Juggling Your WorkloadI just took another look at the preliminary results from our 2013 Nonprofit Communications Trends survey (take it now, please!) and “lack of time to produce quality content” is the biggest challenge nonprofit communicators are facing, with almost 52% of the 300+ who have taken the survey picking that answer out of a list of a dozen choices.

This begs the question, “What is a reasonable amount of quality content to expect from a nonprofit communicator?”

What’s reasonable for you will be way too much for some and way too little for others. Figuring out what’s reasonable depends on several factors.

How ambitious your goals are. How many different kinds of target audiences are you trying to reach? Program participants or supporters or both? And with how many different messages and calls to action? How quickly and to what extent are you trying to increase turnout or raise money? Limiting the target audiences and the things you want them to do (your calls to action) is the first thing I recommend to overworked communications staff because these two factors have such a huge ripple effect on everything else.

The role of content marketing in achieving those goals. Just how important is the content you produce to achieving those goals? For example, if you are trying to establish your organization as an expert on a topic, be seen as the go-to source of news in your field, or build a grassroots network of citizen advocates, then you are going to need to create a lot more content than a nonprofit that provides direct social services to clients who show up at the door primarily via a strong referral network and word of mouth.

The level of resources available to implement the plan. If you don’t have the staff capacity, including time and talent, along with adequate financial resources to get the work done, then your goals are unreasonable. Plain and simple. Too many nonprofits create pie in the sky plans that they don’t back up with resources. That often creates negative situations where (1) everyone knows the plan is a farce, and so there is little accountability for anything or (2) people are essentially branded as failures even when they do their very best work. It’s certainly fine for a plan to have “stretch” goals, but only if everyone understands the difference between stretching and breaking.

The difficulty of the topic and the storytelling. Some nonprofits do really complicated, technical work that takes awhile to understand and translate into plain English. Others do highly personal work that requires a very careful, deliberate touch. In certain fields, and in certain situations, it simply takes longer to tell the story. This is especially true if your communications staff are not really fluent on the program side of things.

I know, I still haven’t answered the question: what’s a reasonable amount of content?

Here’s one example of what feels like a reasonable list of work for one generic communications person, not including all the other stuff that comes along with a full-time job, like attending meetings or conference calls that are only tangentially related to work, all the various reporting you have to do, dealing with incoming calls and email, office drama, fire drills (real and imagined), your turn to clean the lunch room, etc.

This assumes a good deal of repurposing of content between channels.

  • A monthly e-newsletter
  • Print communications, 4 – 6 times a year (maybe a short newsletter, or event marketing, or an appeal letter)
  • Blog or website update, weekly
  • Social media updates, at least once a day
  • An annual report
  • A few special projects over the course of the year (e.g. producing a special report or guidebook)

Does this sound like a reasonable starting point, to be adjusted based on goals and resources as noted above? I’d love to hear your perspective in the comments.

P.S. Please take a couple of minutes to complete the 2013 Trends Survey. You’ll get a free copy of the report in January and an invitation to the free preview webinar in mid-December.

Woman Juggling by BigStock