You probably don’t think of yourself as a project manager, but everything you do to market your nonprofit’s mission, from updating your blog to launching a new email newsletter, can be thought of as a project you’re guiding to great results. You should adopt the same tactful mindset when taking on these projects as you do with your overall nonprofit strategy.

It’s tempting to dream up your next big campaign idea and jump in headfirst, but winging it won’t cut it if you want to gain attention and credibility for your nonprofit online. The planning is just as important as the doing.

We’ve worked with a lot of nonprofits on a wide variety of marketing-related projects. Throughout those projects, we’ve had many conversations with nonprofit marketers about what it takes to coordinate an effective project. And now we’re here to share them all with you. By applying these tips, your nonprofit will be able to better meet its goals, and you’ll be able to spread the message of your philanthropy to an engaged online community.

Ask “Does the Project Support My Marketing Strategy?”

Always check your project against your nonprofit’s online marketing strategy. If it doesn’t quite fit with your larger goals, like targeting your donors or expanding your community outreach, throw it out.

The best projects are ones that establish a natural connection between the problem and the solution your nonprofit can provide. This doesn’t mean you should shy away from inventive, new tactics to spread your nonprofit’s message. But, you should always ask the question, “Does this fit with our nonprofit’s strategic marketing goals?” If the answer is no, it’s time to find a different route. You only have so much time (and there never seems to be enough of it at most nonprofits). You need to be spending it on projects that will truly help you achieve your goals.

Hold a Kickoff Meeting

So you’ve determined a project is going to further your goals. Now it’s time for a kickoff meeting.

The kickoff meeting is your chance to decide who you need on your team and what resources you need to make the project a success. Come together and outline the plan to implement your marketing project with broad strokes. Make an agenda that includes the following objectives:

  • Define the ideal outcome with clear detail – What do you want to accomplish? Don’t think about this goal in terms of gaining Twitter followers or launching a new website. Those are simply means to other ends. Instead, connect your project to your nonprofit’s strategic goals. Are you trying to raise funds? Gain volunteers? Drive community action? How will this new marketing project help you reach that goal?
  • Develop a realistic timeline – Realistic is the key. Don’t set a deadline you’ll never make. How long will it actually take to establish an Instagram following or create a promotional video? What is an attainable timeline for your nonprofit?
  • Set expectations for team communication – Look at your team. Are they mainly volunteers? What is the best way to get in touch with them? How will you make sure tasks are completed along the way? Keeping your team accountable is the most important thing you can do to stay on time and on budget with your project.
  • Plan and predict roadblocks – Managing a marketing project is largely about foreseeing what could throw your project off track. What challenges are most likely to come up? How will you handle them? This is a big one we all struggle with. It’s important to be aware of these potential hold-ups from the beginning and have a plan in place so they don’t catch you off guard.

Don’t get caught up in details of execution during this meeting. There will be time for delegating responsibilities and making creative decisions later. The kickoff meeting is for talking through those objectives I mentioned above, requesting any resources you may need and getting your team excited!

Use a Productivity Tool

A shared productivity tool will improve your nonprofit’s approach to any project, but it’ll be especially beneficial for a marketing project with all its moving parts.

There are a lot of options and tons of comparison research, but the important thing is that you pick a tool and use it. Google Apps, Evernote, Asana (our personal favorite at Wired Impact) – they all help you organize your team and keep them focused on the single goal you defined in the kickoff meeting. Most of these tools have a free tier to start out or special pricing for nonprofits, so be sure to do some research before choosing a tool.

Dedicate yourself, and your team, to using a productivity tool. Delegating tasks and following up with your team will be much easier, which will go a long way in keeping your project moving forward.

Get Granular with Your Planning

Now it’s time to dive into those details. Break down any milestone tasks that need to happen during the course of your project. Start with the larger tasks and work backwards to get a detailed idea of the steps needed to complete the task. Yes, it’s tedious, but chances are many of you are already making checklists and sticking them on every square inch of your desk.

For example, I need to schedule an email newsletter to go out this week. That means that I need to decide what content from the website will be included, pick out images, formulate an effective subject line, schedule the email to send out, and track the open and click through rates afterwards. Each of these steps needs to be completed before I can check off my task of sending out the email newsletter.

Keep your tasks in a central location (here’s where your productivity tool comes into play!). As a project manager, you’ll have a hand in every part of the process. Don’t let something important to the success of your project fall through the cracks because you didn’t take the time to get granular with your planning.

Reflect on the Outcome

Your outcomes will be better every time you set aside the time to plan out your marketing projects. Think back to the main objective you set in the kickoff meeting, and reflect on how you met that goal. Celebrate your successes, and evaluate how you could improve your planning process in the future. There is no perfect answer, so learn what works for you and your team by making changes as you go along. Your team will have valuable thoughts, so be sure to listen and use their input. You’ll see that focused planning will make your next marketing project more manageable and ultimately ensure that future projects are helping your nonprofit meet its strategic goals.

Do you have a planning process that works for your nonprofit? See something here that you’re going to start trying with your team? Let us know in the comments.