Survey: Nonprofits Doing Better With Content Marketing

November 5, 2014       Mark Hrywna      

The most effective nonprofit content marketers have a documented content marketing strategy that very closely guides efforts, along with a dedicated content marketing group that is successful a tracking return on investment (ROI) and publishes new content daily or multiple times per week.

Those are among the initiatives that separate effective marketers from average or least effective nonprofit content marketers, according to “Nonprofit Content Marketing: 2015 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends-North America,” by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and Blackbaud, sponsored by FusionSpark Media. More than 1,110 nonprofit markets were surveyed for the report, released today.

The biggest differences between where nonprofit marketers rated “most effective” as compared with average/overall or least effective included:

  • Has a documented content marketing strategy, 42 percent v. 23 percent;
  • Content marketing strategy very closely guides efforts, 61 percent v. 38 percent;
  • Has a dedicated content marketing group, 62 percent v. 41 percent;
  • Is successful at tracking ROI, 33 percent v. 15 percent; and,
  • Publishes new content daily or multiple times per week, 60 percent v. 48 percent.

Three in five nonprofit marketers use some form of content marketing, with social media other than blogs, being the top method in which it’s delivered to advocates and potential donors. Nonprofit marketers are using an average of 12 content marketing tactics this year, compared with 11 last year.

Less than one in four have a documented content marketing strategy and those who do are more effective in all areas of content marketing. About 15 percent said they are successful at tracking ROI.

Roughly 35 percent of nonprofit marketers rate their content marketing as effective, up from 26 percent last year. Effectiveness is defined as “accomplishing your overall objectives,” and those who rate their organizations at least a 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 (5 being “very effective” and 3 “neutral”).

The most effective tactics include in-person-events (74 percent), illustrations/photos (65 percent), e-newsletters (64 percent), and social media content other than blogs (63 percent). When compared to last year’s results, confidence grew the most for microsites, up from 40 percent to 53 percent, and print magazines, up from 52 percent to 60 percent.

The most widely used social media platforms by nonprofit marketers continue to be the big four: Facebook (94 percent), Twitter (84 percent), YouTube (78 percent) and LinkedIn (67 percent). Marketers said they used an average of five platforms, compared with an average four last year.

Instagram saw the biggest increase in use compared to last year, up from 17 percent to 38 percent this year, ahead of Pinterest (35 percent) and just behind Google+ (40 percent). Fewer than 30 percent of nonprofit markets said they used platforms such as Flicker (24 percent), FourSquare (13 percent) or Tumblr (12 percent).

An average 23 percent of the marketing budget was allocated to content marketing, compared with 20 percent last year. Those with a documented content marketing strategy spent more, an average 33 percent, compared with those with only a verbal strategy, 22 percent, or no strategy, 11 percent.

Presented with a list of 28 initiatives, nonprofit content marketers chose an average of 12 initiatives they’re working on, and plan to begin working on an average of 8 over the next 12 months. Among the initiatives they’re working on were:

  • Becoming better storytellers, 66 percent;
  • Creating visual content, 63 percent;
  • Creating more engaging/higher-quality content, 62 percent;
  • Better understanding of audience, 59 percent; and,
  • Organizing content on website, 59 percent.

The most popular initiatives that they plan to work on included:

  • Measuring content marketing ROI, 39 percent;
  • Developing a documented content marketing strategy, 37 percent;
  • Creating a better mobile strategy, 33 percent;
  • Content personalization, 33 percent;
  • Better understanding of what content is effective – and what isn’t, 32 percent; and,

Optimizing content, 32 percent.