How to Create a Communications Plan for Your Nonprofit Organization’s Next Fundraising Campaign

No matter what type of fundraising campaign your organization is running, a well-developed communications plan will help to ensure your success. A communications plan’s purpose is to help your organization think more strategically and communicate more effectively to meet your campaign goals.

Here are some tips for creating a communications plan for your next fundraising campaign:

Map out every step of your campaign.
Start from the very beginning — the first moment you start speaking about the campaign, and write down every step you will need to complete for the campaign. Some campaign phases to keep in mind as you’re thinking through your campaign:

  • Plan and create your campaign (working with your staff, board members and other internal stakeholders to build your campaign)
  • Launch your campaign (getting the word out about what you’re doing)
  • Promote your campaign (keeping the momentum going)
  • Recruit and coach participants (for peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns and events)
  • Wrap up your campaign (sending thank you’s and asking for feedback)

Consider your audiences.
Think about the key audiences that you plan to engage with during your campaign to achieve your ultimate goal. Your audiences may include:

  • Board members — to help with outreach and fundraising
  • Staff members — to build and coordinate your campaign
  • Volunteers — vital helpers in executing campaigns and events
  • Existing donors — the people most likely to donate and spread the word
  • Past participants (for peer-to-peer campaigns and events) — the people most likely to participate again and recruit other participants
  • Community members — individuals or organizations who can help get the word out about your campaign
  • The general public — people you don’t even know yet who may want to support your campaign

Think through your message points.
Once you’ve compiled your audience, segment your lists so you can determine what messages you want to communicate to each audience, and when to communicate them. Here are some message ideas to think about:

  • Donate to our campaign
  • How your gift helps our organization do [insert your mission]
  • For peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns or events:
    • Register or make a donation for our event
    • Personal story from a past participant (consider using a video here for higher engagement)
    • Highlight discount codes or incentives that your participants can use to register or earn when they reach a certain fundraising level
    • Fundraising tips to ensure your participants’ success
  • Email autoresponders — It’s important to include autoresponders in your communication’s plan. Even though these are automated messages sent when someone fills out a form or makes a donation, they should still be integrated into your overall strategy so that they remain cohesive with your other messages.

Determine your communications channels.

For each message sent to each audience, you must determine how to send each message. The communications channels can include your organization’s own channels, such as email and direct mail outreach. They also should include external channels such as TV, newspaper, and social media.

Here are some communications channels to consider as part of your plan:

  • Home page ad
  • Landing and registration page for your event
  • Emails
  • Direct mail
  • Member or donor newsletters/magazines
  • Social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Texting
  • Print materials (posters, fliers, postcards, direct mail, etc.)
  • Public service announcements (PSAs) and local news coverage (TV, radio, newspaper)
  • Print and online ads
  • Phone (Yes, it can be time-consuming, but it can be a highly effective personal touch. Consider calling the captains of the Top 10 fundraising teams from last year’s peer-to-peer fundraising event to let them know how grateful you are for their ongoing support and leadership. Or, ask your board members to call past donors, thank them for their support, update them on how the funds have been used, and ask them to support your current campaign.)

Develop a communications calendar.
A communications calendar is an essential piece of every campaign. You probably already are doing something similar for other initiatives, but if not, here are a few reasons to develop a communications calendar:

  • Helps multiple staff members visualize the different messages, deliverables and timeline
  • Provides a big picture overview to avoid sending mixed messages or “competing” messages
  • Ensures that your messaging is strong and receives the right traction

When you create a communications calendar, be sure to work closely with your marketing department to ensure your communications don’t overlap with other planned messaging. You also might be able to leverage other planned communications for your campaign.

Once you know how you want to reach your audiences, the schedule for your communications from the time you announce your campaign through the campaign’s end is critical. Write down the date of the very last communication you’ll send for your campaign, and then work backward to add all of the other communications and prep work you’ll need to complete leading up to that last communication. If you want to secure any public service announcements or local media appearances, allow plenty of time to schedule. Often, this can take weeks or even months to arrange.

Putting together your communications calendar doesn’t have to be fancy. A simple Word document or Excel spreadsheet can do the trick. Here is a sample calendar:

click for full view

Running any fundraising campaign can be challenging. But with a little bit of thought and advanced planning for your communications, you can ensure you send the right message to the right audience at the right time to elevate your campaign’s success.


by Christina Relacion, Account Manager, Cathexis Partners
Christina has more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing, website editing, video production, and social media. Before joining Cathexis Partners, she served as Communications Manager at the Scleroderma Foundation’s national office.

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