How To Get More Online Donations With Content Marketing

March 12, 2017 0 Comments

It’s no secret that content is king when it comes to engaging and delighting donors and members alike.

But did you know that writing content for donor intent can be used to target people ready to donate online content can also be used to target donor intent?

In this post, I’m going to show you how to get online donations with content marketing.

While the execution isn’t always so clear, content marketing can increase visitors to your site and help to convert them into online donors.

By writing for donor intent, you can position your posts in front of a group of people ready to take an action.

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What Is Donor Intent?

Wikipedia: In philanthropy, donor intent is the purpose, sometimes publicly expressed, for which a philanthropist intends a charitable gift or bequest.

Donor intent is most often expressed in gift restrictions, terms, or agreements between a donor and donee, but it may also be expressed separately in the words, actions, beliefs, and giving practices of a philanthropist.

what is donor intent

University of Iowa: The donor intent of the gift establishes the guidelines for how they want their donation to be used.  Some gifts are for a very specific purpose and others are more general.

Philanthropy RoundtableDonor intent ensures that the assets they dedicate to charity are disbursed as they intend.

Why Donor Intent Matters For Online Donations

With donor intent, the decision to give is already decided.

Phrases like, “how can I donate my car”, or “where can I donate my car”, imply the searcher is ready to make a donation online.

Informative keywords like, “best charity to donate a car”, or, “what can I do with my old car,” implies the searcher is in the process of a decision, but is not ready to take an action.

Yes, ranking on the top page for the phrase, “best car,” might drive 5,000 visitors to your site.


But it can be difficult to convert that traffic into online donations.

This idea extends to other broad phrases like, “10 best charities,” or “10 biggest nonprofits.”

That leaves you with donor into keywords.

Consider this:

If someone is looking for a nonprofit to donate their car online to support children in need, then Wheels For Wishes might be a perfect match.

But what if this donor doesn’t know Wheels For Wishes exists? What would their online searches look like?

  • “Donate my car”
  • “How to donate a car”
  • “Where can I donate my car?”
  • “Donate my car to charity”

These donor intent keywords suggest the searcher is ready to donate online.

In this case, Wheels For Wishes would want their site to appear on the first page of search results for these terms.

But you’re probably wondering:

How do I identify these key phrases for my organization?”

Let’s take the phrase, “how to donate a car,” as an example.

how to donate a car online

According to Google Adwords, “how to donate a car” shows an estimated 1,000 monthly searches.

A low searched term, but that’s okay.

The whole goal of targeting donor intent keywords isn’t the quantity of search, but rather quality.

Think about it this way:

Would you rather have 100,000 visitors to your site who are likely to never give?

Or, 10,000 visitors who are highly engaged and willing to donate online right now?

Of course, when it comes to identifying keyword quality there are a few things to look for:

  1. A monthly search volume of at least 100
  2. View who advertises for the phrase (especially competition)
  3. Analyze the average cost per click (CPC) for the keyword/phrase

One of the most interesting things about the phrase, “how to donate a car,” is that there are 7 websites advertising for it on Google.

how to donate a car advertising

When we dig into the keyword phrase a little deeper, we can see the cost per click (CPC) is $30.87.

keywords everywhere chrome extension

But why are nonprofits willing to spend so much money on advertising?

Well, one online donation could be worth thousands of dollars on average.

Thus, you can justify spending $500-$1,000 per month on paid advertising when the marketing ROI is high.

There are a plenty of free tools available to analyze keywords and phrases, but my personal favorite is Keywords Everywhere

Their chrome extension is built into the Google search bar and provides real-time data on keywords:

  • Average monthly search volume
  • Cost Per Click
  • Level of Advertising Competition

You can also plug in and track keywords using the bulk upload feature.

keywords everywhere research tool

This data is pulled directly from Google Adwords, so the estimations are based on actual search results.

Pro Tip: Look for a keyword that has a high CPC, but low competition.

The high CPC implies a potential return on investment, while the lower competition means it’s not as well known of a searched term.

Thus, you may have an easier time ranking content in search results.

Competitive Keyword Research

Donors gave $373 billion dollars last year, with total annual giving expected to grow 3.6% in 2017.

What’s most interesting is that individuals and households make up 70% of all donations.

annual giving expected to grow

That’s $270 billion dollars expected to be donated by individuals in 2017.

According to a donor loyalty study conducted by Abilia, donors aged 40-59 give $478 million dollars annually in the form of online donations.


These same people are likely to be searching donor intent keywords to search which charity to give to.

There’s just one downside:

People are only willing to give so much money in a given year.

Therefore, competition to raising donations online exist either directly through a complementary organization, or indirect by the capped donations available.

You can’t do much about the latter. People are only willing to give so much of their annual income to charity.

But what if you could target and rank for competitive keywords to passively collect donations online?

Wouldn’t that be easier than trying to ask for online donations through email newsletter campaigns?

Let’s continue using, “how to donate a car,” for this example:

how to donate a car search results

The top websites that show up on the first page for this term are:

  1. Charitywatch
  2. Edmunds
  3. Charity Watch
  4. Kars 4 Kids
  6. Donate A Car
  7. Wheels For Wishes
  8. Car Donation Wizard

Next, let’s dig into the analytics of one of these sites,, to see what donor intent keywords they rank for.

This is the dashboard within SEMrush, a paid tool that provides data to analyze website keywords, backlinks, and more.

wheels for wishes website analysis

The cost is nominal (about $100 per month) for the value you get in return.

If you scroll down a bit on the dashboard you can view the top organic keywords Wheels For Wishes ranks for, as well as their main organic competitors.

donor intent keywords wheels for wishes

By clicking on the view full report table under top organic keywords you’ll be directed to a page listing all ranked keywords.

wheels for wishes organic keywords

Since we’re looking for phrases that are related to, “how to donate a car,” we can apply a few filters to match our search.

donate car SEMrush wheels for wishes

You can take your keyword research one step further by searching for related matches.

This will populate a list of known keywords that are similar to the phrase you want to rank for.

Pro Tip: Filter keywords by Traffic %. This category shows the share of traffic driven to the website with the given keywords.

Once you’ve identified a few competitor keywords, you can use them in your content to rank for and take their traffic.

The best part about using SEMrush is that it also shows you the page the keyword is ranking for.

wheels for wishes first page

You can use this information to understand the type of content you need to create to rank for a competitor’s keyword.

Now the real work begins.

How To Rank Content For Donor Intent Keywords

There’s a hard truth in Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

75% of internet users never scroll past the first page in search results.

And if your site doesn’t rank within the top 3 search results you’re missing out on 61% of total traffic for that keyword.

top 3 search results

In other words, not ranking on the first page and in the top 3 positions could be costing you tons of potential online donations to your site.

Don’t let this discourage you.

Following a few SEO best practices can still rank your content ahead of the competition, and for your donor intent keywords.

Here’s how you do it:

SEO Ranking Factors

Google has over 200 SEO ranking factors but forget about trying to optimize for all of them.

technical seo for nonprofits

Some factors, technical SEO (off-page SEO) for example, can have an impact on your overall organic search results.

And while it would be great to optimize these areas, most nonprofits:

  • Have limited resources to dedicate to marketing
  • Lack in-house expertise to focus on SEO
  • Cannot afford a digital marketing agency

There is a bright side to this.

Technical SEO alone isn’t going to dramatically decrease your ranking opportunities.

In fact, the primary purpose of technical SEO is to make it easier to search engines to crawl and index your site’s pages more quickly.

At the very least, your website should be collecting data from Google Analytics and connecting that information to your Google Search Console.

But if you don’t want to miss out on 61% of traffic for donor intent keywords then you have to master on-page SEO.

On Page SEO

On-page SEO is fundamental to rank your site on search engines.

This is because on-page SEO is the language Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines use to sort pages and provide relevant results.

Here’s everything you need to know about on-page SEO:


How To Use Latent Semantic Indexing

At one point, keyword stuffing was a common tactic used to rank websites.

Marketers would identify a keyword they wanted to rank for and then insert it as many times as they could into their content.

Then along came Google Panda and Hummingbird updates.

These updates eliminated keyword stuffing as well as aimed at making interactions more human – capable of understanding the concepts and relationships between keywords.

What kind of impact did this have on websites that relied on keyword stuffing?

Google keyword stuffing penalty

A massive drop in traffic resulting in a huge loss in potential revenue.

A study by Social Media Sun shortly after the updates found that content written with 1.5% to 2% keyword density dominated search results.

keyword density effects on search results

In other words, if you’re trying to rank the phrase “how to donate a car,” it should only appear 15 – 20 times per 1,000 words.

And even that may be too much.

So if keyword stuffing is out then what does Google look for?

The answer is Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords.

LSI keywords help Google understand what your site is about by providing context for search results.

Here’s how it works:

First, head over to LSIgraph, which is a free LSI keyword generator tool and Insert the keyword you’re seeking to rank for.

In this case, “how to donate a car.


Next, a list will populate with related keyword phrases.

how to donate a car lsi

Be sure to identify which keyword phrases have ranking potential by using search volume, CPC, and competition as key indicators.

Finally, select 5-10 of these related phrases and use them in your content along with the keyword you want to rank for. 

You can also use these related phrases in your internal link building strategies.

This will help to avoid Google penalties related to exact match anchor text links.

As a result, you’re telling Google that your content is about donating a car online to charity and that the search engine should be ranking you for your target keyword and its related keywords.

Pro Tip: Write content between 2,000 and 2,500 words.

Studies have proven longer form content dominates search results.

This is because they are more valuable to the reader by going in-depth on the topic and by providing actionable takeaways.

Related Article: 8 Research-Backed Ways To Improve Marketing For Nonprofits

content marketing for nonprofits length

Internal Link Building Done Right

Links on your site do a lot to support your content with facts, provide related reading material, and also assists Google with understanding what your site is about.

When done correctly, internal link building can lift your site in search results – sometimes as effectively as backlinks.

internal link building

Consider these best practices of internal link building to avoid Google penalties:

  • Use links that aid website navigation
  • Use relevant links to support your content
  • Use links that are natural to the reader
  • Avoid homepage links – most pages link to the homepage by default

Anchor Text Links

Another key factor to consider with internal links is the anchor text used.

Industry studies show that search engines use the link text as an indicator for topic relevance.

You can approach anchor text in two ways:

  1. Exact Match Anchor Text
  2. LSI Anchor Text

Exact match anchor text refers to using target keywords as the links primary text:

exact match anchor text online donations

This is a gray hat SEO technique that won’t automatically penalized your site in results, but its overuse is frowned upon by Google.

The reason this SEO technique is categorized as a gray hat technique is because it works extremely well to rank for targeted keywords.

Similar to keyword stuffing, overuse of this technique leaves your content sounding unnatural to your site’s visitors.

As a result, the visitor might leave your site prematurely, reducing your chances of converting them into an online donor.

However, using LSI anchor text is a bit more natural for your readers and is encouraged by search engines.

LSI anchor text how to get more online donations

Likewise, you increase your chances of ranking for keywords that are similar to your target, thereby boosting overall organic search traffic.

Pro Tip: Keep track of internal links within each of your posts and be sure to only link to pages relevant to the content.

The Yoast SEO Plugin is perfect for keeping track of related content links, assuming you host your site on WordPress.

Alternatively, a spreadsheet tracking internal links of your articles works just as well.

yoast internal link building plugin

Create A Digital Marketing Plan

Driving online donations to your site can be an incredibly difficult and time-consuming task.

While content marketing and SEO for nonprofits are important, they’re just pieces of the puzzle to rank for in Google.

In the end, your activities need to be supported by an integrated digital marketing plan.

Nonprofit Marketing Goal

Content is king, but not enough on its own to guarantee first page results.

It’s crucial that your nonprofit marketing strategy builds links to your site, encourages social sharing, and actively promotes content.

These 3 factors are key in lifting your content to the top 10 spots.


So to recap, you can get more online donations with content marketing if you:

  1. Target donor intent keywords in your content and marketing material
  2. Use keyword research tools to outrank the competition
  3. Follow on-page SEO best practices to rank your content
  4. Use Latent Semantic Indexing to rank for related keywords
  5. Write long form (2,000 – 2,500 word) value-adding content for your audience
  6. Promote your content, encourage social sharing, and build backlinks
  7. Support your marketing activities with an integrated strategy

Are you targeting donor intent keywords to get more online donations with content marketing? Let us know what kind of success you’ve had by leaving a comment below!

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AboutJason Firch
My passion is to help nonprofits and associations realize the value in their digital marketing. Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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