Are you getting started with your nonprofit’s first blog? Or finally finding the time to think a little more strategically about the blog you already have on your website? You’re probably worried about how you’re going to keep up with it, which is why now is the perfect opportunity to pause and put together your first nonprofit editorial calendar.
Here’s some insight you’ll love: planning your blog content doesn’t have to be complicated.
The key to making a nonprofit blog calendar that you’ll actually use is to make it simple and flexible. Our clients see great results when they’re posting consistently. We’ll break down the process so that your organization can also get on the path to blogging success. We’ve even created a free editorial calendar template for you to use!
What is an Editorial Calendar?
An editorial calendar is a planning document that outlines a series of communications based on topic, author, timing and other variables that determine how the pieces are produced and shared. When it comes to a nonprofit’s blog, a strategic document like this serves as a list of upcoming topics that are related to an organization’s mission, supporters, activities and impact.
I know what some of you are thinking:
I don’t need to write this stuff down in a special document.
It’s pretty safe up here in my head.
Why bother creating a plan that’s only for me?
That’s a pretty typical response. In fact, it seems that most nonprofits don’t have a written communications plan of any kind. And if they do, some recent research on nonprofit capacity indicates that they aren’t considered to be very effective.
If you can relate, start small with an editorial calendar for your blog. There are lots of ways that a blog can help your website, but those benefits only come into play if you’re strategic about the “why,” “who” and “when” of each post. Not quite convinced? The latest Nonprofit Communications Trends Report might motivate you:
- Nonprofits with effective communications are three times as likely to use an editorial calendar as those who say their communications are ineffective.
- Effective communicators are also twice as likely to invest significant time into editorial planning as ineffective ones.
Who doesn’t want to be effective?
Before You Get Started
Are you ready to jump in and start brainstorming topics? Hold on to those ideas for just a little while longer. Before you make a big list of potential posts that sound fun or interesting, there are a some other things to keep in mind:
Consider Your Big Picture Goals
Look to your organizational, website and marketing goals to narrow the focus of your blog to categories and topics that your target audiences will find useful and compelling. Do you want to show effectiveness through case stories and volunteer profiles? Demonstrate leadership by providing commentary on relevant issues? Motivate your community to get involved by sharing tips and tutorials? Keep these goals in mind as you create your blog’s categories.
How Often Will You Post?
Each post means that you or someone else at your nonprofit is putting aside time for planning, writing, editing, reviewing and publishing. What’s really possible based on your capacity? You can also determine optimal frequency for your organization by thinking about how you’ll share and re-purpose blog content, like in newsletters, emails and on social media. If not more often, aim to post at least once a month to start.
What Types of Content Can You Share?
Don’t forget to get creative! Rather than treat your blog as the place to post press releases and formal articles, change things up by creating different types of blog content. A blog post can tell a story with photos, share a cell phone video from a supporter, offer how-to instructions, or include a list of resources. Your nonprofit can likely produce some types of content more easily than others, such as great photos or volunteer profiles. Play to your strengths to make it easy, but throw in something new every now and again to keep your readers interested.
Refer to Your Organization’s Calendar
You’ll be surprised to see how quickly you can fill up a nonprofit editorial calendar just by looking at what’s in store for your organization in the coming months. Consider annual events, program launches/conclusions, milestones, holidays and fundraising appeals. When are you releasing newsletters, annual reports or a new video? Each of these activities is an opportunity to offer new or special insights and inspire readers to take action with a blog post.
Where Will You Share Blog Content?
Unless your target audience has a need or overwhelming desire to check your website every week or month, it’s a good idea to share your blog posts in other places where they might see them. Post a quote on social media with a photo and link back to the post. Tease an interesting story in your email newsletter and tell people to read the whole thing on your blog. If you can think of ways to re-purpose content beyond the blog, be sure to jot down your ideas in your editorial calendar so you keep them in mind as you write.
Regularly Brainstorm Topics
Whether it’s setting aside quiet time for you to think or holding a small meeting, it’s important to continually brainstorm and keep track of ideas so that your calendar stays fresh. In addition to reporting on programs and organizational news, think about the questions that you frequently hear from the public, donors or even your board. If someone doesn’t know your nonprofit by name, what are they searching for online that might lead them to you? Consider your target audience personas: what are their challenges and what do they need to hear from you?
Free Nonprofit Editorial Calendar Template
Remember when I said that your nonprofit editorial calendar should be simple and flexible? One way to do that is to use a spreadsheet that’s easy to edit and share in a way that works for you.
To help you get started, we’ve created a Google sheet that you can access and duplicate for your nonprofit. You’ll find a few additional instructions within the file itself, but we’ve focused on giving you a basic template that’s adaptable to your needs and doesn’t require complicated spreadsheet magic.
Using the template, you can start to 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 in the queue just yet. Love working with paper? Print out the template and pencil things in.
Implementing Your Editorial Calendar
Once you think your calendar is ready, take a minute and celebrate! Then get ready to update it. If it falls too far behind, it’s no longer a useful tool. You’ll want an editorial calendar that grows with you and continues to meet your goals. That said, having an editorial calendar is also a way to negotiate priorities and say “no” to additions that aren’t a good fit.
While you’re in the early stages of establishing your calendar, consider these tips for successful implementation:
- Make it visible: print it, hang it up and bring it to meetings.
- Set reminders that don’t let deadlines fly by without warning.
- Update it continually, including future ideas and what’s already published.
- Assign one owner to do maintenance, including adding ideas from others.
- Build buy-in by talking about it with others and messaging out what’s next.
Getting serious about your nonprofit’s blog doesn’t have to be all-consuming. Creating an editorial calendar for your blog offers a way to see the big picture and helps keep a consistent posting schedule. Once you’re up and running, be sure to check out some of our additional resources and blog advice, including the guide to 170 Blog Post Ideas for Your Nonprofit, our 7-point blog post checklist and tips to increase your blog traffic.
Do you feel ready to create an editorial calendar for your nonprofit’s blog? How have you adapted our template to work best for your organization? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!