It’s never too late to get organized and create a fundraising communications calendar
One of the secrets of successful fundraising is consistency. But if your calendar is hit and miss, or “ask for money when we’re in trouble”, you need to put some structure into your plans.
Creating a communication calendar is how you do that. Planning ahead means less panic and a better product. And that gives you the flexibility to veer from your plans when needed.
One note before we begin: a fundraising communications calendar should be created by fundraisers. You likely have different goals from your marketing folks. Definitely work together, but for fundraising, fundraisers get the last say.
Start with the big-picture calendar
Your calendar is a combination of messaging, channel, and timing. How often should you mail? Email? What should you send donors and when should you send it?
There is no perfect answer. As with so much about fundraising, it depends on your organization, your needs, and your resources. But to simplify it for you, think about 3-4 appeals each year and the same number of donor newsletters. Separate each by 4-6 weeks and you’re staying in touch throughout the year.
If that cadence terrifies you (or the finance department), here’s what to consider. You may think about your donors every day. But they aren’t giving your organization the same attention. Often, when your nonprofit is out of sight, you’re out of mind. And some other organization is there… ready to ask for gifts.
Here’s something else to soothe the keepers of the budget. Done well, both appeals and donor newsletters can raise money. That’s right… it costs money and time to create your communications and send them. But if you think about them as both relationship-building and money-raising… it’s a win all around.
Set some goals
- What will success look like? (# renewed donors, #regained lapsed donors, # new donors? Dollars from each group?)
- What do you have to work with? (Budget, stories, potential match gifts, CRM to track results?)
- What have your donors responded well to in the past? (Direct mail, email? Areas of your mission?)
Plan for groups of donors
Ideally, every person you communicate with will feel as if you’re writing to her alone. But unless your organization is really tiny, you can’t do that. But you can make it feel that way.
Start by segmenting your lists. Think about the amount given, when their last gift was, what request they responded best to, and what channel (email, mail, social, etc.) they responded to.
Once you have this information, you can create groups of donors likely to respond in a similar way to a similar ask. If you know some donors only respond to requests to support children’s programming, you can create an ask to fit their passion. If you know how much a donor usually gives, you can peg the ask accordingly.
Don’t panic! It’s not as complex as it may sound. You can often build flexibility for those factors into the same appeal. (Merge fields are your friend.)
Plan your messaging
This will take some thought. But right now, focus on the big picture.
What are the greatest needs your organization is meeting right now? How much does it cost to meet those needs? Can you break that amount into donor-sized pieces?
If your organization has a variety of programs, don’t worry! This is why you’re planning now. Slot in the 3 or 4 most critical areas for your appeals. Include the others in your newsletters.
Now you need to get your stories. I’m hoping you’re already friendly with the program staff at your organization, or the volunteers who may help with the work. Because you need to get some great stories to support the messaging you’ve chosen.
And the best way to do that is to actually see the work happening and talk to the people helping and being helped. Sometimes this means you have to go in search of those people and those stories. But it’s so worth it!
Put it all together in a calendar
If it’s not on a calendar, it’s not real. Work back from your mail or send dates and put in all the steps it will take to reach those goals. Leave yourself a little wiggle room because stuff happens, right?
Your calendar doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet.
What matters is that you plan for it. Break the process into steps and get those steps into your daily tasks. Talk to any outside vendors you’ll need (mail house, copywriters, designers…) and get it on their calendars, too.
Having a fundraising communications calendar frees you to work with less worry
Knowing you’ve put in the organizational work ahead of time means fewer late nights and frantic 3 am nightmares. It also means you’ll know when you’ll be most busy and when you have time for other tasks.
Creating your fundraising communications calendar does take work. But it leads to more effective fundraising… and a more relaxed and successful you!
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash