Many diverse hands coming together for one cause. Content marketing for Not-For-Profits

Content marketing for Not-For-Profits - TAYA and the Big 5 + 1

The basis of They Ask You Answer is to create consumer trust in order to maximise profits. But, as the name suggests, not-for-profits are not primarily interested in making money. So can they, and if so how, apply TAYA to their organisation and marketing strategy? Can content marketing for not-for-profits work with this approach?

TAYA and Not-for-profits – is it possible?

The answer is a definitive yes. After all, even though not-for-profits are not in it for the profit, they are as much as anyone looking to foster and increase trust with their target audiences. However, we need to tweak TAYA a little bit and look at it from a different perspective in order to make it work. It is necessary to keep in mind that, even though non-profits are not focused on profit-making, they still exist within a capitalist society and have to survive within it, whether it’s through grant funding, donations or selling products in order to raise money for their cause. So how can we apply TAYA when we find ourselves in that middle ground – needing money and support and wanting to spread awareness for our cause but not being in it for profit?

The very TAYA basic principles remain the same when talking about content marketing for not-for-profits: write down all questions people interested in your organisation have ever asked you and answer them truthfully. We think that categorising these questions, however, will look slightly different. Let’s have a look at the big 5 and one additional category for content marketing for not-for-profits.


Pricing & costs might not be the focus of your TAYA strategy and you might feel hesitant to talk about your organisation’s finances, but it’s worth noting what aspects in this category might be of interest to your audience. You might be selling services and products whose prices could be addressed. You might be relying heavily on donations or grant funding and your audience might be keen to know how exactly you are spending their donations or what the funding process entails. Don’t be shy in talking about these, but make sure to always connect them to your cause. Emphasise exactly why you need that money and how it will make a difference in the world.


When it comes to problems to address, you as a not-for-profit might have more to talk about. Not necessarily because you are more flawed than for-profit organisations, but because your target audiences are likely more diverse and, thus, might raise a bigger variety of potential problems. A prospective volunteer might want to know how you hope to integrate them into your organisation if their work is to be long-distance, a customer of your recycled technology might inquire why they should trust that your repairs are as safe as professional ones, and a potential service user might wonder why they should trust you and your befriending volunteers with their mental health. Imagine what the biggest sceptic would challenge you about your organisation and engage with those questions. Ideally, you can turn these challenges into advantages and show why your organisation is the best to deal with these problems.


Comparisons look slightly different for not-for-profits. The sector shows a much higher interest in collaboration with other not-for-profits, so comparing yourself to similar organisations could shine an unwelcome negative light on those partners. However, comparisons are still possible. Firstly, as a not-for-profit you are likely aiming to make a change and have an impact on the status quo. Explaining the status quo and how your approach is better, is a great start. Equally, comparing yourself with other organisations can work if it is well-meaning.

Let’s assume you are a mental health charity offering one-to-one counselling. Other charities might also provide mental health support but with greater emphasis on group activities or befriending. You could lay out these different offers and explain which services are best for whom. This will foster your relationships with other organisations while positioning yourself as an expert and providing genuine value for someone who is not sure where to turn.

Reviews & Best in Class

Reviews and Best in Class follow in the same spirit – collaboration counts for more than leaving others in the lurch. It might appear odd to recommend other organisations instead of talking about how great you are, but the value of positioning yourself as an expert and building trust is immense. Whom do you trust more – the person who says they are the best in everything or the person who makes genuine judgements about what they are good in and what others might be doing better? Very likely the latter.

Equally, reviews and best-in-class do not have to focus on organisations that do exactly what you do. Find those that are on the periphery of what you do – somewhat related but not exactly the same. Have a look at software or tools that you use – do you have some expertise in the different available options and can talk a bit about which is best?


This sixth category must be your biggest focus in your content marketing strategy. It is what differentiates you from all for-profits and makes you unique: your cause and the impact you are aiming for. This is the reason for why you as an organisation exist and why you do what you. It’s been shown that “87% of people want meaningful interactions with brands.” and it’s easy to imagine that this number is even bigger for interactions with not-for-profit. After all, meaning and impact is not-for-profits’ main goal. So dig deep into that cause and answer all questions that your target audience might have. A Community Interest Company who does this well is The Blurt Foundation who post weekly blog posts and pieces of content surrounding their cause of increasing awareness and understanding of depression.

How about for-profits?

In fact, there is a case to be made for for-profit organisations also considering their values and causes. Even though their main goal is to make a profit, more and more consider themselves as following certain values and being socially and environmentally conscious. Whereas talking about your cause might not massively impact your SEO, it is likely to increase your audiences’ trust in you, whether it’s on social media or offline marketing. Including values in your marketing as a for-profit and showing your customers what you stand for, will raise your profile and give your customers something to connect to.

When customers feel connected to brands, more than half of consumers (57%) will increase their spending with that brand and 76% will buy from them over a competitor.

If you stick to these 6 categories within your content marketing for not-for-profits, you are on track for a heap of great content. You will continuously expand your online resources, providing valuable content to prospective volunteers, donors & service users and position yourself and your organisation as an expert in your field. 

They Ask You Answer - The Basics

Whether you call it inbound marketing, content marketing or digital marketing, the goal is the same: attract consumers by providing valuable content. This blog post introduces the They Ask You Answer approach which gets to the core of that goal and its application. It is based on Marcus Sheridan’s book of the same name (2019). All page numbers refer to the book. 

The Problem

The past decade has seen dramatic changes in consumer behaviour and marketing. The main ‘culprit’ – as so often – is the internet. It makes it possible for people to acquire honest reviews about products, find countless articles and posts about literally any kind of product or service and it does so within seconds. “Today, on average, 70% of the buying decision is made before a prospect talks to the company.” (p.9)

With so much material out there and decisions being made before you even speak to a prospective customer/service user, why not make sure that information is provided by you in a transparent, knowledgeable and truthful fashion? Why not position yourself as the expert? That is where Marcus Sheridan’s book They Ask, you Answer (TAYA) takes off. Sheridan, a content marketing expert, used to work for a struggling swimming pool business which was on the verge of collapsing. His approach to communicating with potential customers and making use of the possibilities digital tools offer have contributed in big part to the survival of the company.

So, what is TAYA about?

Ultimately, all organisations are interested in the same thing: consumer trust. How can that be achieved? Simple: answer consumer’s questions. This does not seem like anything new or revolutionary, but TAYA goes beyond a simple question-answer formula. It’s a business philosophy that centres solely around the question “What is my customer thinking? What are they searching, asking, feeling and fearing?” (p.21) Whereas in principle answering your customers questions is nothing new, the actuality of doing so and embedding it in everything you do is.

It all starts with a very simple exercise: write down every question you’ve ever been asked by a prospect or customer. (Maybe stop at 100 to start with.) Better still, sit down with your team and have everyone do this exercise. Keep in mind to do this from the perspective of the customer, so instead of writing “Why should you buy XYZ”, ask “What is XYZ and does it suit my needs?”. Put special focus on those things that might stop someone from engaging with you. What worries, fears or concerns could potentially come up with your product/services? Asking these questions as well as answering them might be scary, but if you’re not willing to answer them, someone else will on your behalf and potentially to your detriment.

The Big 5

When starting to sort through these questions, it’s likely that The Big 5, as Sheridan calls them, will come up again and again.

  • Pricing & costs (1) Ever looked at restaurant menu and seen no prices? Did you think ‘Perfect, I don’t care how much it costs’ or ‘The prices must be horrendous or why are they not telling them? I’m out of here’? If you’re anything like me, it’s the latter. The same principle applies to anything, really. Not stating your prices and costs is likely to deter prospective customers instead of making them trust you. Of course, addressing your prices isn’t always easy nor straightforward, particularly if you provide a service. You don’t have to give a price list, but addressing how your prices are made up, what influences them and why you price the way you price will go a long way in answering those important questions.

  • Problems (2) Another likely big part of your question list will have to do with problems and challenges. What are potential problems with your product/services? Again, answering these might not come easy to you, but if you don’t do it, negative reviews and competitors are likely to do it for you. Once you consider what negative aspects your competition and your customers might say about you, you can address them honestly and transparently and, potentially, turn them into an advantage.

  • Versus & comparisons (3) One of the big changes that the internet has enabled is the ease with which people can explore a variety of options and compare products/services. You’re not faced with only 2-3 options in your local shop, but with potentially hundreds of options online. You have probably found yourself comparing a lot of products online before making a bigger purchase choice. When you do so, you’re looking for honest comparisons and reviews, not biased ones. So how do you gain trust and avoid that consumers think you’re being biased when writing about your own products/services? Disarm your reader from the start by admitting honestly: “We might not be the best fit for you, but we also could be. It’s for you to decide. Here are the different options.” You’re acknowledging that they might have needs you cannot fulfil which makes you an honest and transparent expert.

  • Reviews (4) and Best in class (5) These two might feel a bit strange. Should you really review and recommend competitors services and products? Look at it this way: Very few people will be better suited than you to make an informed decision about the best services and products offered in your field. Reviewing and recommending them will position you further as an expert, build your network with those recommended organisations and, last but not least, establish trust again. Keep in mind though to not include yourself in your list of Best in Class, you don’t want to appear biased.

What now?

Once you’ve listed and sorted trough all those questions, the next step is – you guessed it – to answer them. Start with the most important ones and allocate them to different team members to answer in form of a blog post. It can seem like a lot at first, but just get started. Over time, your team will get into the habit of writing these posts and it’ll get easier. By doing so, you’re continuously expanding your online resources, providing valuable content to prospective customers/clients and positioning yourself as an expert in your field. You will also save more and more resources by not answering these questions over and over again – you can now just refer those who ask to the blog post that already exist.

This is the very basis of TAYA. It does not stop there, though. Answering questions in written form is one thing (and a great start!), but wouldn’t it be better to answer some (or all) questions in video form? And how does this approach impact your website? Where do you take the time from to create all this content? Especially if you’re working in a not-for-profit environment, how can you afford this time-intense approach? And how can you convince your team to buy into TAYA and keep them motivated?

There are many, many more aspects to TAYA which we will explore further in future blog posts. If you’re already intrigued and want to have a chat about how you could make this approach work for you, get in touch and we’ll have a chat to see how we can help you.