Your content has the potential to be awesome, we just need to talk about how to write content to make and maintain donor relationships. That's why we are going over the secret to writing content to make and maintain donors. It all starts with a few questions... What does that content look like? What is the purpose of it, and what can those topics revolve around to get you to the end goal of making and maintaining relationships with your audience.

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Hosted By
Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

The Secret to Writing Content to Make and Maintain Donors

Let’s chat about content for a while. Content to me is anything you’re publishing to communicate with people.  It could be a blog post, a newsletter, social media, or email—that’s all content. While I will cover other topics in future blog posts like how to tell if your content is working and how to double-check using online tools, I feel like it is necessary to begin this discussion by talking about strategy. Your content has the potential to be awesome, we just need to talk about how to write content to make and maintain donor relationships. What does that content look like? What is the purpose of it, and what can those topics revolve around to get you to the end goal of making and maintaining relationships with your audience. 

I’m going all theory-heavy here, so if you’re looking for a blog post for content ideas, check out our previous blog post, Nonprofit Content Ideas for your Blog, Newsletter, and Social Media. Then maybe you will want to dive in a little bit more because so much of what I’m going to talk about today is how to make new relationships and foster them online.

Set goals for your marketing and get a handle on your target audience.

To start, we need to get two things out of the way. 

  1. The first thing we need to get out of the way is you need to have some goals set for your marketing. You need to set goals for your content, like what is the content supposed to be doing? If you don’t know what it’s supposed to be doing, it’s gonna be very difficult for you to move forward and make other decisions.
  1. The second thing is you need to have a real handle on your target audience: who you’re talking to and who you’re trying to connect with. 

There are all kinds of different ways you can really think through your target audience. My favorite way is to make buyer personas. But ultimately, your content needs to speak to these people. They need to understand and be able to see themselves in the things you’re producing for them. That’s how you make friends. You make friends by talking to people and by listening. You don’t make friends by assuming things that are not true. 

We want to make sure before you get started writing your content, you have a really good handle on your goals and your target market. Before you even go through your content planning activities, you need to have those two things in mind because all of your ideas for your content are actually going to come from your target market planning activities. Those activities force you to put yourself in the shoes of your potential volunteer, your current volunteer, your potential donor, your current donor, the people you serve—all of those people you talk to through your content.

If you need help with the first two steps, check out our resource, Nonprofit Marketing Plan Template. It’s a workbook that has activities in it. The first part of it is taking you through the process of goals and target market.

Your content serves you in two ways. 

Make new relationships and foster them online isn’t a new concept. It’s actually been around for a really long time. It’s called inbound marketing. Part of inbound marketing is the art of releasing content to attract people to learn about what you do, and then the next piece of inbound marketing is offering them something they would like to learn more about in return for their email address. So your content will serve people in two ways: making relationships and maintaining relationships. 

Make Relationships

We’re going to talk about the first part of that concept, which is the content that attracts people to start a relationship with you. Let’s talk theory! 

Focus on solving the problems for people with similar values.

People go online to find answers to questions. We google questions so we can find the solution we’re looking for. You can be a part of that journey for someone with your content.

The trick is to find the spot where your values and your interest meet with your target audience. That’s where you’re going to focus. Try to find their problems you can help them solve. 

So what do I mean by that? All we have to do is go back to the target market to find out what to publish content about. The answers are where your interests and values align with a potential target market. Many people aren’t thinking that way. They’re busy with the day to day activities and, they’re worried about how to go out and meet new people and shake hands. I’m here to tell you that in the middle of the pandemic we definitely don’t recommend handshaking (unless heavily sanitizing after). We have to figure out a way to virtually shake hands with people through our content to make these new relationships. And the key to how we do that is where your interests and your values intersect. So let’s think through some examples.

Humane Society

Let’s pretend you’re a Humane Society. So we’re going to think about this from a dog owner’s perspective. You’re probably already thinking, well, did that person get their dog from my shelter? Is that person wanting to volunteer with me? 

Remember, we want to meet new people,  so we already know the people that adopted dogs from us. Here’s the deal with the new people. They have the same challenges with the dog after they take it home from the shelter as everyone else does with their dogs. The people that love dogs and animals have the same value as the shelter does like taking care of animals and treating animals with respect. They share that core value and their interest is in maintaining a relationship with their dog. 

So focusing on dog owners, regardless of whether they got their animal from you, or from a breeder, is a way to find people you don’t know whose interests and values overlap with those of your organization. So instead of just thinking about our target market as a donor or potential donor, we are going to think of them as a dog owner, because that’s where our interests and values intersect.

So think about the typical dog owner.  Dogs continually need nurturing. They always need training. There is not an end to that relationship. You are continually journeying through this relationship with your animal. They go through different stages of life, right? In each stage of life, they need something different from you. Now ask yourself, what are these dog owners facing? What are the challenges that they’re trying to solve? Well, my dog might bark. Or maybe my dog is digging, or maybe my dog is aging, and she’s not eating well, or maybe she can’t see very well and I need to try to outfit my house to make it safer for her. While it kind of sounds like I’m telling you to be a dog trainer,  what I’m telling you to do is think about the challenges these dog owners have because those dog owners share the value of animals with you. They share a love of their animals with you. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be searching for answers to make their pets live better.

Those values overlap with you and you want people whose values overlap with you. So you start at the beginning, they’ve got problems with their dog. Dogs don’t live forever. Eventually, they may want to foster a dog for your organization, or they may want to adopt a dog from your organization. But ultimately, you want them to donate to your organization. So start by sharing with them answers to the challenges they’re having and then, you can deepen that relationship by answering challenges to tougher questions about dog training. Then, at the very end, you are always going to ask them to donate and be a part of the journey. You can ask them whenever you feel like you’re ready.

So that’s an example of taking your audience through the whole process. You try to solve their problems that intersect with your values and interests to build the relationship. 

Blog about things other people are searching for.

Here’s a harder example.  Let’s say your organization provides a safe place for women. Women who are in negative or abusive relationships. You may start thinking, the people who are having the problems are these ladies who are coming to us that we need to keep safe. So why would I be blogging? I mean, those women in rough situations already found our organization, they already know we exist. I think you should dedicate part of your content to talking to those ladies and reaching out to them and letting them know you exist. 

Also, I  think about the other people in their lives. These women’s moms, siblings, and friends are concerned about them. They all want to know how to help their loved one in a terrible relationship. They are probably asking themselves: How do I help keep them safe? How do I talk to them about this relationship? How do I introduce the idea of them leaving this negative relationship? And how can I help them do it safely, without getting into a yucky situation that could get them harmed? They want to know the information because they need to learn how to communicate with this person in this terrible situation and help them get out. If you can give them advice on how to do that, you can help them. 

So your target audience isn’t just necessarily the ladies you serve. Your target audience is to connect with the people who are helping them out of the bad situation. So you talk to that person, you talk to the mother, you talk to the friend and you think about the conversations you have with them. Think about the conversations you have with the ladies who come into your safe place. Think about the things they say. What are the things they say about their friends or their moms? What do those conversations look like? Try to help other people, help the individuals you serve. 

That is a way to meet those new people. Those people have the same values that you have. They have the value of helping a person in need or of helping a person they love, get out of a crappy situation.

They want to do the same thing you want to do, and you want to help them do it right. Whether or not that lady is in New York, or in Columbia, Missouri, it doesn’t matter. You want all women to be safe. If that’s your goal, we need to think bigger. We need to think about how we can talk to those mothers, siblings, and friends and how we can help them help these ladies. Those are the people who have the challenge you’re trying to solve.

Help people solve problems with your content. 

 So hopefully you can see through those two examples what I mean by helping people through their challenges. You are going to help them solve their problems through your content and that is how you will make your initial first relationship with them. Remember, we need to think broader than just the people we serve. It’s other people where your values and your interests intersect. That is where most of your relationships are going to start. 

Maintain Relationships

Now you’re going to foster those relationships. 

Think about the objections they have.

One of the ways you’re going to foster them is by thinking through objections they might have. By objections, I mean, what are the things they dig their heels in on that make them not want to work with you or not want to volunteer or not want to donate. Think about the objections you hear and cover those in your content as well. You want people to know you know them and you hear them. Covering objections is great communication. 

Get New Volunteers 

Let’s say one of your goals is to get new volunteers to help you run your organization. And one of your objections that people tell you is they’re not very technical. Maybe you have your volunteers building things. The volunteers may be worried because they’ve never used a drill or built anything before. So when you are asking people to volunteer, address that objection. Let them know they don’t have to pass shop class to come in and help because we’re going to teach them how to do it. Tell them how we’re never going to get mad at them for messing it up because we’re just so happy they’re here. 

I’m sure there are different objections for every single organization. Think through what objections your donors might have, or your volunteers might have, and cover them in your content as well. 

Give value to the people you want to meet, it’s in your nature. 

So this, my friends, is the basis of the theory behind writing content to make and maintain your donor relationships. As we go on the rest of this content creation journey together to attract new people to our organizations, we’re always going to be thinking about how we can give value to the people that we want to meet. How we can make friends with them, how we can serve them, and how we can solve their problems? That is how they’re attracted to us. As a nonprofit, you’re really good at this. You already do this for people every single day. So this is not a really foreign concept for you at all. It’s in your nature, you just haven’t thought about it this exact way, or if you have, hopefully this has been a fun refresher for you!


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