Tag: digital media

If you’re in communications, you’ve been hearing about content strategy for years now. How to write it, structure it, optimize it, and make it work harder for you.

“Create more content!”

“Think long-form and short-form!”

Tell stories to foster authentic connections!”

You get it. Lots of exclamation points! It may not feel this way, but in reality, content strategy is so last decade. The new movement in content is content governance — and you should welcome it with open arms.

What is Content Governance?

Simply put, it’s a collection of rules for publishing. Not only that, but it also identifies how you maintain and eventually archive your content. It involves a few different elements, like an editorial calendar, workflows, a content audit, style guides, and more. Together, these elements make up a content governance plan.

Content governance is a culture shift. It puts importance on the structure and governance of the content your team is working so hard to create. And you are creating content. According to Micro Focus, there are now over 4.4 billion internet users — up 83% in just five years! Between those users, there are:

  • 1.2 million new data-producing social media users every day
  • 4 million hours of content uploaded to YouTube every day
  • Over 3.5 billion Google searches conducted every minute
  • 293 million emails sent every day

Think about your organization’s content. If you’re like most, you have an abundance of content at this point and need some way to evaluate it, guide it, maintain it, and archive it. If you’ve ever launched a big, beautiful new website, you know how hard it is. But launching it is far easier than keeping it big and beautiful. That’s why the idea of content management is in trend. It’s a necessary process if you want to continue providing value.

To get started with content governance, you need to conduct these four activities:

Foster a Culture of Content

So much of creating and maintaining content is wrapped into a culture of content. One where content isn’t just created for the sake of creation, but one where content is created strategically with goals in mind. This starts at the top.

Some things to know upfront about content governance:

It will be messy at times.

Implementing a governance component into your content strategy isn’t a walk in the park. Being forced to evaluate and break down your content processes to identify a more efficient system can be taxing. Expect that going in.

Buy-in to content governance should start as high up on the organizational chart as possible.

Content governance involves the whole content team. The idea of content management isn’t a hard sell when your case includes consistent messaging, optimized content lifecycle, and increased online traffic. When everyone is executing on their designated roles, it creates a well-oiled machine. But everyone has to be on the same page, and it has to be a top priority.

Your organization will need to increase its investment in people to do the work.

The efficacy of your content will always come down to the content team that produces and manages it. There are three vital roles for every content team: a managing editor, a writer, and a designer.

Your managing editor is at the helm, armed with your style guide. They run point on every piece of content and manage content creation from inception to publication. A managing editor moves the needle by connecting content creators with subject matter experts, keeping the organization’s content strategy top of mind.

Your writer is curious, flexible, and can take edits in stride. It’s not enough to hire a technically good writer. You need someone who can tell a story about your organization. You’re looking for someone who can bring your content to life and make people want to read it.

Then, there’s your designer. Having a designer on the team helps extend what you’re able to do with your content, which is important considering that 65% of people are visual learners. Design is not always a high priority for budgeting (and not having a designer won’t break you), but giving your organization a unique visual identity is ideal.

Culture must be reinforced through proper onboarding and regular training.

There’s just no point in putting in the time, effort, and other resources to create a content governance plan if every fiber of your organization isn’t drenched in it. Sure, your content creator may know the plan like the back of their hand, but what about those involved in other aspects of content production? The rules, workflows, and policies you set up must be transparent and easy to access. Make sure your content management policies are communicated and accessible to everyone on your team. It should be a commonly-referenced document.

In a way, content governance is branding. It’s a curated message that you support with every piece of content you publish, all supporting your content strategy. You will only benefit from having everyone in-the-know.

Conduct a Content Audit

A content audit is an accounting and analysis of content, usually in the form of a spreadsheet containing specific metrics and evaluations. It provides the current landscape of your content and can make your life much easier. Not only will it give you a strategic view of your content, but it will significantly improve the conversations your organization has around your content. The purpose of a content audit is simply to have eyes on where your content is and what your content is doing. It helps you evaluate how your content is performing so you can tweak it, prioritize it, or start archiving it.

Your website is your biggest repository of content that often ties other content types together in an integrated way. Having a spreadsheet of your web content is almost like looking at the circulatory system. You can see the forest from the trees, which helps inform your content strategy as a whole.

Build Your Editorial Calendar

Everything you publish should be part of a greater content strategy — from your articles, webinars, and downloads down to your tweets, PDFs, and infographics.

An editorial calendar is often an Excel spreadsheet that keeps you on top of important dates and deadlines so you can drive your content marketing goals. It’ll help you plan digital marketing and events. It can help you structure your social media marketing. Really, it can organize any type of content that your organization is publishing (or wants to publish).

Here are a few best practices for maintaining your editorial calendar:

  • Guard the brand: not every content suggestion must be implemented, especially if it doesn’t fit your mission or your brand.
  • Make it your own: Our editorial calendar template is a guide to get you started, but there are lots of additional content you can add to make it uniquely yours. Maybe you want to add a column that lists the audience for each piece of content or what the main call to action should be.
  • Whatever you do, always update the calendar: One person should be in charge of the calendar, and the upkeep of the calendar should be in their job description. They must set aside time to keep it updated.

Outline a Content Governance Plan

Your content governance model is laid out via a content governance plan. It guides how your content will be created, published, maintained, and archived. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all template for a content governance plan because the needs between organizations vary widely, but these sections are typically included:

  • Executive Introduction: Shares high-level information for those who are not familiar with the plan.
  • Standards & Policies: Outlines the policies your content will adhere to, typically includes your content style guide, privacy and security policies, and any accessibility guidelines.
  • Governance Structure & Rules: Establishes who sits on your governance committee as well as their roles and responsibilities.
  • Workflows: Determines the workflows by which content is requested, produced, approved, and published. It outlines how content moves through the organization.
  • Templates & Architectural Guidelines: Outlines standards for how content is entered into the CMS. For example, a list of available page layouts, standards around what page layouts are used, etc.
  • Content Evaluation & Refresh: Lays out how content is tracked and how it is analyzed and updated. Typically includes your content audit and editorial calendar.
  • Training: Establishes how and when staff will be trained as well as ongoing training.

A screenshot of five documents highlighting different aspects of content governance.

Content governance isn’t easy, but it’s worth it to start surfacing better, accurate, and useful content. The way you manage your content is just as important as the content itself and done wisely and intentionally, it will set you apart.

In 2018, Bashpole Software, secured a grant from the National Science Foundation to study the marketing challenges and strategies of nonprofit organizations. We’ve sat down with over 300 nonprofit executives and are continuing to do so. As our study continues, we’re looking for deeper answers. As a service to our participants, we would offer a preliminary audit of your analytics and content by our specialists to provide direction and feedback. Email Ben Ashpole if you’re interested.

“We need to build a strategy, but we don’t know where to start.”

“How do we know if what we do is working?”

In the last year-and-a-half, more than 300 nonprofit executives and marketers sat down with us in one-on-one interviews and shared their marketing approaches and obstacles.

Their biggest pain points? How to reach people on the internet and how to know if they’re actually succeeding at it.

The dream is to grow. The question is, how?

When we believe in what we are doing, we definitely want to do as much as we can. Our respondents want to do good in this world and want to increase awareness of their causes.

  • 72% want to grow their organizations (growth goal)
  • 94% who prioritize growth believe digital advertising is critical to achieving the goal.
  • The full potential of using email newsletters, online ads, and social media is often beyond available resources and staff time — or it feels like it due to lack of knowledge or training.

What does a good strategy look like?

Blogs, social media, email lists, paid digital advertising, your website. They all have different purposes. How do you know which is the one to really go for? You want them to believe in your cause and trust you.

Every method you choose should work to get you to that goal. For most organizations, the end goal is to get people to subscribe to your email list. Every piece of your strategy should lead them to that point, whether it’s a Facebook Live, a Google Ad, a blog post, and especially your website.

Make your website work hard for you

In our research, we saw websites that worked hard to educate and build trust. We also saw websites that functioned as little more than a “Yellow Page Ad” for their organization. It proved that the organization existed, but didn’t do much else.
Your website can lead people on a journey and present your story. It also can add to that story through changing content like blogs, videos, or case studies that share your passion and showcase your work.

By the way, this also helps your Google rankings. Google doesn’t like websites that just sit there. Active sites rank higher on Google searches over time.

Get their email address

You might not get someone to volunteer or donate on their first online encounter with you. But they are aware of you. Now that you have their attention, you want to keep it.
They may have been introduced to you through an ad or a search, but you don’t want to trust Google or Facebook algorithms to maintain that connection. You don’t even want to trust them to remember to come back to your website.

If you have their email, you can reach out to them directly and tell them more about what your organization does. You can build trust. Occasionally, you can ask for what you need: a donation or volunteers. But the more your readers trust you, the more likely they are to partner with you.

What’s the work involved?

  1. If you want to increase awareness, go where they are using various methods such as ads, podcasts, guest blog posts.
  2. Ask for their email. Have your content drive them to your website and put forms on your website that encourages more contact.
  3. Once you have that precious email address, regularly send them information about what you’re doing. Keep them informed and excited.

When they agree to be on your email list, they care at least a little. You can use the email list to build that relationship and encourage them to care more.

Return on investment: how do we know it’s worth it?

“It is difficult to get meaningful metrics … for example, how do we measure the impact from each platform we use to decide where to focus?” — respondent

“Why didn’t [we] do more with Facebook? Lack of trust in the ROI, because we didn’t understand the measurement tool.” — respondent

Return on investment is a business term that is becoming prominent in nonprofit circles, too. It means, “What did we get out of this effort compared to what we put in?”

There’s a formula for computing it: ROI=(net profit/cost of investment) x 100.

So if you spent $1,000 on a Facebook ad campaign and received $1,500 in donations, your net profit is $500. ($500/$1,000) x 100= 50%

ROI can’t formulate the intangibles

Sitting down with nonprofit C-level executives, we not only heard the answers they gave, but we could hear the tone in their voices and see the expressions on their faces. They looked puzzled when they talked about online marketing — even troubled. They knew that it was important, but they had no idea how to know if it was working and if they were doing it right.

When they described getting out there and talking with people at speaking events, their eyes shone. They knew immediately when that worked. Just like we could see our respondents’ faces, they could read the responses in the faces of others. They could shake their hands. They could hear them give their support.

Metrics make the intangible tangible

The hard part about doing things online is you don’t get those responses. What we have are metrics. We can know, “Does a person click on our ad?” and with pixels (small bits of code that are added to the website) we can follow exactly what they do after that:

  • What pages do they read?
  • Do they give us their email address?
  • How long do they stay?
  • Do they donate?

Metrics take the unknown and make them known. All of a sudden, you know what pages they read, you know how long they stay, you know if they take a look at your donation page, or if they walk in the door and walk right out.

What questions do you have about what they do? You can set up metrics to tell you.

How much is it worth to know?

Over and over again, our respondents told us that they didn’t know key pieces of information because they didn’t have the metrics set up. They don’t have the time to learn Google Analytics. They did Facebook boosts instead of full ad campaigns that provide a pixel. They only have a small glimmer of the full information they need.

Our respondents expressed, “We want to build a strategy, but we need to know if it works.” They also said they don’t have the manpower or the training to do it.

The fact is, the term “ROI” means Return of INVESTMENT, and without investment, there is no return.

For nonprofits, ROI isn’t always about money

The people we talked to said their top priority was building awareness. They know donations don’t come right away, but they want people to know about their cause. Without setting up analytics, you’re in the dark. That’s not an easy place to be for you or your team.

Whatever strategy you decide on, and there are many things you can do inexpensively, if you don’t have the analytics set up to measure it, you don’t know. You’re too committed to following it through to the end without tweaking, or you may not be committed enough even to start. You can’t compare whether a YouTube video works better than a blog post for leading someone to your website.

Setting up your analytics is the key to everything

If you’re a typical nonprofit, everyone on your team is doing multiple jobs to keep on top of the daily work. There aren’t enough hours in the day. Money is tight. The board doesn’t see why it’s important.

But whether it’s bringing on an intern, hiring an agency, or having one or more of your staff take an NTEN course or Udemy, getting your analytics worked out is the first step in developing a strategy for reaching Millennials, GenZ, and even good ole GenX.

Metrics shine the light on your potential partners

Knowing your metrics is like being able to look someone in the eye, shake their hand, and telling from their smile that they are on board or to gauge what may be holding them up. It makes the people who are online as real as the people who are in the room.

Metrics open up a whole world for you and your organization

Metrics let you know what’s working and what’s not before you’re at the point of no return. It not only turning the lights on for your potential partners, but it also turns the light on for you. You don’t have to be “all in or not at all” with a marketing campaign. You can test, monitor, and adjust, and even abandon if something isn’t working.
Metrics minimize your risk because they minimize your guesswork.

Before you move forward with anything else, invest in your analytics

We may be preaching to the choir here on NTEN, but in our research study, our respondents overwhelmingly expressed concern over how to create a solid strategy and how to know whether their efforts were effective. Every other business that is competing for the same space is already doing this. To be heard in this ever-increasing world of online advertising, our organizations must know whether their efforts are effective. It’s crucial.

There are big differences between nonprofit and for-profit perspectives

It was clear from our interviews that there are key differences between the nonprofit marketing sphere and the for-profit marketing sphere. You use a different vocabulary and have different goals.

Nonprofit goals: build awareness, recruit volunteers, and encourage donations.

And you need to know whether your efforts are going to reach these goals successfully. The widely-available marketing resources aren’t focused on those goals, so what do you do?

With these tips in mind, we’re extending an invitation for nonprofit professionals to participate in the ongoing research. Based upon the preview of the types of tips above, we would appreciate hearing from the NTEN readership what you would find to be most useful for the upcoming articles. Would you like to participate in an interview or learn more about the research project? Do you have any areas of interest you want us to focus on that you feel would most benefit the nonprofit sector? Vote on the upcoming topics!

For-profit marketers keep saying video is key to a compelling digital campaign, but for so many nonprofits it seems out of reach It seems too expensive, labor-intensive, and requires equipment and skills that nonprofit marketing teams don’t have. But a new suite of tools are helping nonprofits tell their stories in incredible new ways, through the voices of their constituents. Enter: user-generated video, nonprofit style.

The Sierra Club, a national environmental nonprofit, relied on user-generated videos for its Backyard Day campaign, which encouraged participants to sign up for a virtual 5k or 10k activity, right in their own “backyard” – a park, beach or other outdoor space that they love. We talked with the Sierra Club’s Video Content Producer Nick Jones.

Q: What were some organizational challenges you have around video production?

For Sierra Club, our top challenge with video is trying to fill the needs of all of our initiatives and campaigns. Here’s the thing about video: everybody wants it. That extends to your followers, and even further, to potential followers, but it starts right here at home. I’m lucky to work with dozens of passionate people on countless campaigns, but when each one of those important campaigns has their own video requests and needs, it can be tough to meet the demand.

Q: How are you using a tool to get user-generated content?

We’re using the app Gather Voices for a variety of purposes. The tool allows us to reach members and supporters across the U.S., which means that when we tackle local issues, we’re able to raise up the voices of actual locals — without needing to send a video crew. This adds a lot of credibility to our messaging. Furthermore, the application is built so that we’re able to guide participants in formatting their submissions in a way that’s conducive to editing (reminding them to use part of the question in their answer, for instance, so that each request has context.)

Q: What does video do for your organization that other formats can’t do?

Video is an incredible way to generate awareness and build interest in a cause. Given the way social algorithms are currently configured across various platforms, video often has a better reach for a lower cost, allowing organizations to reach more people for less. I think there’s also a level of relatability that comes with video — people like to connect with something real, and there’s something tangible about video that people latch on to.

Q: What’s next for your video strategy?

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest challenge we face with video is having the supply meet demand. In line with that, the next step for our video strategy involves empowering our other staff with the tools and guidance they need to start making their own contributions to our video output. User-generated video will play a big part in democratizing our production process, and I’m excited to see where the developers take it in the coming year.

Watch the Sierra Club’s Backyard Day video:

If you work in a communications role at a nonprofit, you probably have news and social media alerts set up for keywords relating to your organization’s work – for example, a housing nonprofit might have an alert for terms like “homeless,” “couch surfing,” or “sleeping rough.” But what if the people you’re trying to reach don’t use those words? What if they don’t use words at all?

I’ve been running some experiments in emoji search, both individual and in groups that give added meaning.

Sophia Guevara NTEN author quote about nonprofits adopting their own emojiThe first search I conducted on Twitter was using a “handshake” 🤝. I was able to find posts of users who had tweeted using the same emoji. I decided to complicate the search by adding two and then three emoji together. The second search was a “handshake” and a “briefcase”. There were still a lot of results until I added the third emoji, a graduation cap. One result: a tweet about a diversity event.

Searching emoji on Facebook was less fruitful. Searching for “trophy” 🏆, I came up with three video results that had made use of that emoji in their description. Using the “fries” emoji 🍟 produced a nacho fries recipe. On YouTube, a search for the “donut” emoji 🍩 resulted in a video of donut economics.

Is your nonprofit optimizing for emoji search?

Online marketing consultant Jayson DeMers wrote in an article for Forbes last year that searching for emoji in a search engine would bring up posts that used that emoji, but also posts relating to the topic that emoji represented.

Right now, with emojis usually used as an embellishment for written text, it seems frivolous to think about emoji search or its impact on SEO, but linguists predict that emoji communication will only get more popular and perhaps may even become a language of its own.

After learning more about emoji searching on social media channels, I wondered how one could propose a new emoji or associate an emoji with their own brand. The Unicode Consortium has developed a formal process to do so.

The Oakland As found success adopting the baseball emoji. Is there an emoji that your nonprofit should use?


There are trees, and there is forest. There are anecdotes, and there is data. There are the pinprick pixels of our individual experiences, and there is the vast picture they paint together of the world we share.

The M+R Benchmarks Study is our annual attempt to bridge that divide. This year, we have collected an extensive array of data points from 154 nonprofit participants. Each of them marks a single digital interaction with a supporter: an email opened, a donation made, a petition signed, a website visited, an ad clicked, a Facebook post liked, or tweet retweeted. All told, these add up to 4,699,299,330 email messages, 527,754,635 web visits, and 11,958,385 donations.

NTEN is proud to partner with M+R once again for the latest Benchmarks report. Explore or download it here.


It took me three months into my social media dream job to realize why the word “online” was part of my job title. It was 2010, and I had finally found a job that had social media marketing at its heart, at a small AIDS nonprofit that planned to use Facebook, Twitter and dating apps to connect with people living with and at risk for HIV.

Even before my first day, I’d had a run-in with our horrible, outdated and very difficult website, but I knew there was a web developer on retainer and I figured it was his problem. Or maybe it was the Executive Director’s problem. Or perhaps the office administrator. I don’t suppose there was someone on the board who could help? A volunteer? Bueller?

As anyone who works in digital marketing or fundraising knows, your organization’s website is at the crux of how people relate to your organization and its work. When something is wrong, it hurts your ability to attract, engage, and convert the people you need to make your work a success. As it turned out, our website was my problem, and to solve it, we needed to build a working digital strategy.

What is a digital strategy?

For many nonprofits, technology adoption isn’t hard. We’re smart people, and we’re perfectly capable of finding the tools we need to help us perform particular tasks. But what often happens is that an organization will accrue a slew of tools, all of which maybe do what they should perfectly, but still aren’t getting the results that you need them to. Perhaps your content strategy is bringing scores of people to your website but you aren’t capturing them in your email list for fundraising campaigns, or you’re gaining lots of Instagram followers but none of them know about your online forum. A good digital strategy will knit your tools and aspirations together into a cohesive plan to meet your goals.

We’re here to help. NTEN is producing two conferences this fall—in New Mexico and Oregon—and both are designed to help you develop and refresh your digital strategy. The program includes case studies, workshops, panels, presentations, and tactical sessions, to help you formulate the best strategy for your organization, and show you how other nonprofits have done it.

That seems like a big task. Where do I even start?

I am a people person and NTEN relies on members to survive, so I like to start with personas. What are the groups of people that want to engage with your organization, how did they find you, what do they want to know, how do they want to engage, and what do you most want them to do? Plot their journey from an unconnected community member to engaged part of your inner circle, donor or member. What’s their ideal journey? What roadblocks are in the way right now? How can you clear them?

Identify the top handful of actions you really want your constituents to take—for example, donate, advocate, join or inform others—and consider the technologies they need to do that easily. Find data that can tell you how you successfully moved them to that action (or “converted” them, in marketing-speak). How many touch-points do you need? What’s the story to tell them, and where and how is it best told? Which are the channels that net you the most success, and why do you think that is?

Like me, when I finally realized the website monster was mine to tame, you will have a lot of questions. But it’s only through considering the (sometimes difficult) questions that you can build a digital strategy, pulling together your organization’s disparate parts and making them work better, for you and the communities you represent.

Best of luck! We hope to see you in the fall.

The 2017 Digital Outlook Report is here, and it may surprise you or reaffirm your strategic decisions and investments this year. Data from hundreds of organizations across the globe has guided the findings — see how you compare!

In the 2017 Digital Outlook Report, research and report partners Care2, hjc, NTEN, and Resource Alliance have provided trends and strategies, highlighting best practices and expert insights along the way.

This year’s report has ideas for every organization, no matter how advanced your digital fundraising program is.

Do you lack a digital staff altogether? No problem, we’ll help you craft your organization’s first digital strategy! Are you experimenting with cutting-edge technologies like 360 video? We have some ideas to help you advance even further.

Download the 2017 Digital Outlook Report.

The 2017 Digital Outlook Report is here, and it may surprise you or reaffirm your strategic decisions and investments this year. Data from hundreds of organizations across the globe has guided the findings — see how you compare!

In the 2017 Digital Outlook Report, research and report partners Care2, hjc, NTEN, and Resource Alliance have provided trends and strategies, highlighting best practices and expert insights along the way.

Download the report.


It’s awards season, which means this is your chance to celebrate your own wins and the amazing work of other nonprofit technology professionals.

The Care2 Impact Award recognizes a campaign or initiative in the nonprofit sector that has made an outstanding impact on the field of online advocacy, online fundraising, or both. The winning organization will receive a cash donation of $1,000 from Care2. The runners up will each receive the Care2 Innovation Award; Care2 will make a $200 donation to each of these organizations. The awards will be presented in March at the 2017 Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC). Entries close midnight EST on Saturday, February 11. Enter now.

Entries are also open for the DoGooder Video Awards, which celebrates videos that have the power to move people and transform lives. NTEN is proud to partner on this award, and will show the winning videos from last year’s award at the NTC in March. They’re designed to help honor the best work from people or organizations who are using the medium to move the needle for their cause. Entries close Monday, February 13. Find out more.


The digital landscape is changing at a dizzying rate and sometimes it feels like the plans you made yesterday are obsolete by morning. But help is at hand!

For the third year, NTEN is proud to partner with Care2, hjc and Resource Alliance on a report that sets the standard for nonprofit digital planning. But we need your help. The 2017 Digital Outlook Report is powered by responses by nonprofit professionals just like you. The survey will take about 10-15 minutes to complete and you’ll be entered in the drawing for some great prizes.

Take the survey today and be the first to know when the findings are published later this year.