6 Ways to a Kick-Ass Content Plan for Your Nonprofit Blog: Part II of the C.P.A. series


Animals kicking ass

Begin your kick-ass content plan with great research

C.P.A.? Yup. In my last post I introduced you to the ‘accountant’ theory of an effective blog content strategy.  C for constituent-centered. P for plan. A for accessible. You can review the C post here.  Today we’re going to talk about the P.’

For starters, you’ve done your market research and you know what your constituents care about (if you haven’t done this, look at the 6 actionable tips in the previous post). Now, take all the great topics you’ve researched and brainstormed – all the questions you’ve been collecting from your constituents – and build an editorial calendar for your blog. I’m going to give you some tips and tools that will make this really simple. Promise.

Your blog editorial calendar is your playbook. You want to fill it with all your best moves.  And with lots and lots of answers to your constituents’ questions.  Lots and lots of content.  Why? According to HubSpot’s research 70% of companies that publish articles 2-3 times per week have acquired a customer through their blog. Substitute ‘donor’ for ‘customer’, and you see how your blog can have real legs.  And HubSpot has a free editorial calendar template to make it easy for you to stay organized and on target.  Now… let’s fill in your plan!

Let me count the ways:

  1. Think you don’t have enough blog content to fill a calendar?  Take a look at some of your most frequently asked questions.  My guess is that you can get multiple mileage from hot topics.  For example, select different angles and publish several posts on that subject.  Begin, for example, with “Biggest Misconceptions about [your subject].”  Then go on to address some of these misconceptions in greater detail in subsequent posts.  For example, I found three posts on the blog of the Capital Area Animal Welfare Society  that were all categorized under “common misconceptions.”
  2. Another way to leverage blog content is to target different audience segments.  First, give some thought to who you want to write to, and why. It’s amazing how, without a plan, you can end up writing 90% of your posts for 10% of your readers. So specify your audience in your calendar, and be sure to change it up.  Write one post to parents; the next to grandparents.  One to singles; the next to families.  One to folks who care about your programs that serve children; the next to folks who care about senior services. And so on.NOTE: In a subsequent post we’ll talk all about developing personas (if you can’t wait, check out this great post by Heidi Cohen on How to Create Marketing Personas); for now, just be clear that it’s essential you have clarity around who you’re writing to and why they might have an interest in what you’re saying.
  3. You can also showcase different ways you’re addressing a problemMost nonprofits have multiple programs.  In other words, there’s not just one way to solve homelessness… or illiteracy… or domestic violence.  You’ve got lots of stories, and each one tells a somewhat different approach to making a difference in the world.  So tell your stories.  They’re the most compelling content you have. We’re all story people.

  4.  Using different authors can lighten your workload, while simultaneously adding fresh voices, new perspectives and additional credibility to your blog.  People like to hear from folks other than you from time to time.  It somehow seems more authentic.  And when you ask others to guest post, they’ll generally promote your blog to their networks.  Why not show off their own handiwork? It’s just human nature. I certainly do it when I guest post!

  5. You might also consider different blogs for different purposesI know, you think I’m losing it now.  Who has the time?  I don’t advocate that you start here – unless you’re fully resourced – but keep it in mind as an aspirational goal.  One organization doing a sensational job with this is Goodwill of San Francisco– they have three blogs!

  6. Your editorial calendar allows you to plan for more than content.  Like any good plan, it should also assign deadlines and responsible parties. The best laid plans are meaningless without follow-through.  One thing to do with your calendar is to plop it into a Google Doc(or share on some other project management software like basecamp) so that everyone involved can stay up-to-date on their ‘to-do’s.  I’ve found that most nonprofits do not have the luxury of having one person whose job it is to ride herd on everyone else, so spread the responsibility.  And if folks can’t follow a timeline… well, here’s a bunch of things you might consider doing to them… especially if they’re a geek [kidding].

A blog is a terrible thing to waste:  In Part III we’ll discuss how to put the “A” (aka Accessible) into C.P.A. so that folks can find your great content and, when they do, they can tell instantly that what you’re going to provide to them is going to be well worth their time.

If you have other thoughts on how to put the “P” into C.P.A., please share them.  How are you creating and adhering to a blog content plan?

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  1. This is terrific, Claire! Our organization just set up a google doc spreadsheet setting out our entire communications plan for 2013. We divide the year up into quarters and have a planning section for each month that has areas to track (1) all the major holidays in that period, so we’re not missing Grandparents Day as an opportunity to focus on our work serving seniors, (2) any other events out side our organization that might provide content – like the governor’s budget being released, and then (3) all the different program events taking place that month. Tracking our big program events allows us to do “Behind the Scenes” posts the month BEFORE, which we would totally miss the opportunity to do if we weren’t planning this way. And then we have an area where we sketch out proposed content for all the pieces of our communications campaign – blog, social media, website, written communications, and monthly e-newsletter. And because its a google doc, we can share it with all staff – they only see the most updated version – and they know months in advance when they’ve been slotted to produce content for the blog (and we know that we will fully leverage every post by incorporating it all the other channels). Thanks for this great series of posts on blogs – its super helpful!

  2. Great post! One of the toughest things we have found was maintaining our editorial calendar. Since our blog is not our main priority, it quickly falls to 3rd or 4th on the To-Do List when other things come up. This is definitely a problem that affects a lot of organizations, as evidenced by the sporadic spikes in articles and subsequent decline. It’s a tough habit to break, but I’m optimistic with a strong Plan and the correct tools, it is possible to maintain a steady schedule. Thanks!
    Vinod Kamath recently posted…Social Media Predictions for 2013: Are You Ready?My Profile

    • I like your attitude! And check out the comment by Julia about how their nonprofit is using a content calendar — created in Google Docs — that spreads responsibility and keeps everyone on schedule and on track.


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