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What Is Free Content and Why Should I Offer It? FAQs

Award-winning writer Kathy Widenhouse has helped hundreds of nonprofits and writers produce successful content and has gained 600K+ views for her writing tutorials. She is the author of 9 books. See more of Kathy’s content here.

Updated 5.16.24

Free content includes articles, downloads, white papers, reports, and fillers packed with practical information about your niche, offered at no charge, like this article, for instance. (See "What Is Content?")

These days, people are hungry for information. And information is everywhere. But readers don’t plow through encyclopedias or cookbooks or card catalogs. Instead, they do internet searches. They click on links. They read short pieces that drop into their laps from direct mail packages. Your content means you’ll get a slice of their attention.

Q. Why should I offer free content?

Why offer free content? With Word Wise at Nonprofit Copywriter
  • To generate leads. People find out about you from your lead magnet, free report or helpful article. You become their new favorite “expert” about your cause.
  • To educate your audience. Reliable, thought-provoking information raises awareness and answers questions. Your readers become ambassadors for your cause.
  • To build goodwill. The public is sick of waste and greed. You earn big brownie points by providing something at no cost that’s useful.
  • To create an archive. A good percentage of your articles are likely “evergreen,” meaning they’ll remain relevant to readers for a long time. You’ll be able to use them over and over again.
  • To cultivate awareness. Free content primes the pump. Rather than only sending out appeals, do your part by equipping partners and prospects with helpful information that inspires. Then, when the time comes for you to make an ask, they’ll remember what you gave them for free.

Q. What kinds of pieces should I offer?

  • How tos. How to talk to your kids about drugs
  • Lists. 7 ways to keep our lakes clean
  • Statistics related to your cause. Facts about Jones County elderly
  • Maps and graphics. Tribes and tongues in the Congo
  • Breaking news. No more after-school programs provided by the state
  • Lead magnets

The list is endless. Just make sure your content addresses your cause or niche.

Q. Where should I use it?

  • On your website. Offer an opt-in ("lead magnet") as a free download. Post an online article archive as a value-added to surfers. Rotate and add new material often so visitors bookmark your URL as a “must-check-often” site.
  • On other sites. Submit articles to online clearinghouses to receive bigger distribution. Always insist on a link back to your website so readers can find out more about you.
  • In email. Send out regular informational emails to your house list to cultivate and educate your audience. Include a “please forward to a friend” message.
  • As a special report. Provide download instructions online.
    In printed matter. Use a short article as an insert in an appeal letter … a blurb on the back of a response device … a special box in a letter.

Q. Who should write my content?

Task a talented staff writer with putting together content. If your staff is stretched to the limit or you normally outsource your written pieces, work with a freelancer.

Q. Are there pitfalls I should avoid as I write content?

  • Useless or inaccurate information. It’s a certain way to lose credibility.
  • Boring writing. Everything from your organization should scream “quality.”

Q. Why does free content work?

  • Everyone likes a freebie.
  • Everyone likes experts.
  • Everyone likes freebies from experts who want to help them.

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