Managing Your Nonprofit’s Communications Calendar

NTEN CHANGEI highly recommend that you subscribe to the Nonprofit Technology Network’s quarterly online journal, NTEN: Change.  I’m on the editorial board, and it’s free. It’s written in plain English (i.e. for non-techies) to help nonprofit leaders make sound decisions about how they use and invest in technology. I’m reposting here a short article I wrote for the current edition on using technology to manage your editorial calendar.

Long gone are the days when a quarterly print newsletter was all you had to think about it. Today, nonprofits are mini media moguls, publishing and broadcasting in multiple channels, from print and email, to social media and the airwaves.

Reaching out to more people, more often, demands an integrated approach to your marketing and fundraising communications. Otherwise, you’ll send mixed messages and end up with “all action, no traction” communications.

That’s where an editorial calendar comes in. That simple word processing table or spreadsheet might still work. But to properly manage the overall communications flow coming out of multiple staff members and being delivered to your supporters through multiple channels, you need something a little more robust. Strongly consider a web-based solution that allows out-of-office (and ideally mobile) access to the files.

The next decision is really one of personal preference: do you prefer to see topics, assignments, channels, and dates at a glance in a spreadsheet layout, or do you prefer to organize this same information on a calendar? Both can work equally well, but your viewing preference will help decide which tool to use.

If you prefer spreadsheets, the simple solution is a shared Google Docs spreadsheet. Use a new tab for each month or quarter. If you want to upgrade to a tool with more project management features, but still in a spreadsheet framework, consider something like Smartsheet.

If you prefer a calendar view, set up several Google calendars within one account (e.g. one for each communications channel). This allows you to layer the calendars on top of each other so you can see everything at once, while using the color of each calendar to identify the channel. To upgrade to a calendar-based project management system, try something like Basecamp.

Want More?

Watch our series of video interviews on how nonprofits are managing their editorial calendars

Order a copy of Kivi’s new e-book, The Nonprofit Content Marketing Cookbook

Join us for Rethinking Your Newsletter: Making It More Relevant for Today on September 20, 2011.

  • Ifdy Perez

    Good suggestions, Kivi. I really like how Google Docs works, especially its shared settings. When documents are edited, Google moves them to the top of your list and puts them in bold so you know someone made a change. It’s also great in that it lets you edit the document right on there, without having to download it first (certainly helps any issues with version control). For some reason, I feel files can get lost after a while in Basecamp; it doesn’t work as well for file management but I do think it’s good in project management (assigning tasks, milestones, brainstorming). I haven’t tried to access Basecamp on mobile though, so I’m not sure how it works in that case.

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  • Annaliese

    Thanks for contributing this birds-eye view and tips to the journal, Kivi, and sharing them here! At NTEN, we use our organizational google calendars to manage our messaging schedule.  We have a single calendar displaying  Email messaging, and another calendar assigned to social media.  We use those calendars to request messaging from the staff who manage those channels, and also to make sure we don’t over-message any group.  We also have an overall ”editorial calendar” — which is really a spreadsheet in google docs that identifies major organizational events and milestones across the 12 months of the year, so we can coordinate messaging and complementary content and programming.

  • lockem

    Great and useful
    post! I would add that if you like the functionality of Google docs, but still
    prefer having a calendar layout, you can download a calendar spreadsheet
    template.  Search for the calendars from
    your Google docs homepage or click on “Browse template gallery.”  Because it’s a spreadsheet, it will allow you
    to house a collection of tabs in one document. Within that, you can keep
    additional notes or calendars for different months.

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