When you work at a small nonprofit no matter your role, you inevitably spend a lot of time creating public-facing content with the goal of growing and engaging your audience. From social media to website language, at times it can feel endless. When I was in this type of role, I would get through a few weeks of social media planning, develop some presentation materials, write a blog or two, only to get to the end of my list and realize it was time to…
This constant need to create is necessary and important, but it can leave you feeling like you are a hamster on a wheel. Especially since at most small organizations, communications is only one component of your job (as was the case in my roles!), it is no wonder a common response is just to put some stuff out there, cross your fingers, move on to the next thing and forget about it until it is time to do it all over again.
But I am always looking to work smarter, not harder. In my time in these roles, I found ways to make content creation less time consuming and more effective. I’ve laid out below what I learned in my years of creating social media content for nonprofits, especially when I didn’t have the luxury of devoting my full time focus to the task. I encourage you to spend some time thinking about responses to each question below as it relates to your organization and your role – consider specific types of communications you crafted in the past two weeks for inspiration and how you can use these prompts to help guide the content you create going forward.
Questions to ask yourself to create effective social content quickly:
How does this connect to my mission & vision? My strategic plan? Start by ensuring you are focusing on your “true north” and staying the course of what your organization has set out to do. Sometimes that nagging feeling of “I NEED MORE CONTENT! LIKE YESTERDAY!” can pull us in the direction of creating content that doesn’t really drive our mission forward… just so we can have something to talk about. But if you take a moment to think about the topic you plan to post and do a quick gut check of how it connects back to your organization’s purpose, you will be well served. If you can’t clearly and quickly connect the content you are writing to your bigger-picture organizational purpose, then something is off!
What are my key goals, metrics & strategies? Once your message has passed the mission and vision test, the next question to ask is simply clarifying what you want to achieve (your goal) and defining how you plan to achieve it (your metric, or call to action). For many nonprofits, this can be boiled down to a few key types of messages that can be reused over and over again by switching up the format. You can see what I mean by this with some examples below:
Goal: If you are writing to educate, your goal may be that your audience engages with and learns from your content.
Metric to measure success: Click throughs to your website/blog with further information. (Hint: this metric will always be the call to action of your post)
Goal: If you are writing to convey credibility, your goal may be that your organization is looked to as the expert in a certain area and/or a trustworthy partner in addressing a specific community issue.
Metric to measure success: Mentions or re-shares by partners or people engaged in your topic.
In my experience, for most nonprofits any piece of social content falls into one of five goal categories: to educate, advocate, convey credibility/trust, build/strengthen relationships or ask for support. Truly – that’s about it! Each organization may define what success within each of these goals looks like a bit differently, but if you think about the content you put out, I would bet that they largely fall into those 5 goal categories.
Now here is the fun part (at least for nerds like me). Once you have your goal and metrics defined, list out all of the types of posts you regularly do or could create. Think beyond standard client stories to “did you know” posts, targeted lists of resources, quotes, charts, data, successes (or failures), media mentions, “this day in organizational history”, viral trends, partner spotlights… the list is nearly endless once you get going! The items on this list are your strategies for actually achieving the goals you laid out above – and any strategy can be applied to any goal! For example:
A “did you know” post could educate by highlighting one statement within an educational blog that you recently posted.
A “did you know” post could convey credibility by highlighting your organization’s accolades or unique value into the post.
The goal & metric will set the tone and the call to action for the post, but the strategy you select will help you work through what content to include and how to frame it.
With this work completed, you now have a targeted purpose behind each piece of content you are creating (no more posting just to post!), defined ways to measure success, and a mix and match formula for keeping the content feeling fresh. And even better, you do not need to re-do this every time you write a new post! Beyond a seasonal review of your goals, metrics, and brainstorming new strategies to add, you really only need to develop all of this once.
So, how to do it? Start with the 5 goals I listed out above, and add any that may be specific to your organization. Define these goals and metrics to fit your organization’s focus, expertise and needs. Spend some time brainstorming your starter list of strategies, and save it in a format you can add to it easily (your notes app or a google doc are easy and free options!). This way, as ideas come to you, you can type them in and keep going about your day. From here, you now just complete a “mix and match” each month to develop a simple content calendar. With your goal, metric and strategy defined for each post, you have a ready made content outline all set to go – you know what to convey, how to convey it, and what to ask of your audience to call them to action. Voila – the content is almost writing itself!
How can I repurpose? In our world today, everyone is bombarded with information – emails, social media, ads, etc. We all know this. So, to get eyeballs on your (expertly crafted!) content, you need to recognize that not every audience member is ever going to see every social media post or email newsletter. While that may seem frustrating – it actually works in your favor by allowing you to repurpose content strategically. I will say it over and over again – it is USEFUL and SMART to repurpose content & messaging when the message works! Once you find a niche that fits your mission and vision, think creatively how you might repurpose it. That may mean one week you do a Q&A on your social channels for your audience to ask questions about your organization’s services, and the next week the answers from that Q&A are turned into a blog post… which is then sent out in a future email newsletter. Repurposing will not only save you time, it will create consistency in your message throughout your communications.
How am I storytelling? The most engaging communications incorporate storytelling in some way. As humans, we are innately wired to connect to others – their triumphs, struggles, emotions and experiences. Capitalize on this to show the world what your organization can do. And if you are in a situation where you feel like you just never have enough client-focused content (testimonials, quotes, pictures, etc) no matter what you do, think how you might be able to creatively use the content you do have. How about focusing on a single client’s journey in more detail – before, during and after they connected with you? This could easily turn into a series of posts or email newsletters to really dive deep into the impact you have made on that person’s life. If you feel like you are at a disadvantage in terms of the quantity of content you need, you can go in the opposite direction and get super granular with a single story to really show off the impact your organization has and to make your audience connect with what you do on a human level.
Am I focusing on what’s working? Do you have an engaged following on Facebook but hear crickets on Twitter? Are your advocacy posts creating great buzz but your education posts are falling flat? When you are a small team that’s crunched for time, don’t be afraid to focus on what’s working. While in a perfect world we would all devote ample time to “cracking the nut” of every specific social media channel, that isn’t always realistic for the small nonprofit team. It is more useful for you to focus on targeting one area – i.e., planning, executing and evaluating so you do it well – than to be scattered across many different channels but not really make any headway. As you gain traction and better understand what is working on your social channel of focus, you may find that you have more time to begin dabbling in another. The key here is to just be transparent with your audience – if you have a twitter but you don’t use it regularly, pin a post to the top of your profile that says something along the lines of “We’re a small team and can’t always respond on Twitter right away. If you want to see what we are up to, or need a faster response, check us out on Facebook!” This creates trust and credibility with your audience, so they know what to expect of you and where & how to find and connect with you. We can’t all do it all, so staying focused on consistent, incremental steps forward should always win out over unsustainable bursts of content followed by weeks or months of silence.
So what do you think? Have these prompts given you any lightbulb moments?
If so, I want to hear them! Reach out below to chat with me. I’d love to hear from you on how your organization manages content creation!
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