Monthly Nonprofit Writing Prompts to Help with Writer's Block
You need ideas to create an editorial calendar, but sometimes that's easier said than done. Our Monthly Nonprofit Writing Prompts e-newsletter can help with the dreaded writer's block that all of us face at some point. Every month we'll email you at least 10 ideas for your blog, newsletter or social media accounts. Just fill out the form below to be added to the mailing list. The newsletter is sent the first week of every month.
Your Big Picture Communications Timeline
I don't believe you can create an effective editorial calendar without first doing a Big Picture Communications Timeline.
How to Set up an Editorial Calendar
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.
How to Organize Your Editorial Calendar
You can organize an editorial calendar in several ways.
By Channel. Create a separate editorial calendar for each major communications channel that requires a significant amount of content, such as your newsletter or blog. You can also create an editorial calendar to note when you'll post new content to Facebook or Twitter.
By Audience. You can also organize editorial calendars by audience. If you have multiple, distinct audiences (e.g., teachers, parents, and students) and you want to ensure that you communicate with them regularly, you might create a calendar for each audience with your channels down the side and your time frames across the top. If you have several groups of people who you're trying to reach out to and you're concerned that your communications may unconsciously favor one group or other, this method will help you find the right balance.
By Program. You can also organize editorial calendars by program if you have several different programs and you want to make sure that you are spending an appropriate amount of time communicating about each one. Just as with the audience-oriented calendar, you can list your program across the top, dates down the side, and fill in the blocks with channels and specifics about the content you’ll deliver there.
Once you have drafted your editorial calendars, it’s helpful to add one more layer of information to them about priorities. While you may plan out what you think is a reasonable calendar of blog posts for the coming month, reality always has a way of mucking up your plans. If you highlight the boxes on the grid that are “must-dos” versus “would like to dos,” you will more easily see how to adjust the calendar to address whatever may arise.
Behavioral scientists tell us when you put something in writing and you say exactly what you're going to do, when you're going to do it, and where you're going to do it, you're more likely to actually do it. So even if you use your editorial calendar more as a planning tool than day-to-day guidance for your to-do list, it’s still a valuable exercise to complete.
How Other Nonprofits Manage Their Editorial Calendars
What Goes on Your Editorial Calendar
- Manage Your Communications with Campaigns and Arcs
- The 50-50 Rule for Creating Great Content
- 20 Favorite Formats for Nonprofit Content
- Get our Monthly Nonprofit Writing Prompts (free email newsletter)