Have you ever made a long To-Do list knowing that there’s no way you’ll cross it all off? Writing it out seems cathartic at first. You quickly complete a few tasks that you’re the most motivated to tackle. Others might sit on the list for a long time, perhaps in the hope that they’ll just disappear. The same thing happens to a content calendar, despite the best intentions of the marketer who created it.

In theory, a content calendar—also known as an editorial or communications calendar—is the place to identify and schedule your content for a specific channel (blog) or multiple channels that you want to coordinate (website, blog, social media and email). The length of time it covers can vary based on your needs, but they generally cover at least a few months at a time and up to a year.

Download Our Blog Editorial Calendar Template

Using our calendar template, you can track blog posts based on the topic or title, blog category, author, publication date and more. There’s also room to keep notes and store topics that aren’t ready for action.

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If you’re thinking it’s impossible to plan your content even 6 months in advance…. well, you’re not wrong. The fact is that content plans are always subject to change, especially when your organization has a lot going on. A blog topic that seemed great weeks ago could suddenly become irrelevant. Or a fundraising appeal that had the green light might be put on hold for a more urgent ask. 

But that doesn’t mean you tear up the calendar. It just needs a good scrubbing. And what better time to do it than in the months leading up to year-end giving!

How to Clean a Content Calendar

What stays and what goes? Let’s walk through the steps to cleaning up your nonprofit content calendar so that you can refocus on the items that align with your current priorities.

Take stock of recent work

In addition to tracking future ideas, your calendar is a place to document what’s already been done. If it’s been a while since you updated it, it’s time to dust it off and get it up to date. Add in the major pieces of content that you’ve created over the last few months, like blog posts or email campaigns. 

This will give you a better picture of what you accomplished vs. what you planned to complete, as well as the amount of content you were able to produce and at what frequency. Going forward, you can use this information to plan appropriately.

Evaluate content topics and goals

Each piece of content in your calendar should have a specific topic and relevant goal. For example, if you’re planning to create a new page on your website for volunteering, the goal could be to get people to submit an online application form. One sign that a piece of content isn’t ready for production is the lack of a clearly identifiable goal. 

As you audit the items in your content calendar, consider each topic and goal using the following questions. You can also use these questions to adjust and strengthen an existing topic.

  • Have there been shifts in our programs or organizational priorities that change the importance or urgency of this content?
  • Have there been updates to our target audience personas that change the approach to this topic?
  • Does this content help us advance our existing marketing strategy?
  • Does the goal of this piece still make sense?

If your answers make you question why a piece of content is still on your calendar, go ahead and clean it off. 

Identify new content to add

Cleaning up your calendar also means adding in new ideas. Here are some questions to consider as you build your list of content for the coming months:

  • What content are we missing based on our annual marketing plan?
  • Are there any new and exciting calls to action that we should be focused on?
  • Do we have any stories about our community or impact that we can use or repurpose?
  • What content do we need to effectively promote upcoming events or campaigns?
  • Are there any voices or points of view that we’re missing in our content?

By the end of this process, make another pass through the calendar to make sure you have enough high-quality content planned to support your big-picture marketing goals. And, if you have a regular posting schedule for channels like your blog, confirm that you’re on track to keep it up.

Save good ideas for later

If you identify topics that aren’t relevant right now but might be in the future, add them to a brainstorm tab (if you’re using a spreadsheet), appendix or another document for safekeeping. Next time you do a calendar cleanup, review your brainstorm to see if it’s time to re-add anything.

Update other stakeholders

Depending on the size of your organization, you might need to keep colleagues in the loop about what’s in the content calendar or get approval. Plan to give an update to your internal stakeholders about what’s changing and what they should be excited about in the coming months. Get more tips on internal communications.

Your content calendar will always be in flux—meaning there will be a little dirt and dust to wipe away as your marketing evolves. But as the saying goes, “A clean house is the sign of a boring person.” A little bit of unpredictability offers the chance for creativity, don’t you think?

Take the time to do regular calendar housekeeping so that you can clearly see where your marketing is going and how to get there using strong, relevant content. Even a quarterly clean is better than waiting until the year-end crunch.

How do you make sure your content calendar stays up to date? Any other tips for maintaining an editorial calendar when things get busy? See you in the comments.