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5 Rules for Building a Donor Communications Calendar

Building a strong relationship with your donors and supporters takes time, and when your donor list becomes long (one indicator of your success), it can become difficult to manage your communications. A donor communications calendar is a useful tool, allowing you to manage your communication efficiently, and ensuring that there are no gaps in contact between your nonprofit and the supporters who believe in you.

WHY USE A DONOR COMMUNICATIONS CALENDAR?

A donor communications calendar keeps you on track, spacing out the information you share with your donors, fundraising on a regular basis, and building (and nurturing) relationships with supporters. It keeps track of your list, allows you to view and revise your communication methods, and keeps all your team members “in the know” about your communication goals.

When beginning the process of creating a donor communication calendar, there are key factors that may be specific to your nonprofit’s style, but these general rules will help organizations build a communications calendar that will set up a framework for success:

THE PLAN

The first step to creating any donor communications calendar is, obviously, to have a plan. There are several steps to this part:

  • Create several goals for communicating, including how you plan to achieve them.
  • Lay out a schedule for communication. Depending on your nonprofit’s specific needs, your communication could be annually, quarterly, and monthly.
  • Determine timelines to create each type of communication.
  • Develop a standard set of actions for each communication.
  • Delegate tasks for everyone in your organization; ensure everyone has a stake in the success of your communication.

THE PURPOSE

Each type of communication has a (or several) purpose. What do you want to convey to your supporters?

  • Most importantly to your donors is the desire to feel a connection to your cause.
  • Do you want to share new achievements or tell a specific beneficiary story?
  • Ask for support of a new project your organization is reaching for.
  • Ask for feedback from supporters to help drive the organization’s purpose.
  • Announce special events.
  • Show the results and how the beneficiaries are thankful.
  • Create a network of interested supporters.
  • Thank your supporters for each gift (whether monetary or volunteer effort).
  • Annual report, which should be easy to read and understand.

COMMUNICATION RATIO 3:1

A sound standard for communication is the 3:1 ratio–cultivate: ask. If you only contact your supporters when you need money or help, your donor list will start to shrink. Keep in mind that they want to connect with your organization, to feel a sense of belonging, so the more you contact them to share information (and listen), the better your relationship will be. Keep that 3:1 ratio by providing information, thanking them for their support, and not simply ask for money every time. Acknowledge every donation and volunteer effort, look for ways to obtain information from donors (they are experts in some things!), provide progress reports, and you will find that your donors feel like “insiders” in your organization.

CULTIVATE THE “ASK” IN EVERY MEDIUM

There is always opportunity to cultivate relationships and ask for money in every communication format, so be sure you are maximizing your use of each one within your donor communications calendar. Determine if you have content for:

  • Email
  • Newsletter
  • Blog
  • Social media posts
  • Special reports
  • Photographs and videos

Don’t spend all your time creating communication for email and snail mail while neglecting your online presence. Work to build a network of followers on social media, and keep in mind that they are a major source of user-generated content and brand ambassadors for your organization! Use social media regularly to keep the communication open, sharing useful news and stories.

MAKE IT PERSONAL

When creating a donor communications calendar, it is easy to get caught up in the timeline: creating content and “asks” which you can space out over the year. However, you need to keep in mind what your supporters are looking for: they want to build a relationship with you, not the organization. So, make it personal by:

  • Recruiting volunteers for events;
  • Call for consultants;
  • Provide tours;
  • Write employee/board member/volunteer stories about their participation;
  • Show them how their personal contribution helped!
  • Include photos of past volunteer efforts, naming the participants.

Remember, you are building a long-term relationship with supporters, and you want to let them know you need them for the “long haul.” Make sure there is talking and listening in your plan, so your donors feel as though they are part of a team. If your supporter base is varied and you want to provide specific content, segment your list. Send more detailed stories of volunteer efforts to those who are current volunteers, or who have expressed interest. Give recognition to corporate and large sponsors; remember, their support is both beneficial to you, and to their business reputation.

PERIODICALLY REVIEW YOUR DONOR COMMUNICATIONS CALENDAR

Designate some metrics you wish to monitor, measuring your donor communications calendar’s success. If you need to return to the drawing board or simply need to make small revisions, take the time to do so. Your goal is to create a strong network of supporters, so developing a calendar to strengthen your donor relationships may take some trial-and-error. To optimize your fundraising efforts and continue building on your network, consider the fundraising platform offered by Lets Sponsor. Their online adbook allows you and your sponsors to create personalized pages, sharing news about your nonprofit and providing your supporters with the recognition they can appreciate!