56% Of Nonprofits Testing Content Marketing Strategy

April 19, 2016       Mark Hrywna      

Three out of five nonprofits surveyed have at least one staff member dedicated to online or digital strategy while more than half have a team of at least two to five people. The trend, however, is more common in larger organizations with smaller nonprofits lagging behind.


The 2016 Digital Outlook Report is a collaborative research project from the Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network (NTEN), Care2, hjc, and The Resource Alliance,


The report identified five common challenges when planning a digital strategy:

  • Staff shortage
  • Budget restraints
  • New, engaging content
  • Lack of training on new digital strategies and tactics
  • Providing Return On Investment (ROI) internally


“What we see in this study is that there is a large lack of measurement for success and common key performance indicators,” the report noted. Very few respondents were able to provide website conversion rates with many saying they do not know how to measure it.


Specifically within faith-based, health care, animal welfare, and arts, 50 percent or more of respondents cited a lack of training on new digital strategies and techniques as a challenge.


For small organizations, the biggest challenges are staff shortage (59 percent) and budget restraints (55 percent). Larger organizations have more of a challenge on proving ROI internally, which might mean more bureaucracy to get through, whereas small nonprofits could be more nimble, allowing for testing new digital ideas.


Environmental and health/disease-focused nonprofits are more likely to have digital staff than social service/community, which tend to be smaller and more likely that development, marketing and communications are on the same team.


Organizations are spending between 10 and 20 percent of their fundraising budgets for digital strategy next year. Almost three in four respondents said that digital strategy would comprise less than 20 percent of the overall fundraising and acquisition budgets this year. Of that digital strategy budget, less than 20 percent will be focused on lead generation tactics.


Social media promotion and communication will be the most common online channel to see an increased budget this year, cited by 49 percent of organizations. Other channels that are more likely to see an increase will be email marketing (21 percent); online advertising (17 percent), and direct mail (11 percent).


The most popular areas where nonprofits said they would focus more of their efforts on this year, as compared to 2015, include:

  • Videos, 69 percent;
  • Website conversion optimization, 62 percent;
  • Images, 60 percent;
  • Testimonials, 54 percent;
  • Data-driven marketing, 53 percent; and,
  • Infographics, 52 percent.


Content marketing strategy will be the most popular priority tactic to be tested this year, cited by 56 percent of nonprofits. Other priorities that were popular but not as common to be tested included:  Conversion rate optimization and search engine optimization (39 percent); self-hosted pledges and petitions (34 percent); and, blogging (33 percent).


The survey, which was emailed and posted to social media, collected 538 responses between Oct. 26 and Dec. 4, 2016. The majority of responses came from North America.


Within the North America results, the majority of respondents worked either at an organization of 1 to 5 staff members (24 percent) or 76 or more staff (24 percent). Almost 30 percent worked at organizations with an annual operating budget of between $1 million and $5 million. Respondents were fairly evenly split between job locations with 28 percent in fundraising and development, 23 percent in executive/management teams, and 23 percent in marketing and communications.