Updated Oct 11, 2021
Can goats give us a content strategy? OK, goats can’t tell you what to write, but dairy goats and their farmers can give us a model for how to churn out content.
Female dairy goats are natural content strategists. They don’t even have to think about it. They just produce content that makes other content, about 300 days a year.
So when you need a content strategy for your nonprofit, goats are worth taking a look at.
Working your own web presence is like having a goat farm. If you feed the goats and care for them, they will give you so much in return:
Each goat can give up to three quarts of milk per day.
You can make a pound of cheese for every five quarts of milk.
Goats can also do yard work, munching up all your weeds.
One key to running your own content farm is to have a strategy so that some content feeds other kinds of content. So let’s say your site’s blog is going to be your new goat. By feeding it well and converting its raw output into other forms, you will create high levels of engagement and grow your audience.
So how do your different types of content, the web pages, blogs, email, and social media, all fit together? Let’s start with the idea that what you get out of your internet efforts begins with what you put in.
Feeding the Goat
It’s not just what you do, but how you do it. So if you’re starting a blog, what will you feed it?
Always try to create content that reflects the values of your organization. But beyond your unique values, here are four pillars you can use to guide you in building meaningful content.
An excellent place to start is with empathy, trying to understand your audience and what they need.
An Empathy Map is a tool you can use to guide your content. By answering simple questions, you can gain focus on the needs of your audience.
Download this empathy map template at: gamestorming.com/empathy-map/
- Who is the person?
- What do they need to do?
Then dig deeper by asking: What do they …
You may also want to develop Personas, informed representations of composite donors or volunteers, to guide your content. Developing a persona is similar to creating an Empathy Map but can involve more research.
Personas typically include information about professional and personal traits, as well as motivation.
While Empathy Maps and Personas are often done as thought exercises, they can be improved with more research, including interviewing your audience members.
Empathy Maps and Personas are usually at the beginning of the process. Once you have built your content out more, a primary way to learn what your audience is thinking is short surveys in your email newsletters, even just asking a single question.
We’ll get into more detail about newsletters later because they are more valuable than you may realize.
Learn more about Empathy Maps at:
Learn more about Personas at: https://wordpress.com/post/michaeljcontent.com/347
We know that donors and partners want to know about impact, and one way to show it is to share quantitative data about outputs, outcomes, and influence in the larger community.
Of course, anecdotes are another way to show impact and help your audience “see” the value in what you’re doing.
Example: Once homeless, Binnie now has a subsidized apartment and works for the city as a neighborhood ambassador.
Other methods to show impact are testimonials, storytelling, and case studies.
Learn more about using testimonials
Learn more about storytelling
Learn more about case studies
Nonprofit work means having to make a lot of asks. But we can’t always be asking. In our content, we should be sharing valuable information more often than just lobbying for donations.
A 3-to-1 ratio of sharing to asking is a guideline used by some content experts. This approach is all about building your relationship with your audience. They need to see you as a positive contributor instead of a nagging voice always asking for money.
How can you share value? Simply sharing your success stories has value. You can also give free webinars or lunch-and-learns, reports or guides, or group discounts from a sponsor.
This First Aid Kit Guide from the American Red Cross is a one-pager, but the information is essential.
Only sharing good quality content is another aspect of the Sharing Value pillar. Make sure your blog and social media posts focus on your goals and offer real informational value.
To expand our circle, we need to provide value to the larger community outside of our village of donors, sponsors, and volunteers. While your individual donors are likely to be local, funding and new opportunities can also come from regional and national organizations.
Of course, learning to harness the power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and social media hashtags can expand your reach far beyond your local supporters.
Beyond your existing mailing list, there is a larger local and regional community to reach. Developing lesson plans around relevant topics for local teachers is a great way to reach out. Engaging, creative, helpful, or authoritative content can elevate your organization’s profile on the national or global level.
What Your Content Farm Should Have
Now that we’ve learned about our audience and embraced impact, sharing, and building community, we’re ready to get farming. Let’s create the pieces we need for our content system:
- A few Cornerstone Content pieces that focus on your core issues
- A “two-way” newsletter
- A blog that feeds your social media and newsletter (social media needs to point to something)
- Some video content
- Donation, About, What We Do, Contact, and Blog pages
- A content calendar
How Can the Website, Newsletter, and Social Media Work Together?
Building out a web presence is a lot like creating a garden or a landscaping project. At first, the site is sparse. But over time, with a plan and consistent effort, your site can grow into a verdant garden.
Here are five steps to build a great foundation:
- Define Website Menus
- Create Content Calendar
- Write Quality Blog Content
- Post Engaging Social Media linking to your blog posts
- Create Newsletter using blog posts
Start with a simple site with a handful of menu options, like
- What We Do
These pages will be your site’s skeleton. But the real content growth will come from the blog and the newsletter.
Create a content calendar. Keep it simple at first. Write one good blog post each week, and schedule social media content to link back to your blog post.
Then take a few blog posts and make your newsletter from them. Put this on the schedule for once a month.
After a few months, you’ll have several blog entries, a couple of newsletters, and a bunch of social media posts.
The Tilt repurposed this substantial post about using quizzes to engage users, creating a shorter newsletter item (which linked to the longer piece).
There was a Twitter post, too:
This example relates to our pillars of Sharing and Building Community. They share useful information with their newsletter subscribers, but with the blog and social posts, they are also reaching out to people outside of that circle.
Why Do I Need a Content Calendar?
Dairy goats are usually ready to provide milk content. But your bloggers and social posters might need a push. Building a content schedule provides many benefits:
- Allows for Team Work
Content calendars are also useful for evaluating your efforts.
You can easily create your own using Excel or Google Sheets, and there are many free templates available. Choose from several at this roundup:
What is Cornerstone Content?
Cornerstone Content posts (aka Pillar Posts) are lengthy, comprehensive articles meant to be authoritative. What is your organization’s primary focus? Make that your topic and go into depth. Use
- Short paragraphs and sentences
- Internal and External Links
- Integrated graphics and video
- Downloadable guides
You want this to be the first place anyone would look for information on your topic. So be prepared to write 2000-3500 words.
We talked in the pillars section about reaching out beyond your circle. This is content that is relevant and attractive to the community beyond your donors and clients.
Eventually, search engine users can find your content, but be patient. In the meantime, this type of content is ideal for linking from social media and newsletters. A few other things you can do with cornerstone content:
- Make it into a PDF which you can give away in exchange for people joining your email list.
- Link to it from your What We Do page with a Learn More button
What about SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a vast topic, but let’s keep it simple for now. You don’t have to be a data scientist to do good SEO. To help people find your content, use these best practices:
- Use 1 or 2 relevant keywords multiple times in your blog posts
- Use relevant hashtags and keywords in your social media posts
- Research keywords and hashtags before you write
- Use a tool like Yoast for WordPress to help max out your SEO for each piece
- Don’t forget to use keywords in image names and alt image text
- Make sure to use keywords in your titles and first paragraphs
- Complete the SEO title metadata for each blog post
But the most important thing is to write substantial, quality content.
Focus your initial social media efforts on promoting your content. So the social media part of your Content Calendar should flow from your planned blog posts.
This doesn’t mean you can’t do other things with social media. But it will make sure that you are most often offering your audience some real content, which helps build your authority and your audience.
How to select the right social media platform for nonprofits:
Why Newsletters are So Important
It turns out that email, the thing everyone says they hate, is the thing people engage with on a deeper level than websites and social media.Tweet
Marketing experts know that email can be a better tool than your website or paid internet ads when it comes to getting to yes.
According to the Content Marketing Institute, email newsletters rank high for securing, nurturing, and converting leads. In addition, they rank higher than social media for securing and nurturing leads and rival in-person events for lead conversion.
While the marketing language of securing, nurturing, and converting leads may sound strange to nonprofits, your donor leads work the same way. The people on your email list are already in what we’ll call the fundraising funnel. They know your work and are inclined to support it.
Make It a Two-Way Newsletter
Your newsletter offers you a rare opportunity to find out what your audience is thinking. Don’t pass up this chance in each issue.
A simple survey method is to add a one-question survey at the end of each newsletter: thumbs up or thumbs down. You can dig deeper with surveys or ask the open question: What do you want to see in this newsletter?
Email marketing tools like Mailchimp can help you get quantitative data such as open rates on your newsletters. You can also segment your audience and try different approaches and A/B test headlines, formats, and fundraising appeals.
Learn more about getting newsletter reader feedback.
Build More Value
Add value to your newsletter by doing more than just repurposing your four weekly blog posts at the end of the month. Instead, include some short regular features written in a conversational style.
Curation is another way to add value. When you find articles that will interest your audience, write a brief introduction for each and then link to them. If the article is of importance to your audience, they will appreciate you for sharing it.
Learn more about curation: https://buffer.com/resources/guide-to-content-curation/
Your Next-Steps Checklist
Now that you’ve got your Four Pillars and all the pieces you’ll need, you’re ready to start content farming.
Next Goat Steps
☑️ Complete your Empathy Map
☑️ Consider your organization’s goals and mission
☑️ Consider the pillars of Empathy, Impact, Sharing, and Building Community
☑️ Create Cornerstone Content and shorter blog posts
☑️ Schedule social media to promote your blog posts
☑️ Use your blog posts to create your monthly newsletter
Questions or comments? Reach out to me at michaeljcontent.com/contact or in the comments below.