Donor retention continues to lag. One reason is people feel they only hear from the nonprofits they support when the organizations are asking for money.
You need to communicate with your donors throughout the year. If you’re feeling stressed about how you’re going to pull this off, then you need a communications calendar (also known as an editorial calendar).
I like the term communications calendar because it emphasizes the importance of communicating with your donors and other supporters all year round.
This is not just a job for your marketing department. All departments need to work together. Figure out what information you need to share and when to share it. You want a consistent stream of information – not three emails in one day and nothing for three weeks.
As you put together your communications calendar, think about how you will use different channels and which audience(s) should receive your messages. You may only send direct mail a few times a year, but send an e-newsletter once a month and communicate by social media several times a week. You’ll often use a number of different channels when you send out a fundraising appeal or promote an event.
Start big by looking at the entire year and then break it down by months and weeks. You’ll keep adding to your communications calendar throughout the year.
Keep all your communication audience-centered and emphasize how you are making a difference for the people you serve and in the community.
Here are some categories you can use in your communications calendar. Some items will be time sensitive and others won’t be.
Does your organization hold any events? Besides your events, are there other events in your community that would be of interest to your supporters? This is a great thing to share on social media.
Advocacy alerts are a wonderful way to engage with your supporters. Be on the lookout for any federal or state legislation that’s relevant to your organization. Encourage people to contact their legislators about an issue or a bill. Then report back to them with any updates, and thank them for getting involved.
Time of year
Is there something going on during a particular month that is pertinent to your organization? Perhaps it’s homelessness awareness month or your organization was founded in March 1985.
Thanksgiving, the holidays, and winter can be a difficult time for some people. How can you weave that into your mission?
You won’t be able to predict news stories in advance. However, if there’s a hot item in the news right now that’s relevant to the work you do, that could be something to share.
Fundraising and recruitment
Be sure to add your fundraising appeals to your communications calendar. You want to highlight these and not inundate your donors with a lot of other information at that time.
If your organization has specific times it needs to recruit volunteers, add that to your calendar, as well.
Thank your donors
Figure out different ways to let your donors know how much you appreciate them. Do this at least once a month.
If you’re making a difference, you have stories to tell. Share a story at least once a month. Client success stories are best. You could also profile a board member, volunteer, donor, or staff member. Be sure to highlight what drew them to your organization.
Keep it up
As you hear about other relevant information, add it to your calendar, so you can stay connected with your supporters throughout the year.
Here is more information to help you create a communications/editorial calendar.