Why Your Nonprofit Should Dump Your Marketing Communications Program

Puzzled why your old school marketing communications program isn't delivering for you as you wished it would? HINT: Embrace content marketing.

Puzzled why your old school marketing communications program isn’t delivering for you as you wished it would? HINT: Embrace content marketing.

Because I’ll bet you it’s not embracing two key elements essential to raising awareness and getting folks to engage with you in 2014 and beyond.

What’s that? (1) Content marketing. (2) Social media. For real.

Let me explain. I’ll bet you’ve got a “Marketing Communications” director or department, with someone assigned to focus on different mediums – some print and some digital. Someone to churn out a newsletter. Someone to create an annual report. Someone to post to Facebook and Twitter. Someone to write your fundraising appeal. Someone to write an e-appeal. Someone to count “likes” and “follows” to prove the merit of your social media choices. You may have only one person desperately trying to accomplish all these things, or several people working in silos.

What you don’t have is an underlying framework that ties all these things – and people – together.

In “Content Marketing and Social Media: What Nonprofits Must Know” on the Maximize Social Business Blog, I talk about why “marketing communications” is neither a synonym for social media nor content marketing. And why content marketing needs to be your priority or, if you will, underlying messaging framework in support of your choice of deployment mediums.

In other words, you should not make your goals things like “Publish an Annual Report” or “Add 500 new followers to Twitter.” Those are mediums, not messages. And mediums don’t inspire folks to act. Messages do.

Your goals should be more along the lines of “Identify 3 programs constituents most care about” and “Match 2 key programs to 2 hot news topics.” These are constituent-centered goals that hone in on your audience’s needs and what content you have to offer that can meet these needs.

Mediums do matter, and I’m not suggesting anything other than a strategic choice of both online and offline delivery systems. However crap in a pretty box is still just crap. It’s what’s inside that really counts.

So… build a content marketing program that crosses departments. Get everyone in your organization involved and invested. Develop a content editorial calendar that serves both as your marketing strategic plan and your publishing schedule.

Focus on what matters to your constituents; not on what matters to you.

Want to learn more about creating constituent-centered, planful and authoritative content?

The new How to Write a Great Blog with Amazing Content for Your Non-Profit Guide is filled with tips about creating remarkable content that will inspire folks to become connected to and engaged with your organization. It focuses on blogging as the delivery method (as I happen to believe blogs should be at the heart of every nonprofit’s content marketing program), but the strategies discussed are applicable to any medium. It’s all about discovering the content your audiences want, learning where to find it and how to package it. As with all Clairification products, it comes with a money-back guarantee.  Get it here.

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About Claire

I’m Claire and I want to help you raise more money, reach more people and build long-lasting relationships with your supporters. Take a look in the archives.


  1. Claire, this is gold. It’s all about identifying and tapping into what constituents care about. Thanks!
    Sheena recently posted…Distractions.My Profile

  2. I agree. Honestly this ia why many nonprofits should hire donor relations people not marketers. Donor relations is all about creating content that inspires.

    • Marketing should ALSO be all about creating content that inspires. It doesn’t matter what title you slap onto a person who is working towards the combined goals of creating greater awareness of your cause and generating more contribution income in support of this cause. We’ve got to get out of our own heads, and thinking about our own frameworks (eg., “Marketing Dept.” vs. “Development Dept.”). No more silos.

  3. There are silos because development has actual dollar goals, unlike marketing. Why do you think development people only last 18 months vs donor relations or marketing tenure of 3-5 years. The pressure to perform is immense in development and there are many unrealistic expectations.

  4. Claire Axelrad says:

    We need to get over thinkingthat what we are doing is targeted towards money. Its targeted towards fulfilling the organization’s mission. In this endeavor, all departments are invested and involved.if we are honest, development staff don’t succeed simply because they ask. They succeed because the program staff do a good job meeting the needs. They succeed because the marketing staff do a good job creating awareness of the need. Without everyone working together towards the same goal our ability to succeed is diminished. The entire organization must have a customer service orientation. What do our potential constituents want? Need? How can we offer this to them? If we want gifts we have to give them first.

    • Totally agree with you. Unfortunately in many organizations this is not the case and development staff live and die by the numbers


  1. […] strikes a chord with you, you’re probably working at one of the far too many nonprofits where marketing communications are considered the stepchild of fundraising. A support function, rather than an essential […]

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