Almost a year ago, I took a job in the non profit sector after more than 15 years creating content strategies for clients in the business, television and marketing industries. As the field of content marketing has matured, more and more people have begun to understand the value that content holds in building trust and loyalty within their customer base. Unfortunately, there are still those who struggle to understand this new arena.

As a content marketer, I seem to spend much of my time educating others on content marketing, what it is, and how it works to generate brand awareness, drive website traffic and  increase leads. A colleague of mine recently suggested I create a scenario visualizing exactly what a content marketing strategy looks like. Sometimes explaining it just doesn’t cut it. You know what they say, “a picture paints a thousand words”. I took her advise and created a couple of slides visualizing a very simple content marketing example. It’s a story of a woman named Sally who serves as SVP, Marketing at a large clothing brand who wants to redesign her companies website. Watch the slideshare to see what happens next.


Understanding content marketing and its intricacies is a beast! I don’t mean to undermine its challenges. It’s a bit like a giant puzzle and trying to wrap your arms around it can be daunting at times. It doesn’t help when technology changes on a daily basis. Whether you’re a for-profit or a non-profit, there’s a lot to learn and a lot to keep up with.

The Content Marketing Institute and Blackbaud collaborated this year to study the content marketing practices of non-profits. They released their second report entitled Nonprofit Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America. In it, they defined content marketing as:

“a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience—and, ultimately, to drive action.”  


In the survey, when non-profit marketers were asked if they used content marketing, 61% responded yes and 39% said no. But when they asked these same respondents how effective their organization was at content marketing, only 35% said they were effective. They defined effectiveness as “accomplishing their overall objectives.”

This means that 65% of the rest of the marketers believed they were ineffective in their content marketing efforts. So, the question we need to ask ourselves is why? There are probably multiple reasons and they don’t relate just to non-profit marketers, but to any content marketer not finding success. They have to do with a lack of a strategy, no clear understanding of their target audience, no buy in from the C-suite…the list goes on.

One of the problems that marketers were having became apparent when respondents were asked whether they had a documented content marketing strategy.  In last years survey, 54%  answered no, but this year, they asked the question a bit differently, wondering if maybe they had a strategy, but hadn’t written it down. Turns out that 43% said they had a strategy but it was onlyverbal. Only 23% had a fully documented strategy. Not surprisingly, those who had written down their strategy were more successful marketers.

So, it seems that having a strategy and actually writing it down is an important part of the equation. And conversely, not writing it down can help lead to your demise.

Not surprisingly many non-profit marketers have a hard time tracking the ROI of their content marketing efforts. This seems to be the case across the board for all marketers. After all, it’s difficult to decide which metrics to prioritize and then how to actually measure the metrics you do care about it. According to the Nonprofit Content Marketing 2015: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America, only 15% of non-profit marketers say they are successful in measuring their content marketing ROI, but again having a documented content marketing strategy boosted this number to 34%.

What are Non-Profit Marketers Working On?

For the first time, marketers in the survey were presented with a lit of 28 initiatives and were asked to select whether they were “working on the initiative”, “plan to begin working on it in 12 months” or it “wasn’t a priority”. The highest percentage of non-profits are working on:

  • Becoming better storytellers (66%)
  • Creating Visual Content (63%)
  • Creating More Engaging/Higher Quality Content (62%)
  • Better Understanding Their Audience (59%)
  • Organizing Content on Their Websites (59%)

As bandwidth increases,  and the growth of mobile and video continue to explode, these trends of focusing on storytelling and creating high quality visual content follow market industry.

Content Marketing is not new and is not going away. In fact, it’s growing in leaps and bounds. Consumers demand the best content and 76% of marketers increased their content marketing budgets in 2015. As for the non-profit sector, they are getting savvier, continue to embrace content marketing, but still have a ways to go.



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