Nonprofit content marketing relies on donor signals.

How to Create Nonprofit Content Marketing Strategies Using Donor Signals

Mckenna Bailey

Nonprofit content marketing is a powerful way to find new potential donors and bring them closer to your cause. It gives you the freedom to frame your cause in ways that will drive people to take action. But, only if you do it right. 

Many nonprofits use content marketing simply to tell the same story. Responsive nonprofits leverage donor signals to understand the best ways to tell their stories and inspire generosity. 

Set up your content marketing to be responsive to donors signals using these 4 strategies. 

1. Leverage A/B Testing In Your Nonprofit Content Marketing

The difference between “Your $10 donation helps build a school in Sierra Leone” and “Buy Julius his 5th grade textbook for $10” is subtle, but important. In one, you’re positioning the donor as part of a major community all working towards a single goal. In the second, you’re building a direct connection between the donor and the beneficiary. Both have value and both will move specific individuals to give. 

But there’s no way to be sure who will respond to what unless you establish a comprehensive, long-term testing strategy. By comprehensive, we mean a testing strategy that considers all the ways you connect with your donors. That includes social media posts, email marketing, case studies, long-form content, direct mail, calls-to-action, landing pages, graphics, photos and advertisements. Each piece of published content gives you an opportunity to test what resonates most with your donors. By long-term, we mean a dedication to challenging the insights you learn every 9-12 months. Over time, donors will evolve and you need a strategy for evolving with them.

As a responsive nonprofit, your donors’ experience should be the primary concern for you. What they care about, what drives generosity and what is most relevant for each content channel will help improve fundraising and increase donor retention. 

How to Implement A/B Testing In Content Marketing

Start simple with the elements that make the biggest impact. For example, test the content of your giving pages. Try a giving page that takes the visitor on a journey, telling the story of your cause and the beneficiaries. Then, try a giving page that simply states the urgent need for generosity. Send donors from different donor personas to each of the pages. Look for information about who in your audience response most emphatically to which message. 

Use what you learn on your giving page to inform the messaging of your social advertisements. Look for clues that the same donor personas respond to the same type of messaging on social as they do on websites. Look for indications that they don’t. Make sure that your team constantly reflects on the signals given by donors. Constant optimization will improve your content marketing strategy, and thus, your fundraising strategies. 

A final note on successful A/B testing: never test multiple factors at once. It’s much more difficult to understand exactly what resonated with donors, or turned them away, if you change too many elements at once. Remember, learning from donor signals is an ongoing process you’ll use forever. Don’t feel the need to learn everything all at once. 

Read this post if you’re interested in learning more about how to implement A/B testing in your nonprofit marketing strategy.

2. Monitor Website Behavior

Similar to monitoring conversions on social ads, emails or giving pages, you should monitor click thrus on your website. Each engagement teaches you how your content marketing is driving donors. Even when donors aren’t actively making a donation, they are showing you which pages are most important. 

When you track user behavior on your website, not only do you uncover the content that donors want from your team, but you also learn what is important to reach non-donors. People who are just learning about your nonprofit often need different types of content marketing than those who have known about you for decades. Your marketing and communications teams need a way to pull insights from both. 

Integrate tools like trackable URLs and pixels with platforms like Google Analytics or Virtuous to understand how the traffic on your website behaves. Those who have offered their information will show you the content that converts a potential donor into a donor. Traffic from those who aren’t yet in your CRM will show you the path visitors take before downloading a piece of content or making a donation. 

Each path will inform the content you publish, the pages you host the content on and the ways you talk about it on social media, email, donor calls and direct mail pieces. 

3. Use Dynamic Lead Forms

The primary goal of nonprofit content marketing is to convert new donors. While that is critical, there is also a secondary goal that can be just as important. Content marketing for your nonprofit can be used to learn more about your existing donors. The more you know about your donors, the easier time you’ll have earning those recurring donations that sustain your organization. To that end, dynamic lead forms offer the opportunity to collect new information on people who already exist in your database. 

For example, let’s say that your nonprofit publishes high-quality longform content every 6 months. You keep it gated because you want to keep an eye on who the content is serving and how they use it. Often, some of your most passionate donors will download longform content to stay informed or become experts on your cause. When they fill out the form to download your content, you don’t want to ask the same questions over and over. That won’t teach you new information about the ways your existing donors are evolving or becoming more deeply connected. Instead, you can use a software platform that creates unique lead forms for each user. 

A software like marketing automation, will allow you to track website behavior from users in your database. When they arrive on a landing page with a form, if they’ve already filled out the standard form fields (Name, Email, Program Interest), it will automatically update the fields with new questions. You can learn what the donors occupation is, what their t-shirt size is, what their favorite initiative is, or any other important information to your organization. 

Over time, each longform content piece will teach you more about individual donors. It will also reveal themes of the donor personas that respond strongest to that kind of content. With insights like that, your fundraisers can send more relevant messaging. Plus, your marketing team can create deeper connections with each individual in your donor base.  

4. Follow Social Shares to Improve Content Marketing for Nonprofits

The value of donors sharing your content through their social channels is not just the broad awareness it creates. Responsive nonprofits understand that this is a rare opportunity to hear how your donors talk about you when you’re involved in the conversation. 

It gives you an insight into what they care about, how intensely they feel about a program or impact story, as well as what kind of work your donors are doing when they aren’t donating or volunteering for your organization. Those signals are invaluable as you’re building out your responsive fundraising strategies. 

Obviously, the easiest way to get information about social media shares of your content marketing is to suggest that donors share from your website. But, sometimes it’s more impactful when they share on their own. In those cases, create a system for social listening to understand who’s talking about you and how. You can do this by following branded hashtags, key phrases, and your individual donors or leveraging a social media listening tool. 

No matter how you’re pulling the information, you want to use what your donors are saying to learn the most important points they’re sharing from your content marketing pieces. You want to learn what is resonating with them, what they feel compelled to share, and, more importantly, what they’re ignoring. 

Remember, your content marketing will always show you what is most important to your donors. But to truly be a responsive nonprofit, you must also pay attention to what isn’t working. You should be concerned with what isn’t working as well as what is. By doing more of what is working and less of what isn’t, your nonprofit will improve significantly at fundraising and converting new donors. Ultimately, all of this adds up to doing more good. 

Automation Can Improve Nonprofit Content Marketing

If you want to learn more about how you can map your nonprofit’s content marketing strategy, check out our content marketing map. We can also help you with marketing automation tools that help amplify your donor signals to make you more responsive.

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