We live in a time of constant communication streaming in from every possible vantage point. This makes it ever more important to be consistent and strategic in your communications to the donors who support your work. You want a healthy balance between keeping donors in the loop and not overwhelming them with too much information.
Keeping a donor communications calendar can be a struggle. It is typically one of those tasks that lives perpetually on the back burner to be tackled only when there is rare downtime.
For many of us, summer time slows things down just enough to take a breath and prepare for the usual fundraising onslaught that hits from September on, when we need to get all of those donations in by the end of the year.
Here is an inside look at how I set up my donor communications calendar. As always, I keep it simple, and I focus it only on the upcoming six months with the goal being a system I can rely on when the inevitable end-of-year chaos ensues.
Grab the worksheet to accompany this article!
Schedule time to brainstorm.
First up? I put two hours in the calendar to sit down and brainstorm all of the content that could get penciled in on the donor communication calendar. A simple step, but one I find needs to be done in order to get the process started. If it is not on the calendar, it’s not going to happen.
Now take that time to brainstorm.
During that two-hour brainstorming session, I look at three primary questions:
- What are we doing in the next six months that is newsworthy? This is usually centered around our work and our programs. Even if it is not set in stone just yet, I jot it down.
- What point about our mission do I want to get across to donors? This one is a little more conceptual beyond letting donors know the latest updates and happenings. I think about stories I could share that exemplify our vision and the impact our work has in the world.
- What channels do I want to use to communicate with our donors? There is, of course, the ubiquitous email newsletter but I find that the most meaningful communications go beyond the computer. Other channels can take the shape of events, one-to-one meetings or old-fashioned snail mail. A few things that are typically on my own donor communications calendar are announcements, invitations, upcoming events, informal updates of what we have been working on, and one-to-one outreach.
Plug things into the calendar.
Once I have a cache of potential content, I start dropping communication items into the calendar. None of this is set in stone at this point. It is just to give me an idea of all things that I could share with donors and when that could happen.
Here’s the important thing about this step: I keep it all on a single page so that I see the entire six months at a glance. I don’t know about you, but I find that the more complicated the calendar, the less likely it is that I will ever use it.
Step back and see the forest.
Now that all of the potential communication items have been dumped into the calendar, I can clearly see where I would be overloading donors with way too much information and where there would be gaps of radio silence.
It is time to curate what will actually be shared with donors. I look at the calendar and weed out anything that does not speak directly to our mission or does not showcase our work in an amazing way. Donors don’t need to know every little detail of what goes on, and I want to be sure that what they do receive lands strong.
For gaps in the calendar where nothing is scheduled, I revisit the brainstorming list and look at what stories I could pull together that exemplify our impact.
Make a standing date.
After everything is laid out, I revisit the calendar weekly to be sure it is on track and to integrate anything that has shifted. During this standing date, I also look at our prospect list to see who I’ll reach out to in the upcoming week for one-to-one conversation and cultivation.
One last thing…
Once the calendar has been whittled down to a reasonable communications schedule, it is important that the “six months at a glance” donor communications calendar is in a place where you will see it regularly!