5 things you should be doing to create an effective content strategy for fundraising
Whether our fundraising efforts depend on creating empathy, sympathy, community or a combination of all three, ensuring that the content that we create – with a view to ultimate encouraging a gift – is of utmost importance.
Roughly speaking, every 10 minutes the global human race produces the same volume of content that we previously created from beginning of all time until 2003. We’re now experiencing unprecedented competition for the time and attention of our target audiences.
Combined with the ability for great content with interactive channels to prompt community and interaction, we find that our approach to thinking about content is far from where it was 15, 10 or even 5 years ago – or at least it should be.
Content strategy has been the buzzword of recent years. But many fundraising approaches still centre on innovating in their use of channel, but not in their approach to content. For effective return on investment, this has to change.
The tips that I share here barely scratch the surface, but hopefully will help to frame your thinking as you develop your content strategy for your organisation’s fundraising activities.
1) Be clear about target and objectives
It’s all too easy when it comes to creating our content strategies and plans to try to please everyone. But the reality is that the broader we make our content, the less likely we are to hit the right audience at the right moment in time.
To understand this, we must be absolutely clear about our objectives and what we are trying to achieve. A simple framework that thinks about the relationship of different audiences with us, and the state of that relationship, may help to determine a series of ways to focus this.
|Low level donor||Major donor||Influencer|
|Never heard of us||Who influences them? Who do they follow? What content do they love? Do we have those influencers in our network?||Instead of creating content for them, maybe we should use their content to learn about them first. Content strategy = listen||What kind of content will make them look good to their network? What might others share with them for us to reach them?|
|Aware but never donated or acted as an advocate||What specifically could they get out of a stronger relationship with us? How can we add value to them through content?||What content can we create that would really make a difference to their lives? Can we “pay it forward” here with value-add content?||Let’s create the kind of content that will make them look great by sharing it. How do they want to be perceived? Align to this|
|Donated and/or acted as an advocate for us||What is their motivation for supporting us? About us, or them? Let’s create content to plays to those motivations.||What makes them tick? Should we give them profile through our content? Or continue to focus on value-add?||How can we continue to create content they want to share? Can we curate to save them time in sourcing content?|
For each of the nine segments outlined in the table, we need to set clear goals for what our content needs to achieve. A simple effort vs impact mapping exercise can also help us to prioritise those segments if we cannot feasibly plan for all nine, and thus define our goals, objectives and priorities.
2) Understand your audience
Now more than ever we should be challenging ourselves to stop thinking only about our audiences by demographics and instead start to think of them according to their interests.
The algorithms driving most major digital platforms (search engines, social media, etc.) factor “interest” as a key part of defining which content they will prioritise for each individual. For example, my pattern of behaviour on Facebook gives the impression of someone who loves her job, travels a lot, and is completely obsessed with dogs.
With the rise of marketing automation technologies, and personalised website experiences, this focus on “interest” is no longer just the realm of search engines, social media, and websites that we’ve logged into, but increasingly a reality for general browsing behaviour too. Our interests inform what we choose to look at and, increasingly, what we choose to look at informs the algorithms that determine what we see.
Therefore, when we’re conducting our audience research to help us to better understand our audiences, we should ensure that we seek to find out information not just about their motivations and capacity to give, and the channels that they prefer to communicate with us through, but we should also seek to understand:
- What content are they drawn to?
- What do they click on, “like”, comment on and share?
- What content will they dwell over?
- What content motivates them to act?
- Who they follow online and why?
- What are their personal interests in life, not just in the context of their relationship with us? A Greenpeace supporter may be an avid campaigner for the protection of the environment, but they might also be an avid gamer too, for example.
3) Define your personality
This is linked to thinking about brand, but isn’t confined by it. However, having a strong brand identity (informed by your audience research) really should to help you define your content personality.
Your content personality helps to ensure that your content stands out, but also really reflects your values and ethos as an organisation. Increasingly we’re seeing a world in which people care as much for values of an organisation as they do for the actual benefit that their purchase or donation will bring to them, or to others.
Your content personality should then help to inform the substance of your content. If you decide that you want to be “fun”, then don’t shy away from exploring games, personality quizzes, and funny content. If you decide that you want to have gravitas, then focusing on producing white papers, high impact educational videos, and powerful infographics should feature high in your content strategy.
When working with our clients, we often conduct a very simple card-sort exercise to help them to define their content personality. This involves laying out a series of cards with personality “types” on each card, and having groups work them into piles, generally under headings such as “no way”, “yeah, okay” and “absolutely”. Doing this exercise with target audience representatives can also help you to check whether this hits the right mark for them.
4) Experiment and test
While we advocate the development of content strategies and plans, we equally advocate planning for change and adaptability within those plans.
Your analytics and insights might tell you that a particular type of content plays really well to your target audience, and so you start to create lots of that type of content. But after a while, maybe that starts to get a bit “samey”, or social algorithms start to filter it our because – well – they can (Facebook is well known for doing this!).
So, every so often, shake it up a bit. Try something new and different for a little while (not just as a one off – we’d never consider “once” to be a statistically relevant trial in any other realm!). Do some A/B testing on your e-newsletters or website, or just post something different on your social channels. Sometimes just the contrast of different types of content can grab attention: let’s say you’ve had months of sharing weighty, serious content – maybe now is your time to throw in something that’s fun?
If you don’t want to experiment with new content on your live channels, then plan time to test new content ideas out through more controlled and closed approaches. You might:
- Conduct regular audience research to test new content on a sample of your target audience group
- Create a content advisory group made up of audience representatives who exist for you to try new ideas out on
- Review the work of other organisations and see what’s working well for them
When it comes to creating content strategies, there’s a strong tendency to focus on online platforms and channels only. Don’t. Your content strategy should extend to everything that you do:
- Social media
- Gifts and merchandise
- Phone calls
- Face to face conversations
Make sure that when you’re planning your content strategy, you’re thinking across all touch points and planning how this will work. Content isn’t just something that we write, show or film. It is in the very substance of how we behave and the experiences that we create.
If you’d like help with shaping and planning your organisation’s content strategy for fundraising activity, please get in touch for a chat about how we can help.