It’s January and a lot of folks are creating their annual plans for fundraising. In addition to figuring out how you will raise money this year, one of the key components to a fundraising plan is donor communications. This is where you can begin to integrate your fundraising and communications efforts to create a robust experience for your donors.
One part of donors communications is figuring out what stories you will tell. Rather than haphazardly telling stories over the course of the year, it is possible to take a proactive, organized approach that will yield much better results. This involves creating a story editorial calendar.
The Components of A Story Editorial Calendar
Over the last few weeks we’ve talked about how to create a storytelling strategy for the year – part 1 and part 2. Once you have a handle on your goals for storytelling and know what stories you want to tell, it’s time to figure out how those fit into your fundraising efforts. I recommend looking at this from 3 different vantage points to start.
Appeals: Chances are you are probably going to send out appeals. These are a great place to begin incorporating stories. Make notes about the different dates that appeals are going to be going out and what the appeal is for. This will help you figure out the logistics of collecting a story as well as what kind of story will best complement the appeal.
Stewardship: Another great opportunity to connect donors to their impact is through stories. Make a list of what stewardship you provide your donors and then think about which ones might be the best opportunities for a story. A thank you letter is a great choice, for example.
Newsletters: Most organizations regularly send out newsletters – be it monthly or quarterly. They are a content rich communication that can cultivate donors’ interest in your organization’s work and help keep you top of mind for them. Start by figuring out when you are sending out newsletters and whether or not there will be any theme for the content. Once you have this information, you can
These are likely to be the three most common places you will want to tell stories over the course of the year. But there could be other things your organization does that might be in need of a good story. Pull out a copy of your fundraising plan and go through the list of fundraising tactics to look for other opportunities for storytelling.
The point of this exercise is to simply understand your content needs and their timing.
Making (and using) Your Calendar
You’ve reviewed your plans for the year and have a good understanding of your content needs. This has provided you with a big picture view of your story needs for the year. Now it’s time to actually put the pen to the calendar.
There are three important dates to keep in mind as you develop stories for your fundraising program. We’ll begin with the end in mind.
Final deadline – this is the date that your piece is going to print or is being formatted to send. Think of this as the absolutely last opportunity you have to make changes to the copy.
Story approval – you’ll want to get any necessary staff as well as the story subject’s approval before going to print or hitting send. Build in a buffer to get the approvals you need. I would recommend about 2 weeks before your final deadline.
Story collection – in my experience it usually takes anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to find and collect a story. Working backwards from your story approval and deadline times, give yourself enough space on the calendar to find and collect the best story possible.
Once you have figured out these three dates, mark them on your calendar and use them as a guide for your work. You’ve done the heavy lifting of project coordinator. Now all you need to do is follow through and take action to bring your stories to life.