Thursday, May 30, 2013

Not Content With Content - Four Things a Nonprofit Can Learn from the Private Sector

Image via Revelife.com

Business people on nonprofit boards often support attempts by nonprofits to apply business-acumen to the public sector. In recent years, there's been a decided push in this direction to which some nonprofits  have dug in their heels. Me - I'm always in favor of balance, which doesn't always mean 50-50. I think each nonprofit has its own definition of balance that encompasses what they're trying to achieve and how much useful transformation they are willing to deal with to get there. And I also believe that business can offer the small nonprofit valuable information, if they can get beyond the sales conversion perspective and see the possibilities. In this post, let's look at the possibilities for nonprofits in how for-profits use online content:
  1. Your Nonprofit is a Brand
  2. Your Brand is a Publisher of Content
  3. Content Must Entertain and/or Add Value
  4. Content is More Than You
Your Nonprofit is a Brand

You should know this already. In the public eye, your small NP is not necessarily your mission. As Patricia Tan points out in her article on branding, many NPs are reluctant to think of themselves as brands. She believes that this "stems from a narrow understanding of 'brand' as a marketing tool rather than as a core organizational tool."

So, what a brand? Here's my favorite definition via AMG Media, Inc.:
It is the emotional and psychological relationship you have with your customers. Strong brands elicit opinions, emotions, and sometimes physiological responses from customers.
When potential clients, donors, or volunteers see your logo, what emotions or opinions do you think they have? How has your brand strategy (or lack of it) contributed to that viewpoint?

Your Brand is a Publisher of Content

Your social media communications - what you post on your website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. - is your content.

Content Must Entertain and/or Add Value

To be worth commenting on or sharing, your content has to catch the viewer's attention. If your content emphasizes "this is what we do" or "this is what we are doing", you are not leaving much room for your viewers to engage with you beyond a simple "We were there, we had fun" or "Like."

If your content doesn't evoke laughter, sympathy; if it doesn't inspire, encourage, incite, solve a problem or otherwise provide some benefit (value) to your viewer, then it could probably stand improvement.

Content is More Than You

Take an oblique perspective. For example, your NP is sponsoring an artist in residence. The artist holds informal classes for children in an underserved community. You could take pictures of one of those classes and post them, but that's not as engaging as it could be. What if you had video of those children answering questions about their art? Major difference, right?

Another example: your NP delivers warm meals to the elderly and housebound. Which is better - a well-designed infographic of how many meals have been delivered in the last 10 years or a story, with pictures, about how a friendship has developed between a volunteer and a housebound veteran?

Strategize around your brand. Look for ways to associate it with the human emotions and thinking that embody your mission. Design and write content to spotlight that emotion and thinking. It's marketing, but it's also revealing at a deeper level, a non-verbal level, why your nonprofit exists.


Want some examples of not-for-profit brands doing content right? Sprout Insights has a few.


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