Throughout the past decade, non-profit organizations across the country have struggled to stay afloat due to continuous budget cuts. As a result, many have lost staff via attrition and have decreased services provision. This is particularly unfortunate because society is in need of these resources now more than ever.
Non-profits are left with the tasks of securing new funding sources while simultaneously meeting the needs of the communities they serve. Needless to say, they generally do not have the financial cushion to hire fundraising consultants to assist with the generation of contacts and donors. They’re on their own.
Fortunately, garnering community support, educating the public, and soliciting donations can efficiently be accomplished via online outreach – at minimal expense. More than half of non-profits that employ content marketing strategies find them highly effective. Via the appropriate use of web content, non-profit organizations can forge connections in the community, disseminate information about service provision and why it is important, and launch entire fundraising campaigns despite their limitations. Here are some basic, cost-efficient techniques for filling in the gaps left by government funding cuts:
- Websites. With so many free website opportunities, there is really no reason not to have one. If the staff is already stretched too thin, a loyal and trustworthy volunteer may be willing to oversee the project of designing and maintaining it.
The site should include the agency’s vision and mission statements, as well as a comprehensive list of services. Don’t forget to include a wish list, and compelling content. This may be case studies, for instance, of recent client success stories – with the alteration of identifying details to protect identities. It is also relatively simple to utilize a feature to solicit and accept donations online.
- Digital newsletters. Some of the many benefits of digital newsletters include saving on paper and postage. Much like individuals agree to receive traditional newsletters, they can opt into digital communications. Similar to many other outreach techniques, this type of newsletter should maintain the agency’s voice while being easy to read.
Digital newsletters are an appropriate place to repurpose content as well. Vision and mission statements must always be included, in addition to the organization’s wish list, highlights, and success stories that have been featured on the website.
- Email campaigns. Although they’re not as frequent as they were in pre-social media days, well-developed email campaigns continue to be effective and low-cost (or cost-free, if a volunteer manages them) means of garnering support. Well-developed is the key phrase, however. Keep in mind that messages must truly be compelling – especially subject lines. Readers are bombarded with disengaging and spammy emails on a daily basis, and the temptation to mass-delete is great.
Some other essential pieces to remember include allowing users to agree to the receipt of the messages, cleaning email lists regularly, personalizing messages, using light and readable content, and testing all features before sending to ensure quality.
- Social media profiles. These are also free, and approximately 67 percent of online adults use them. Begin with Facebook and Twitter, two of the most popular social networking platforms. Post frequently, and friends and followers will share to their friends and followers. The breadth of potential donors increases exponentially each time.
Are you unsure of what to post? Perhaps a call to action once or twice per week would be helpful. Educate the public about the population served by the organization – “Last year, 1,750,000 people were homeless in the United States.” Current events are also excellent opportunities to reach out to the community – “Join us at Courthouse Square this evening for our annual barbeque!”
- Mobile optimization. Internet users are accessing the web from their smartphones and other mobile devices more than ever. They expect the sites they visit to be easy to navigate on a smaller screen, with simplistic pages and easy to click buttons. A standard web page does not translate well onto mobile devices. This is why it is useful to have a site – or perhaps a mobile application – that is designed specifically for these devices.
Mobile optimization need not be top priority on the content marketing to-do list, but it is an option worth considering once the website is up and running and other campaign components have been launched. Professional assistance with mobile optimization is relatively inexpensive. It can range from $5 to $20 monthly, and is included in many hosting packages – most of which offer free trial periods.
- Audits and analytics. These are tools used for identifying and measuring significant patterns in data. They tell web managers and administrators what parts of their online platforms are most and least effective. For instance, they can measure click-through, opt-out, and forward rates. They can also report which pages of their sites are the most burdensome, and which should be updated and reorganized for optimal user engagement.
Most web hosting packages offer these services, and Google Analytics is available free of charge, so take advantage of these options.
To achieve results online, there are a few more important points to remember. Preserve the spirit of consistency by tasking a select few employees or trustworthy volunteers to manage the agencies online presence. Adopting clear, concise, and relevant policies and procedures is also a way to ensure that the integrity of the agency remains as firm in the virtual world as it is in the land of brick-and-mortar buildings.
If this still seems like a lot of work, that’s because it is. Developing an effective content strategy with limited resources definitely requires creativity – but that isn’t a bad thing. Build a content calendar with different themes each month, for example. After all, providing substantial and quality services to populations in need on skeletal budgets demands significant creativity as well. Social work professionals are already quite talented in this area, and applying this quality to an online presence is an investment that promises