstormed. 
  • At the end of the meeting, create clear action items. And, plan your next meeting (which should be less than four months from the current meeting date). Don’t let the next time your key marketing stakeholders meet go a full year. 

What to Do After the Marketing Strategy Meeting

Be sure to send out meeting notes. Allow your team to give any more feedback tot hese notes. After sending out meeting notes, follow up on next step objectives and set in motion the tasks that need to be completed. The toughest piece will be to analyze, improve and evolve your marketing.

Nonprofit Content Marketing

Strategy is crucial to building the direction and messaging for your organization’s content. You’ve heard the phrase, “content is king.” Content is here to stay, and this is evident throughout all forms of marketing content (text, video and imagery). As we previously discussed, your content should be based off of your organization’s strategy. Below are a few tasks that should be on your checklist to ensure your content is effective and on strategy.

Review your website. Are you creating the right message you want to portray? Is it easily understandable?

Align the Right messaging With Your Goals

If you don’t have a way to financially donate through your site or have information on “how-tos,” then change that TODAY. There are many ways to build a donation form. If you take donations through PayPal, you can create a form similar to what BigWheel did for the American Chronic Wasting Foundation donation area. There is also a platform you can integrate called Ejoin. See how BigWheel created it for Knoxville Museum of Art’s donation page.

Consider User Experience to Boost SEO

Incorporate appropriate keywords to enhance your search engine optimization (SEO). Google loves fresh content, so continue to update your site’s content, whether that be case studies, blog articles or content in general throughout your pages. Ensure your website is mobile friendly. This affects the way people read the content. According to CIODIVE for 2018, "70% of internet traffic comes from mobile phones."

Choose the Right Social Media Platforms for your Team

Are you on the right platforms? Facebook is the most successful social tool for marketing purposes according to 90% of B2C marketers (from the eyes of marketers, but not your audience), followed by Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. These numbers are ever evolving - as new platforms emerge, the well-known platforms may take a backseat. 

This also doesn’t mean that those platforms will work for you. A common mistake nonprofits make is to think they need to be on every platform. Think realistically about your resources and how often your team can post and engage. You will need to be as responsive as you can. In a Microsoft State of Global Service Report in 2017, survey respondents ages 18+ relayed that Facebook was the social channel most used for customer service. Further, most of the respondents expected a response from their social media inquiry the same day. Make sure to schedule time in your calendar to check all your platforms. Facebook now checks in on how long it takes for a business page to respond to a message. If you have a good response time, you will receive the “Very Responsive to Messages” badge, but you have to work for it.

Manage the best use of your time by using a scheduling tool if possible. Hootsuite has a free version. BigWheel utilizes the GAIN app when working with many of our clients.

Create the Right Content for Social Media

Messaging should run the gamut. Don’t ask for donations or volunteers on every post. Posts should be informative and engaging - enticing your audience to take action. When working with the American Chronic Wasting Foundation on their social strategy, BigWheel’s recommendations included posts such as:

  1. Scientific research updates
  2. Hunters’ perspectives
  3. Third-party content (articles, partnerships, etc.)

Create content that’s shareable. When working with the Knoxville Challenger tennis tournament, which raises funds for Helen Ross McNabb Center, BigWheel created imagery that contains a clear call-to-action or is easy to digest at a glance.

Once you post a call-to-action like the one below, send an email to your committee or key sponsors with the social link you posted. Ask them to share on their own pages to help your organization reach people you aren’t already connecting with.


Analyze the eblasts and/or enewletters you’ve pushed out in the past and make note of the ones that have the top open and click rates. Evaluate this reasoning and use it moving forward.  A/B testing a couple different emails can help build data on how subject lines and timing of emails affect your open and click rates. BigWheel recommends MailChimp for an email marketing service. It optimizes for mobile, sets up subscriber profiles, allows for delivery of different time zonesm and prepares easy-to-digest reports among many other benefits. Setting up appropriate email lists ensures the right audience gets relevant information. Don't forget to make clear call-to-actions for every email!


43% of B2C marketers say pre-produced video is the most successful type of content for marketing purposes - compared to social posts without video and photos/illustrations. (source) Most companies may need to outsource videos, but if you are using videos for social, it’s okay to be rough around the edges. Your audience may appreciate the realness, especially when doing a Facebook Live video. In a Facebook update from April 2018, Facebook relayed that Facebook Live videos generate six times more engagement than a video post. If your team has resources to utilize Facebook video, build a calendar for going live and get going. Be sure to post about your Live video before the event to build interest. Utilize live video by filming behind-the-scenes footage or answering questions from your audience. Users enjoy authenticity from the brands they follow.

With so many nonprofits vying for donors, donations or volunteers, your team’s efforts could use their own support in the form of a marketing agency. BigWheel has worked with numerous nonprofit organizations over the years. Chat with an agency about ideas to see where you could team up on tactics. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out!