Originally posted on the Gurus NYC Blog. Reposted with permission.

Nonprofits have an extremely tough time keeping up with technology. How do we know?  Let’s take a look at some data.

Last year Content Marketing Institute did a study where they surveyed over 400 nonprofit marketers:

  • Only 26% of respondents think their organization effectively utilizes content marketing (to make things worse, a measly 1% thought their efforts were ‘very effective’).
  • Less than half of everyone surveyed say meetings are valuable and actually improve their organization’s content marketing efforts.

Respondents were also asked to rate the effectiveness of each tactic separately:

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These are the 10 tactics that nonprofit marketers rated most effective for their organization. Each and every one of these numbers has increased since the previous study.

That means nonprofit organizations are putting more focus on content marketing than ever, but the numbers are still low.

So how can nonprofits take things to the next level with their marketing? We analyzed the online content and social profiles of the top 100 nonprofits from around the world.

In the end, we chose the 5 campaigns that we felt were best executed and most effective at bringing awareness to the organization.

5. American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

The ACLU is a nonprofit organization whose mission is “to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in this country by the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

But how?

Through community empowerment, lobbying, and formal lawsuits. The ACLU has an annual budget of over $100 million and boasts over half a million members across the United States and Puerto Rico.

ACLU Trump Protest

This past November, they published a story in the New York Times, as well as their own blog stating that they will take legal action against Donald Trump if he chooses to carry out several of his proposed unconstitutional campaign promises.

America’s had one thing on its mind recently, the presidential election, and more specifically, Donald Trump.

Going after Trump fits perfectly for the ACLU, it was almost a no-brainer that was guaranteed to bring their organization a ton of awareness.

The story was featured in Bipartisan Report on 2 different occasions, first on November 9th, then again on November 18th. Combined, the two articles received over 500,000 social shares.

The story has also been featured on nearly every relevant online publication and gained widespread attention across social media.

If you go to the ACLU website, you can see they’re running a pop-up to generate new donations as part of the campaign.

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They have aligned their messaging across every channel in order to make the campaign as effective as possible.

Here’s their facebook cover photo:

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And the latest video uploaded to their Instagram:

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These platforms are here to stay and things are changing fast…

Television commercials and magazine ads are becoming less and less effective, while Facebook and Instagram ads yield huge returns.


Because we live on social media. We live on our mobile phones. We’re currently in a time where, in order to be truly successful, your tactics must change as technology changes.

A few years from now, marketing on these platforms will be extremely expensive.

The costs to advertise on Facebook and Instagram will continue to increase each day, so utilize them while you can.

4. Water Is Life

Water Is Life’s mission is to provide clean water, sanitation, and hygiene programs to schools and villages around the world.

They’re fighting against the global water crisis we currently face. To help raise awareness, they created a video to display in Times Square in New York City.

The video started running on December 24th, 2016 and has since been uploaded all around the web. This 10-second clip has received over 300,000 views and over 13,000 Facebook shares in total.


The #DEFUNDDAPL hashtag was used so that people can share and tag their own content relevant to the cause. Hashtags are a crucial part of content marketing, especially when it comes to Instagram and raising awareness for a good cause.

The story was also picked up by White Wolf Pack which generated an additional 18,000 social shares. You’re probably thinking, can social shares alone really prove the effectiveness of a marketing campaign?

Certainly not, but they give us a general idea of how popular something is, and how much awareness it’s generating.


The United Nations Children’s Fund was established over 70 years ago and is based in New York City.

They seek to improve the lives of children who are living in unfortunate circumstances. These are primarily children dealing with extreme poverty, violence, disease and discrimination.

UNICEF has an extremely active social presence. They post a seemingly endless amount of new visual content that people absolutely love.

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Why does their content work so well?

Because it hits us emotionally, and people rely on their emotions when making decisions about a brand. A strong emotional message combined with high-resolution photos and video is the key to dominating social media.

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If we look at some of the most-shared content online, we can see just how often folks are relying on emotional advertising.

In June of 2016, UNICEF created a video where they put six-year-old girl alone in the street in order to see how people would react.

The video begins with a powerful question:

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This gets people thinking before the video even begins. The video has nearly 2.8 million views on YouTube and has received over 70,000 social shares.

UNICEF also uploaded the video to Facebook which received a whopping 15 million views, over 300,000 shares, and 6,400 comments.

They also understand the importance of engaging with their community, so they make every effort possible to reply to comments on videos they upload.

Nonprofit organizations can learn a lot from UNICEF and the way they run their social media accounts, so take notes!

Not only are they killing it on social media, they even proposed a breastfeeding emoji which has been officially approved. This is part of UNICEF’s ongoing effort to normalize breastfeeding.

They firmly believe that all newborns should be breastfed within an hour of birth, it’s considered their first vaccine.

Mama Bean Parenting covered the story which generated over 40,000 social shares.

2. Oxfam

Oxfam is an international confederation of 19 organizations working together with partners and local communities in more than 90 countries to alleviate global poverty.

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The organization was founded in 1942 by a group of quakers, social activists, and Oxford academics.

They now operate in America, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hong Kong, India, Spain, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Netherlands, Quebec, South Africa, South Korea and Sweden.

Each location has its own website and is treated as a separate entity. This is great for SEO purposes. I always recommend using a new domain name and building out sub-brands for each location.

In January of 2017, they published a 48-page report that gives us a terrifying look into the flaws of our economy.

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8 rich men have the same wealth as the poorest half of the world.

Sickening, no?

The report has been featured in The Guardian, BBC, New York Times, ABC and NPR. These stories have been shared well over 200,000 times on social media in an extremely short period of time.

This would have been impossible just a couple of years ago. Oxfam understands how powerful the internet can be and has decided to take full advantage of it.

Last year, they created a Naughty Or Nice list to shine light on clothing companies using poor practices. This is a great thing, it forces companies to use better practices or they face being ridiculed and outed to the world.

Companies are now held accountable for their actions, whereas in the past, no one would ever know about their shady practices.

Bravo, Oxfam!

1. Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) is a nonprofit organization made up of human rights professionals, lawyers, journalists and academics of all types.

Their primary focus is on advocacy as well as bringing forth new research. HRW publishes over 100 reports and documents each and every year across 90 countries.

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Each year, they release a world report to summarize key issues within human rights across the globe. In their  2017 world report, they declared Donald Trump to be a major threat to human rights.

“Donald Trump’s election as US president after a campaign fomenting hatred and intolerance, and the rising influence of political parties in Europe that reject universal rights, have put the postwar human rights system at risk.”

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The 27th edition of their world report was featured on The Hill, CNN, Independant, Huffington Post and more generating a combined 150,000+ social shares.

It’s no wonder the report has picked up so much steam, it boasts a colossal 687 pages in total and goes into detail about the current issue on everyone’s mind, Donald Trump.

While this isn’t exactly a marketing campaign, it’s a powerful example of how online content can gain widespread attention when done right.


These brands show that regardless of industry and budget limitations, content marketing is a great way to get your message in front of new people. Get creative and provide as much value as possible with everything you distribute.

If you’re creating great content and no one is reading it, try these actionable techniques to start getting some eyes on your blog.

  • Brand values are important. Make sure everything you do is aligned with your brand’s mission. If you start to deviate as you grow, people often take that as “selling out”.
  • Social media is extremely powerful. While the majority of nonprofits still don’t fully understand social media, it’s clear just how useful it can be for gaining widespread attention for your brand message.
  • People hate being lied to. Your community expects full transparency from everyone at your organization. Don’t ever give them a reason to doubt you or the content you create, you should read like an open book from the very beginning.
  • Determine the most effective content formats for your brand. We must engage customers in the right place at the right time with our content. By carefully studying our audience, we begin to understand which types of content they like to consume at each stage of the buyer journey.

What’s the best nonprofit content marketing campaign you’ve seen recently?

Let us know in the comments below!