They Work Year-Round, Not Just End-of-Year

We've all been talking about marketing and fundraising campaigns a lot with the end-of-year giving season rapidly approaching. But the idea of a multi-week or multi-month campaign works year-round too.

I'm a fan of editorial calendars, but you can't let the calendar drive the process of deciding what content you create. That's a trap that's very easy to fall into, but ultimately means you are just focusing on tactics (seeing only the trees) and failing to employ a real strategy (seeing the whole forest). Instead, try using campaigns or communications arcs.

Using the Campaign Approach

Campaigns are usually very goal and/or deadline driven. You announce your goal or deadline (or both) and then as the days and weeks pass, you continue to urge your supporters to help you achieve it. You give them progress reports along the way, and inspire them with stories from others who are helping, and those who will be helped, as a result.There's usually a big push at the beginning and an even bigger one at the end.

Fundraising goals are the most obvious example (We need to raise $50,000 by December 31 so this good thing will happen.) But you can use the campaign model for all kinds of goals and deadlines. Let's get 20 letters to the editor submitted this month. When 100 people register for the workshop, Smith Company will buy lunch. You get the picture. Sketch out your communications plan so that it builds toward that goal or deadline.

Using the Communications Arc

I've talked about communications arcs before. The general idea is the same as a campaign, but you focus on the major points of a story instead of a goal or deadline. Arcs should also bring your supporters along toward an end -- but it's the end of the story (and hopefully a happy one). As you sketch out your communications plan, you want to build in some drama and build expectations so your supporters can't wait to see how everything turns out.

Last time I taught the Taming Your Editorial Calendar and Content Creation Process webinar, participants came up with these ideas for communications arcs:

  • Follow one school, or one teacher, throughout the school year, showing how our work is helping them.
  • Follow a set of foster parents as they begin fostering for us or taking in a new child.
  • Watch the renovation of a community center, or chronicle how a green building is designed and built
  • Watch one of our legislative battles from beginning to end

Instead of letting all the empty boxes in your editorial calendar drive your content decisionmaking, start with campaigns and arcs first.  Think of 3-5 campaigns or arcs that can make up the bulk of your annual communications plan. Fill in the calendar with those. Then go back and see what boxes are still empty and really need filling.

This article first appeared in Kivi's Nonprofit Marketing Tips, a free weekly e-newsletter.