Nonprofits are confused about why they are creating content. I hear too often from associations that they create content to engage or as a member benefit. And that is missing the real goal.

A business of any kind – whether a non profit, a software company, or even a hospital – creates content for one reason. And it is not for the final goal of engaging. Nor is it to educate. And if nonprofits don’t get this right they are opening up a gap that any savvy for-profit could wedge into and start grabbing the attention of your audience and ultimately their dollars.

Certainly by now, you’re wondering why anyone wouldn’t get this straight, right? We all know the answer to this:
Businesses create content to support their goals. And the primary goal is always the same: to stay in business.

Nonprofits attract people who believe in their mission and who just by their nature evangelize for them. A typical nonprofit team member is moved by the purpose and likely couldn’t imagine working at a software company.

That’s what’s great about nonprofits. That’s also part of the problem.

Nonprofits can benefit from adjusting their thinking to be a bit more like, well, a software company. And here’s why. Software companies:

…know their audience with data-driven certainty.

…build websites for attracting and converting. No internal politics that divide up the homepage in a way that is not supported by what analytics show site users want and need. They understand that their buyer has the power to find what they need on their own at any time day or night and they deliver in a way that measurably works.

…move fast. Got an idea? Roll it out in a week. Sometimes, you need to ask ‘what is the worst that can happen’ and just launch already.

…don’t waste their time or money. Which means they need to track what works or doesn’t, employing the right measurement tools. And in order to track and measure, someone needs to develop some expertise in this area and be responsible for staying in touch with best practices and latest developments.

…know how to leverage other people’s audiences. It’s a big world out there. Are your audiences human resource professionals? Well, guess what? There are more than a few of them on AmEx Open Forum. Is your content there? And they know how to partner with other companies. Someone who uses their software might likely use another type of software and so they partner together on content. Does your nonprofit partner on content or do you go it alone?

…know that their own sponsors or advertisers have great content too. They have journalistic integrity and they understand that providing their audience with content they love can also be an opportunity for revenue for the software company. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Be transparent and provide good stuff, no one is going to have a problem with that. AirFrance paying to provide a guide to the areas of Jewish interest in three French cities that they fly in to is an excellent match for an online progressive Jewish magazine whose audience has stated their interest in travel.

When you have been creating content for decades it can be hard to step out of your culture and habits. But with the never-before seen competition heading your way, you need to think about it.

By Monica Bussolati