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By Chris Vaughn, ACN Member
The online content your nonprofit creates tells a story. It highlights the importance of your work and accomplishments. Done well, it can further your mission by attracting new members and inspiring constituents to action.
Now that the pandemic has moved so much of our lives online, your nonprofit’s content strategy is more important than ever. And your audience expects more than ever: a static website, monthly newsletter, and occasional Facebook post are not enough..
Sequence Consulting recently conducted a survey of national and Chicago-area associations to find out how the pandemic had changed their members’ expectations for online content. What we found almost certainly applies to most nonprofits, regardless of size and mission: the demand for timely and useful information is increasing and will likely remain high in a post-pandemic world. To decide if your nonprofit needs to level up its content strategy, ask yourself the following four questions:
1. Do you publish new content often?
If not, you need to! In the past year, organizations that prided themselves on highly-produced, in-depth publications learned that this content style no longer worked for their members.
Todd Unger, chief experience officer of the American Medical Association, said that members were now asking for more frequent contact, and cared less about the production value of content than its timeliness. “‘We want to see you more and hear from you more,’” members told the AMA.
All nonprofits should make new online content a priority, but the frequency depends on your goals. If your mission. like the AMA’s, includes being an up-to-date source of relevant news, then you should publish new content daily. Advocacy organizations which aim to inspire members to immediate action on important issues should produce content daily, even if just through a social media post or a tweet. Even the smallest nonprofits shouldn’t neglect to communicate weekly if they want to be remembered. Fortunately, frequent communication has never been easier, and you no longer need to spend time and resources on perfectly polished content—members and contributors prefer content that meets their immediate needs.
2. Are you taking full advantage of technology?
Thanks to the unprecedented use of web conferencing platforms like Zoom, you now have the opportunity to secure higher-caliber speakers for digital events. Speakers and members can attend from anywhere, providing opportunities that would be impossible with in-person events. Whether virtual or in-person, there is significant value in live events. Margaret Mueller, CEO of the Executives Club of Chicago, finds that having high-quality speakers interact with members live allows “the connection to become more raw and real.”
These events don’t need to be elaborate to be effective. One of the hallmarks of The Executives’ Club’s new content strategy is Coffee and Connect, where members can log on at the same time a few mornings a week to get advice from an expert in residence about the issues their business is currently facing.
Ask yourself what information would be most engaging to your constituents, and what experts they would most like to hear from. Find a way to deliver that information to them quickly, in a live format.
3. Are you publishing your events as content?
When the pandemic hit, many nonprofits had to quickly abandon traditional event formats and go digital with their conferences, trainings, and fundraising events. One benefit: any online event, large or small, can be recorded and repackaged as content. Quick highlights from a longer video can be excerpted and shared via social media, email, and your website. Key points can be summarized in a blog post or a great quote shared with a tweet. The recorded event itself can be made available online. By taking your event content, repackaging it, and distributing it online to those who couldn’t attend live, you can provide significant value. Again, video doesn’t need to be highly produced to be engaging and effective.
4. Are you highlighting constituent stories?
Ultimately, people want to be part of organizations making a difference in the world. Members of professional associations want to read stories about colleagues who have excelled while simultaneously making an impact. Supporters of any nonprofit would value hearing from staff and those they impact talk about challenges and victories.
Some highly successful associations have already adopted this approach. The AMA publishes a short-form digital magazine that focuses on members who are moving medicine forward. Some of the American Bar Association’s most popular content consists of members telling stories about other members. The Executive’s Club of Chicago shares members’ stories online through short video segments.
There are many ways to incorporate personal stories into your online content strategy. Find the strategies that work best for your nonprofit. When you do, you will see engagement, membership, and revenue grow.
Chris Vaughn, PhD, is the chief strategy officer at Sequence Consulting, which has helped associations and nonprofits of all sizes grow their audience and revenue through innovative strategy and marketing since 2001. His clients include AMA, AARP, United Way, Make-a-Wish, American Lung Association, and the Jewish United Fund, and many others. For more information on how top associations are using lessons learned during the pandemic to transform their content strategy, download Sequence Consulting’s report here.
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