More nonprofits using content marketing, but less reporting effectiveness: new research report

More nonprofits using content marketing, less reporting effectiveness: new research report

More nonprofits are using content marketing. Though it’s still a new discipline for many, those who are using content marketing are using more tactics than before. And while effective content marketing remains a challenge, there are lessons to be learned from those who are performing well. These are just a few insights released today in Nonprofit Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America.

Nonprofit Content Marketing 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends released today

The release of this report today by Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and Blackbaud marks the third year of an annual survey of nonprofit marketers representing a full range of organization classifications, function area and sizes.

Because I often refer to this research report in presentations and blog posts, (including last week’s Evaluating your nonprofit’s content marketing mix), I’m excited to see the updates for 2016. Here are a few top-level points:

  • More nonprofit marketers are using content marketing this year (76%) vs. last year (61%)
  • 26% of nonprofit marketers say their organizations are effective at content marketing (down from 35% last year)
  • Nonprofit marketers’ most important content marketing goals are:
    • engagement (82%)
    • brand awareness (79%)
    • client/constituent retention/loyalty (74%)



It’s worth noting the definition of content marketing provided by the researchers, which is the same as in the 2015 report:

“A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive action.”

In 2014, when content marketing was defined as, “creation and distribution of educational and/or compelling content in multiple media formats to attract and/or retain clients/constituents,” 92% of respondents reported using it. When the definition changed in 2015, that number plummeted to 61%.

Now, even with the more comprehensive and stringent definition in place, the number of nonprofits who see themselves as content marketers is once again on the rise.

Usage increasing, effectiveness decreasing

However, we do have a problem: 76% of nonprofits report use of content marketing, but only 26% indicate effectiveness (accomplishing overall objectives). Content marketing is resource and time intensive: since both of these tend to be lean for nonprofit organizations, how can we ensure they are being used effectively?

What makes an effective nonprofit content marketer…effective?

As in previous years, the researchers teased out the differences between effective nonprofit content marketers and those who are less effective. According to the study authors, overall effectiveness increases with:

  • Experience (58% of sophisticated/mature marketers say they are effective)
  • Organizational clarity on what content marketing success looks like (53%)
  • A documented content marketing strategy (44%)
  • Daily or weekly content marketing meetings (42%)

Because 69% of nonprofits indicate plans to produce more content in 2016, it will be important to follow the lead of effective content marketers in these areas.


New top content marketing challenges identified

Finally, what do nonprofit content marketers find most challenging? Last year, a lack of budget was cited as the number one challenge: no big surprise! But this year we’re moving beyond budgets to consider how we’re using what we’ve got. Measuring content effectiveness (54%) and producing engaging content (53%) now top the list of nonprofit content marketing challenges, pushing a lack of budget down to third place (45%).

Review the research, assess your content marketing

One caveat: a note about the sample size, which seems to be declining each year. Last year, 1,118 nonprofit marketers completed the survey and that number is down to 404 respondents this year.

However, if you are interested in or currently delivering content marketing for your nonprofit, this is a report well worth reviewing in detail. In addition to the insights about what your peers are doing, you’ll glean many lessons and tips from the study results. For example, you’ll find insights about content marketing goals, metrics and the social media platforms you can use to distribute your content. For full report details, see the embedded Slideshare below.


Posted November 4, 2015 / Filed under Content marketing / Leave a comment