I’ve been providing content writing for nonprofits for more than two decades. In fact, once I started writing for the nonprofit sector, I’ve never been without work.
Every business, whether it’s a for-profit biz or a tiny nonprofit agency, needs written content in place in order to stay solvent. I’ve been paid to write mission and vision statements … blog posts … newsletters … annual reports … websites … business plans … press releases … presentations … brochures … books … eBooks … job descriptions … even phone scripts.
The reason I get so many assignments? Nonprofit leaders are pressed for time. They must do more with less and may struggle to prioritize the types of content writing that their agency needs the most. Should they start with a brochure? Or what about an employee manual?
Here is where you, a writer, can step in and make a significant difference.
You can point out to nonprofit prospects what content they need most. Then, you can provide content on a project-by-project basis.
Do a good job on one project — and show the nonprofit the powerful difference the content makes for them — and they will ask you to take on another one.
As you work with a nonprofit’s gatekeeper, you can offer invaluable advice about what types of content form the foundation for a healthy communications strategy. There are at least five kinds of content writing for nonprofits that are essential to their survival. Check to see if the nonprofit has these pieces. If not — or if the content is low quality — then offer to write for them.
A website is an organization’s communications hub. It’s where a nonprofit can tell its story, announce events, collect donations, and recruit volunteers. You can help an organization build a strong communications foundation when you understand that it needs to have specific pages on its site first (Home, About, Contact, Donate, Services, Stories) — and ongoing updates to those pages, too.
You can also explain a few other things to a nonprofit client about their website. For instance, online content needs to combine stories of beneficiaries (to pull at the reader’s heartstrings) and facts about the need (to show the nonprofit’s impact on readers and to prevent donor’s remorse). As a content writer, you know how to persuade by using both stories and facts.
And as a content provider, you know how to write for online readers, which is a different genre than print. Online content is easy to skim with plenty of subheads and white space. And it is conversational. Time-pressed leaders may not be trained to show the distinction, but they appreciate a writer who does.
Email is efficient and cost-effective. And nearly 91% of the U.S. population send and answer emails.
Nonprofits can use email for newsletters, appeals, thank yous, reminders, event announcements, holiday greetings, registration confirmations. In fact, newsletters are nearly exclusively offered by email over print these days.
Overburdened nonprofit leaders often don’t have time to plan what to send out. Then, they try to create an email strategy at the last minute. These agencies may need a project manager — even one that operates on a project-by-project basis. And they need someone to write that content and even load it. Why not you?
Nonprofits are funded by gifts, which come from a variety of sources including corporations, business partners, individual donors, grants, and events. But these gifts don’t fall out of the sky. Nonprofits need to ask for them.
A nonprofit’s most-needed and most-requested fundraising content is an appeal letter or appeal campaign. Smart nonprofits create appeal campaigns with a one-two punch strategy using both print and email. The campaign follows a theme.
You can be hired to write a fundraising campaign that includes an appeal letter, a response device, and an acknowledgment letter, and even follow-up letters or postcards.
You can also offer to write an associated email campaign series to send concurrently with the print version. This strategy follows marketing’s Rule of Seven. That is, your reader must read or hear your message at least seven times before she takes action.
Mention grant writing and leaders’ eyes glaze over. Nonprofits want and need to apply for grants, but many are intimidated. This is one area that offers considerable opportunity for a content writer.
Grant writing is a specific skill, but it is one that can be acquired. Like any other sizable project — writing a book, launching a website, maintaining a blog — writing a grant can be divided into small stages to tackle one at a time.
Once you know the five stages of writing a grant, the process is much more manageable. Take a grant writing course and you will find plenty of nonprofits that are willing to hire you to write for them.
Think about it: you see a Facebook or Instagram post picturing a young mother with a healthy toddler and a caption that reads, “A year ago we were living on the streets. Now, we’re on our way to financial independence.” Wouldn’t that content grab you and excite you and encourage you to learn more?
Nonprofits desperately need to be active on social media. Social media engages prospects and supporters in their work. Yet few smaller to mid-sized agencies have time for it, apart from delegating social media responsibilities to an intern.
From a writer’s standpoint, social media posts are easy to create by repurposing the content you’ve already produced. One way you can help nonprofit clients — and add to your own bottom line — is to offer to write a series of social media posts to accompany other projects. Say, “Would you like me to write 3–5 social media posts to go with this article (blog, newsletter, campaign) that you can schedule to go out after publication?” Then, when you get the nod, create short, valuable content that invites interaction from readers. You’ll make it easy for a client to get their message out. And you’ll collect a bigger fee, too.
If you’re interested in writing for nonprofits, be ready to provide what an agency needs. Brush off your clips of these five types of projects or create new samples for your portfolio. Then be prepared to advise prospective agencies about their current content. Ask a simple question, “Would you like help with this project?”
When they answer yes, you’ll not only land a client. You will also have an impact on a cause that’s near to your heart. You will become invaluable to their good work. And you can earn nice paychecks, too.
More about Writing for Nonprofits
Content by award-winning content writer and author Kathy Widenhouse, who specializes in writing for nonprofits and faith-based organizations.
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