6 Ways to Fail at Donor Cultivation Using Content Marketing for Nonprofits

In the battle to drive nonprofit revenue and profits, content marketing is a critically important tool.

The content on your web pages, blog posts, landing pages and downloadable educational resources, gives you an opportunity to attract donor prospects, build trust with them, and answer questions they may have in their donor journey.

Without content your digital marketing assets would be a series of empty web pages.

Content is everything.

If you fail to make it a cornerstone of your nonprofit marketing strategy, your donor cultivation efforts will suffer.

Unfortunately, far too many nonprofits don’t know how to put the right strategy behind their content.


Here are 7 ways to fail at content marketing.

Work hard to avoid them.

#1. Assume Donor Prospects Will Just Find Your Content.

Is your nonprofit a brand name? Do you have a multimillion dollar advertising budget with millions of social media followers? 

If you said no, then you’ll need to work hard to get people to find and read your content.


This effort starts with understanding the queries and the intent behind those queries donor prospects enter into search engines.


Start by using keyword research tools like MOZ, SpyFU and Google search console to get a sense of the search terms donors are using. 

Then determine the real informational wants behind those terms and create content that answers those questions.

The blog posts that you create to answer those questions will drive organic traffic which in turn will generate the most donor leads.

Once you’ve published your search optimized content you’ll need to promote it on social media and email.

Remember, your content only has value if people read it.

#2. Just Publish Anything

Most nonprofits understand that they need to publish content. So, they add a blog to their website, find their best writer and start posting. 

But, publishing content without strategy is like throwing spaghetti at the wall to see how much will stick.

You should plan your content a month or even a quarter ahead of time.

You should know how many blog posts and downloadable content offers you’re going to publish, what questions you’re trying to answer, and what search terms you’re trying to rank for with that content.

More importantly you should know what you want your readers to do next after consuming your content.

Readers will only turn into leads if you subtly guide them in that direction.

#3. Ask for a Donation Right Away

Your end goal with content is to generate donations.

It’s very tempting to ask every prospect who stumbles across your content to donate.

Don’t do it.

Put your self in the prospects shoes. Your struggling to find an organization to make a donation too, you search to see if there are any organizations you’re interested in. At this point you’re just exploring.

You find a blog post that seems interesting, you start reading and within 3 or 4 lines you’re hit with an aggressive pitch to make a donation.

What do you do next? You’ll probably hit the back button in your browser bar and you may never trust content from that site again.

Using content to generate donor leads requires patience and a genuine desire to help potential donors.

If the only solution you offer is “make a donation now” then you have failed to establish trust between your prospect and your nonprofit.

#4. Make Your Nonprofit the Hero of Your Story

Above everything else, content is about story telling.

Successful content marketing requires telling a story that resonates deeply with your donor.

Most nonprofits pick the wrong hero for their story.

Your organization should not be the hero of your story.

Your donor must be the hero of your story.

Think about it in terms of the movies. What character do you usually identify with the most?

It’s the hero, the person that saves the day.

Think about your content like the movies. As your prospects read your content, they need to feel like the hero.

If they feel like the villagers or secondary characters, they won’t form an emotional connection with your story.

By using this approach to your content, you are tapping into the kinds of storytelling methods that have been shaping the way audiences feel about the world for years.

#5. Forget About the Donor Journey

Most nonprofit marketers are familiar with the donor journey. However, sometimes this familiarity fails to translate into content strategy. 

To keep your prospect funnel full and healthy you need content that corresponds with every phase of the donor journey.

Publish blogs, eGuides and whitepapers that answer the Attract and Connect phase questions.

Publish case studies and webinars that move donor prospects from the Connect phase to the Engage stage.

 Finally you should offer consultations that help potential donors move from the Engage stage to the Inspire stage.

Consider including CTA’s at the end of blog articles that direct your reader to a downloadable content that is aligned to that phase of the donor journey and thematically related to the blog topic.

If the next step that you offer prospects at the end of your content piece has no discernable connection to the content they just read, you aren’t likely to add more prospects to your funnel.

#6. Don’t Worry About the Metrics

Always keep a close eye on your content metrics. You should always be monitoring;

  • Blog views
  • Blog subscribers
  • Overall website traffic
  • CTA clicks
  • Keyword rankings
  • Conversion rates
  • Bounce rates
  • Time on page data

You should also stay in close contact with your development people to make sure the leads you are sending them are valuable.

By monitoring all the above metrics, you can form a strategy as to what is working and what isn’t.

This approach will help to inform the future of your content strategy, but it also gives you the insight you need to go back and update old content to make it more in line with the kind of content your high value prospects are looking for.

If you keep your donor prospects at the center of your content strategy, and you are willing to adapt that strategy as you progress, you should see a direct connection between your published content and revenue growth.

Like content marketing, inbound marketing is centered on focusing your communication and marketing strategies on the people who are the most likely to support and become donors to your cause through permission-based marketing using internet media such as blogs, social media platforms, video and web site optimization.

To learn more about this agile approach to cultivating donors, download our eGuide entitled; How to Use Inbound Marketing to Attract New Donors

You can download it here.