Creating a Nonprofit Content Calendar—the Easy Way

Two Key Steps + One Great Shortcut to Publishing Content Regularly

There are myriad reasons why your nonprofit needs to be sharing content regularly on your website and social media. For staying top of mind, reminding people of the work that you do, getting your message out (and furthering your mission), and even basic SEO strategy…content is king.

But between all of the other seemingly more pressing, mission-critical (pun intended) things your team does every day, creating and sharing content seems like a last priority. So while many organizations are aware of the “need” to publish, few do. And even fewer do it with any sort of regularity.

1. Planning Your Nonprofit Content Calendar

Creating a calendar is a simple, effective way of scheduling future posts, but if done right, makes it a lot easier to actually generate those posts. Chances are, you already have a calendar that includes major events like galas, do-good drives, annual events and celebrations, among other things.

That’s actually a great starting point for creating your content calendar, since you know you want to be promoting these events before they happen, and talking about them afterward. Thinking of those events as “content-worthy” ahead of time will likely spark ideas of things you can do and share online well in advance. Put those things on your calendar!

For calendaring and planning, we love the free and powerful Asana (see our review), which can integrate with but the best tool is the one you are most comfortable with…even if it’s the whiteboard in your office.

We recommend keeping an ongoing 1-year, 6-month, 3-month and 1-month calendar. The further away something is, the less detailed the plan has to be. For the sake of sanity, however, anything in the 3-month window should be in prep, anything in the 1-month should be in “production,” one way or another.

Once you’ve got your major dates and content plans, you’ll likely need to add more items. So what do you add? Read on.

2. Create the Right Content for Your Nonprofit’s Audience

This seems simple on the surface: Engage with your audience on the subjects that they’re interested in. The more value you provide and the more you show them that you share their interests and concerns, the more personally connected to you and your cause they will be.

The problem is that most of the time, businesses and organizations focus on just talking about their work; or worse, asking for the sale or donation. Your audience is probably interested in other things, many of which indirectly connect back to the change you want to make in the world.

For example, if you’re a New York City theater company focusing on children’s theater, there are many areas of interest that overlap with yours, which your audience (parents of New York children) might be passionate about, or at least just interested in. New York arts festivals and arts funding news are an easy extension of news you want to share. Then there’s national and local education news, studies about the impact of imagination and storytelling, arts in education, or even that it’s a snow day!

Don’t worry about experimenting and getting it “wrong.” As long as you don’t offend or alienate people, trying different tacks may yield surprising results. With time, the more content you share, the more you’ll see what your fans respond to, with likes, shares, and website traffic. Spending a little time (and possibly sending out a survey) thinking of ideas that your audience will appreciate can go a long way and pay off greatly in the long run.

Sharing content about current events may seem like a full-time job on its own, but with a little planning, it may be easier and less resource-intensive than you might think. Which takes us to the “shortcut” in our next section…

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3. Timeliness and Tie-Ins for Your Content Calendar

One of our favorite ways to generate quality, valuable content that speaks to audiences on multiple levels and isn’t all about “me” is by tying it into events happening in the world. As a bonus, people will already be thinking and talking about the subject at that time, so you may enjoy a viral boost. While you can’t plan for the latest news headline, you can plan for national holidays and, more apropos for nonprofits, awareness days, weeks and months. To make it easy to find and add these dates to your calendar, we’ve created a new nonprofit awareness calendar feature, including links to websites with more information and hashtags you can use to join the conversation.

There are nationally recognized philanthropic events like National Volunteer Week, and more specific ones for arts and culture. If you’re an organization dealing with health-related concerns, there is no shortage of awareness dates to tie into. For others, you may have to think a bit more creatively, but that can also be freeing and fun. For example, what’s your organization’s position on television, toilets, fathers, or the U.S. flag?

Whether you want to say something fun or poignant on social media, or to make a larger statement with an article or video, there are sure to be plenty of things to talk about in our list of 248 nonprofit awareness dates for 2017.

We’ve researched, compiled and categorized nearly 250 non-profit related holidays and awareness events in the United States for 2017. Browse through the listings and add them to your content calendar!

Action Steps: Getting Your Content Calendar Started

  • Break Down the Timeframes

    Call them timeframes, calendar views or dashboards, here is how we like to break down the publication schedule:

    • One year: Plot your org’s major events
    • Six month: Mix in additional possible content
    • Three month: Decide exactly what’s getting published and who will be responsible for the final article, video, etc. Work backwards to set deadlines leading up to each publication
    • One month: Production, publication and promotion stage—your content is coming together and you’re planning how you’re going to share/promote it for maximum impact
  • Mindmap Your Audience’s Interests

    Take some time to brainstorm what your target audience might be…

    • Concerned about
    • Interested in
    • Amused by

    Mine these areas for content subjects that are directly, indirectly or even tangentially related to your work and mission. It’s always better to have too many options to execute on, than to not have enough and grasp at straws last minute.

  • Add in the Tie-ins: Awareness Events and Holidays

    Go through our Awareness Calendar or search the web for your own ideas to:

    • Find events that you can tie in to your work and mission
    • Check out any relevant websites to make sure that this is something you (and your audience) can stand behind
      • TIP: There may be awareness events run by other organizations that you can partner with—physically or virtually—to get your name out to even more people
    • Use the buttons on each event link to add them to your digital calendar
    • Don’t forget to credit the organizations behind the events and to use hashtags to get a viral lift

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