Study: Most Nonprofits Do Content Marketing, But How Well?

While 92 percent of respondents to a recent survey said they use content marketing, nearly three-quarters of those polled rated their efforts middling to ineffective.

Content marketing is all the rage these days, and nonprofits—which are definitely not lacking in good stories—are jumping into it with both feet.

That’s according to 2014 Nonprofit Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends [PDF], a new report by the Content Marketing Institute and Blackbaud. The results of their first content marketing study to look at nonprofts reflect how important it has become for the space. Some 92 percent of the nonprofit professionals surveyed said they use some form of content marketing. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good at it: Only 26 percent rate themselves effective or very effective content marketers. Just 3 percent gave themselves top marks on the effectiveness scale.

Other data points from the study:

Who’s in charge here? Nearly seven in 10 respondents said there was a person in charge of their organization’s content marketing. That result surprised BlackBaud’s Frank Barry, who said the percentage seems high, considering that only about a quarter of organizations have documented their content strategy. “I suspect nonprofits are confusing content marketing with traditional marketing communications efforts—a rather common mistake, from what I can tell,” Barry wrote in a CMI blog post.

Facebook rules of social: The average nonprofit marketer relies on four social platforms to get the organization’s message out. Odds are high that one of those networks is Facebook—a platform that 91 percent of those surveyed cited. While other networks, including Twitter (69 percent of respondents) and YouTube (65 percent) also were commonly used, the nonprofit professionals in the study were most confident that Facebook worked for them (58 percent)—a number that rose (79 percent) when looking at only those who considered themselves the most effective marketers.

Web content somewhat effective, but … In-person meetings remained the most effective form of marketing, according to the study (getting the seal of approval from 79 percent of respondents). Articles on the organization’s website, on the other hand, received a middling 44 percent effectiveness rate, far below social media and e-newsletters. But when it works, it really works: 71 percent of the most effective marketers rated web articles as effective. While lower than the e-newsletter and social media ratings among the effective marketers (85 percent each), their relatively high rating for web content suggests potential for others to improve in that channel.

So what’s the goal? According to the study, 79 percent of respondents overall hoped to boost fundraising though content marketing, while 73 percent aimed to build brand awareness. The key goals varied based on the size of the organization, however: 79 percent of those from large nonprofits said brand awareness is their top goal, with engagement (69 percent) cited as slightly more important than fundraising (68 percent). Professionals from smaller nonprofits, meanwhile, were more likely to use content marketing to recruit volunteers than those from larger organizations (45 percent vs. 26 percent).

So, what do you think about your own content marketing prowess? Offer up your thoughts in the comments.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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