How to Create a Nonprofit Communications Plan from Scratch (Part 2)


This month, YNPN Seattle is posting blogs about “starting from scratch.” They’ll be giving you tips and advice on how to build things from the ground up—without burning out.

My installment in is focused on creating an attainable, effective, and measurable communications plan.

So last week, I shared some tips for sketching out the main goals and audiences for your nonprofit’s communications plan. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you take a look to get prepared for this second post: creating a plan for implementation.

The first thing is to get your document prepared. I prefer a Word document, but you can use Excel if that’s easier for you. Many people, all smarter than I am, have created templates for you to use, so feel free to start off with this one, this one, or find another that works for you.

Step 6: Write down all the major events that your nonprofit cares about.

Elections, awareness days, events, galas, holidays…it all counts. This may take some checking around to see what awareness days are important and who is officially hosting them, but due diligence at this stage pays off big time.

Step 7: Cross check your major events/days with those of your main audience.

The folks you discovered in Step 2? Write down that days/holidays/events their care about. Even if they’re not a perfect fit for your organization, write it down. This is a brainstorming phase, so just make sure it’s on the calendar.

Step 8: Highlight two to three “Action Days”

These are days where you need people to take that action in Step 1. Do they need to vote? RSVP for an event? Volunteer? Make sure you know when you need those people to move their arms and legs to do that thing.

Step 9: Plan out your message in advance of those days.

Take advantage of the events in Step 6 and 7, and use the information you gathered in Step 3 to figure out how and when you will be sharing those messages. Will you be doing a social media campaign? A paper mailing? A billboard? Once you know the best ways to share your message, just time them out in advance of that action day.

Step 10: Plan your content.

These three words are jam-packed with the most work. By doing this, you plan when you need to get your blogs, op-eds, mailings, copy-editing, web edits…you name it. Content is king, but it’s also difficult to produce. So try to space it out so you don’t get slammed one month before a major event.

Step 11: Implement the plan…and fix it as you go.

As you go, you’ll find things that don’t work. Maybe a wrong assumption you made at the beginning of the plan, or a message that just isn’t working for your audience. Instead of repeating it over and over, try something else. Save a space on your document to write down what didn’t work, and review it at the end of the year.

Take a look at a few simple things you can do to evaluate your nonprofit communications as well.

And that’s the way to start off a basic nonprofit communications plan. Want to do something more complex? Talk to a consultant 🙂

Good luck!

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