What steps should you take when building a website content strategy for your nonprofit organization?
Your process for building a website content strategy will depend on several factors, including the complexity of your organization and website, your available resources, and your expertise. It depends on the context; is this a periodic refresh or an update necessitated by a new strategic direction or brand? And it depends on the project itself; are you building a brand-new site, tweaking a well-maintained website, or overhauling a website that has suffered years of neglect?
Steps to include when building your nonprofit’s website content strategy
You will need to create and customize a process for building a website content strategy that makes sense for your nonprofit organization, but here are a few steps I suggest that include.
Start with your organization’s strategic priorities.
Too often, web projects are tackled in isolation without considering the available frameworks and strategies that can guide important decisions. Review your organization’s strategic plan to determine how your website will reflect and support your priorities and goals. Use decisions your nonprofit has already made to establish your website audiences and objectives, aligning your website strategy with your marketing communications plans and brand strategy.
Familiarize yourself with your existing website content.
Start with a content inventory and audit to familiarize yourself with your existing website content. During this inventory, you’ll probably discover content that will be useful on your new site, content that can be repurposed, and content that needs to go. Don’t skip this step — it will help you make informed decisions later.
If you don’t already know, find out how your existing website content has been performing. Review your website analytics and other relevant information (such as user feedback, email analytics, heatmaps, and other behaviour analytics).
Consult with internal stakeholders.
In my experience, internal consultation is one of the most critical steps in building a website content strategy for a nonprofit organization. It’s an accessible, low-cost step that will help you to glean essential information, break down silos, and build consensus. It will help you to prevent disagreements in the design and development stages and leverage work your peers have previously done. And it’s a smart way to tap into information already available within your organization when there isn’t a budget for external research.
However, do not strike a website planning committee. Set up meaningful one-on-one conversations with internal stakeholders (you can use my website content strategy interview guide). Discuss each stakeholder’s business objectives and the role the website can realistically play in supporting them. Request and review plans such as fundraising plans, advocacy campaigns, research and program priorities, and research your colleagues may have conducted, such as evaluations, surveys and other sources of audience insights. Tap into your peers’ insights about your organization’s different stakeholders.
Take ownership of decisions and recommendations: author your strategy.
It’s essential to have one person take the lead in forming your website content strategy. If this is your role, you must distill, evaluate, and prioritize the information you have gleaned until this point and then document your recommendations.
When creating your strategy, you must be realistic about the website’s role and what it can achieve. Evaluate potential ideas and approaches by considering their strategic alignment, your organization’s ability to implement them, and balancing internal priorities. This step in the process may not be linear, but for structure, consider building it in four sections: purpose, audiences, messages, and production.
Share your strategy internally before website design and development.
Once your website content strategy has been drafted, share it with internal stakeholders. Talk with your peers about how you came to your recommendations. Ensure your colleagues can see their input reflected and how their needs have been balanced with the needs of your organization’s other departments or functions.
Get the final sign-off now before you proceed with website design and development. Invite your colleagues to provide meaningful, strategic input now (but refrain from inviting revisions or wordsmithing) and inform them that the strategy will be the basis of your website design and development decisions once finalized.
What will your website content strategy-building process look like?
I have suggested a few critical steps, but there are many useful, detailed resources you can choose from to help you design your process. Consider including the following books among the resources you review:
- The Content Strategy Toolkit by Meghan Casey
- Content Strategy for the Web by Kristina Halvorson and Melissa Rach
- The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissane
If you’d like to learn more about the approach I use with nonprofit organizations, see my website content strategy package.