Establishing a Year Long Communication Plan for Your Nonprofit

March is almost gone. Let me grab your attention…

Your calendar year end appeal will start in just eight months. I know, you’re probably thinking, why should I start thinking about my year end appeal now? Let me try to answer the question.

Between now and December 1, which is probably the absolute latest you want your year end appeal to hit peoples’ mail boxes, email inboxes, and social media channels, you have a host of other executables that have to get done.

Let’s guess at what a bullet list of items you’ll be working on between now and then  might look like…

  • Outbound written communications, digital and print – letters, newsletters, website updates, emails, social media posts.
  • Brochures – you might have a communications team to this for you, but chances are sometime during the year you’ll need to update some of your communication pieces.
  • Events – maybe its a 10k run, maybe a golf outing, maybe a gala, maybe all three and more besides! You’ll have events you need to plan and organize.
  • Major donor visits – if you’re like most nonprofits, a signficant portion of your annual support comes from a relatively small circle of donors who give to you generously. That’s a good thing. At the same time, those people give, at least partially, because the relationship they have with you or the head of your organization. Maintaining those relationships takes time, time to plan, time to organize, an time to meet.

That’s why I point out to you that your year end fundraising appeal is just nine months away. There’s lots to do between now and then, and if you don’t get organized and plan ahead, the year will get away from you and I can predict, you’ll be scrambling to get everything done.

You need an annual calendar to get yourself organized and move toward maximum effectiveness.

I like to set up such a calendar by the categories noted above. Plan what you’ll do in terms of regular outbound communications, updating print tools (create digital versions as well), events, and major donor contacts. Eventually you need to get into detailed planning mode for most of these components. For now, just lay out what you need to do and when, probabliy month by month.

To make it really clear, here’s how I’d approach it:

Outbound Communications

  • January
    • Mailing – Letter thanking donors for support and looking back – January 5 in homes
    • Enewsletter – January 20 release
    • Social Media Posts
      • Week 1 – Thank you for your support – January 5
      • Week 2 – Personal story of life impact through your organization – January 12
      • Week 3 – Consider becoming a monthly donor – January 19
      • Week 4 – Mark your calendar for our spring gala – January 26

For your outbound communications go through and make plans for every month. Then move on to the other categories.

And be sure to make your schedule realistic. Most of us are inclined to think we can accomplish more than is realistically possible. It’s better to set achievable goals and accomplish them than to set yourself up for failure by thinking you can do more. Hopefully this little prod, this early in the year sets you up for success later on.

And by the way, this sort of advance plan doesn’t really take that long. 12 months to plan out….maybe ten minutes to write down a draft of what you’ll do each month. 2 hours total if my math is right. No big deal.

Then, every month or two, open up that document and update the two or three months at the far end. When you do that, it will be even easier because chances are for March of next year, for example, you can just copy what you have for March of this year, and make a few changes. As you go forward and do just a little better with advance planning, you’ll get more proficient at it.