The Beginner’s Guide to Online Donations

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Writing a communications calendar and launching a campaign. Ch.8

Nonprofits: Learn to develop an achievable communications calendar, clearly define communications channels that connect you to your target supporters, and launch your first campaign. Let’s connect your first campaign to your perfect landing page—and convert visitors into donors.

Learn How to write a communications calendar.
The Beginner’s Guide to Online Donations. CSDi is offering a complimentary nonprofit book on online fundraising.
Boost your donations in 14 weeks:       Learn How to develop a communications calendar.
Each of the 14 chapters include 3 step-by-step guides that lead you in setting up a modern website, launching a donor newsletter program and applying for a $10k/mo Google AdWords Grant. See what the 42 guides include.
 
 
Today we are presenting the full version of Chapter 8 on planning campaigns—and then launching one.
 
Chapter 8. Planning campaigns—and then launching one.
Here is a quick summary of the 4 steps in the chapter:
Tab 1. The Importance of planning campaigns: an overview.
Tab 2. Guide 22. Developing an achievable communications calendar.
Tab 3. Guide 23. Discovering your optimum communications channels.
Tab 4. Guide 24. Properly launching a campaign.
 
Chapter 8 is set-up for you in the 4 tabs just below.
 
Marketing, communications and fundraising goals. Determine what to market to whom: Time Requirement.
  1. Overview: 15 minutes.
  2. Developing an achievable communications calendar. 1 Hour.
  3. Discovering your optimum communications channels. 1 hour.
  4. Launching your first campaign. 45 minutes.
Total Time for Chapter 8. Three Hours. In this chapter you will learn about 1) Developing an achievable communications calendar. 2) Discovering your optimum communications channels. And, 3) Launching your first campaign,
Get free access to the Beginner’s Guide to Online Donations here. Each of the 14 chapters includes 3 individual, step-by-step guides to boosting online fundraising: 42 guides in total. See the syllabus.
Get the online donations book button and write a communications calendar.
Chapter 8 is set-up for you in the 4 tabs below.
Links for Writing a communications calendar and launching a campaign:
 
CHAPTER 8 Overview. Planning campaigns—and then launching one. Overview of Chapter 8.
 
This week in Chapter 8 we’re going to learn about 1) Developing an achievable communications calendar. 2) Discovering your optimum communications channels. And, 3) Launching your first campaign.
 
 
Guide 22. Develop an achievable communications calendar. Developing a communications calendar sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? But it isn’t really. All you need is an initial idea.
 
In the first section of Chapter 8, you will start off by developing a multipurpose subject. This was efficient in two ways. You come up with one thematic idea for the year. You write one piece a month. And at the end of the year you accumulate the 12 pieces into an annual report—and portions can be used for an end-of-the-year annual appeal.
 
Guide 23. Your communication connection: where will you launch your first campaign?
 
This week you are going to clearly define the channels that connect you to your target supporters: newsletter, blog, social media, AdWords? Determining which communication channel you want to use to get started will largely be based upon who your potential nonprofit supporters are. A good way to learn about this is to do a survey with existing supporters. Do they use Facebook? Are they members of LinkedIn groups? Do they like Twitter?
 
Guide 24. Launch your first campaign. Let’s connect your first campaign to your perfect landing page—and convert visitors into donors.
 
So now you have a plan. You’ve chosen a series of 12 pieces to write for the coming year: one per month. You have an overall theme selected and draft titles for each of the 12 pieces. Just follow nine simple steps to launch your first campaign.
 
Get Going!
So now, click on the second tab to learn about developing an achievable communications calendar. Click on the third tab to learn how to discover your optimum communications channels. And click on the fourth tab to learn how to properly launch your first campaign.
 
Next week, in the next chapter (Chapter 9), we’re going to learn how to capture valuable new subscribers—and then send them the newsletters that convert them into donors.
 
Enjoy. See you next week.
 
 
 
CHAPTER 8. Planning campaigns—and then launching one.
Guide 22 Calendar: Develop an achievable communications calendar.
 
How to become really efficient at writing.
 
Developing a communications calendar. Uggh. This sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? But it isn’t really. All you need is an initial idea.
 
In Chapter 6 in the section on writing we looked at having a multipurpose subject. This was efficient in two ways. You came up with one idea for the year. You would write one piece a month. And at the end of the year you would accumulate the 12 pieces into an annual report—and portions can be used for an end-of-the-year annual appeal.
 
This is nice because after writing one piece, you will be able to use each piece three other times in the course of the year—essentially tripling the usefulness of each piece you wrote.
 
Download the PDF of the full four-page Chapter 6 Writing Guide—it’s full of great tips and techniques.
 
The other interesting thing is that by having this sort of "umbrella" idea you don’t have to sit down each month and think about what to write. Each month’s assignment had been predetermined at the beginning of the year. This is a pretty simple way to put together a communications calendar.
 
Your communications calendar is simply an idea developed at the beginning of the year. As you move into the end of this 12 month cycle, you can use the communications calendar as a template for the next year’s communications calendar. So it keeps getting easier and easier!
 
Another aspect of the communications calendar that we haven’t discussed are which communications channels are going to use to get your information out. Are you going to target supporters through your newsletter? A blog? Social media? Or an AdWords account?
 
If you’re just getting started and/or you are one-person communications shop I would highly recommend keeping this aspect very simple.
 
There are two ways you can do this. One is to get started by focusing on one channel, say your newsletter. The other way to do it, which we also discussed in chapters 6 and 7, is to make each thing that you write into replicable templates
 
So for example, your newsletter has a specific template that you use each month. That template can be copied and pasted into your blog.
 
You then have a social media template which is comprised of a few main components from your newsletter/blog. Again, you will develop a copy paste situation so that you’re not spending a lot of time reformatting things. Perhaps your newsletter’s headline and opening paragraph could be written each month to be just the right size for your Facebook page or LinkedIn groups.
 
The idea here is to write once and copy paste several times without having to reformat and rewrite.
 
So your communications calendar is going to have three main components that you can decide quickly. What is your 12 month ‘umbrella’ idea? Where are you going to publish each monthly installment? What is the frequency for your publications: weekly, or monthly?
 
KISS. Again, if this is your first communications calendar, keep it simple. The last thing in the world which you need is to show at the the office on Monday morning with a daunting communications project waiting for you.
 
Perhaps in the first year you should focus on a monthly publication. You can also focus on developing and fine-tuning your monthly templates. And you can focus on a newsletter, a copycat blog reflecting the newsletter, and a monthly Facebook post. If you complete the end of the year with templates for each of these three things—that will make the following year unbelievably easier. Maybe then, you could even go for fortnightly publications.
 
A year goes by pretty quickly and to have 12 published pieces at the end of your first year is pretty valuable.
 
In the chapter 6 we looked at the example about writing a monthly piece about a person in your "food bank" organization. You could alternate between a client, a volunteer, and a staff person. We also looked at the idea of using these monthly pieces as the beginnings of a volunteer handbook. And then, these human interest stories could be gathered into both an end of the year fundraising campaign and in an annual report.
 
Writing one piece of month is approachable and achievable—especially if it fulfills two other things that you need to accomplish that year as well. So consequently, your communications calendar will also be approachable and achievable—and can be a single page Word document.
 
What I like to do, is to write down each month’s piece that I need to write on a small Post-it, and stick each one on the appropriate month in my annual wall calendar.
 
My Example:
My communications calendar for this coming year is quite simple: one piece per month about someone important in my organization and specifically about a task which they do. Each piece will have a photo, a short, simple biographical sketch of the person, and a little bit of detail about their tasks or interactions with the food bank. Accumulated at the end of the year I will have the basis for a volunteer’s handbook for the food bank, several pieces that can be used in the end the year fundraising drive, and grouped together these pieces can also be our annual report. I will also have sent out 12 newsletters, posted 12 blogs (SEO optimized!) to our webpage, and posted to our Facebook page 12 times.
 
Communications Calendar for the Claremont Food Bank.
Our communications calendar for the coming year has a multiple purpose for each monthly piece that we write.
1. A monthly newsletter and blog post.
2. A monthly Facebook post.
3. We would like to accumulate the 12 pieces and repurpose them as a volunteer handbook.
4. We would like to accumulate the three best pieces from year to become the basis for annual end-of-the-year fundraising appeal.
5. We would like to accumulate the 12 pieces to be the basis for our annual report.
 
January. What it’s like to prepare for opening the food bank on Tuesday mornings. An interview with the food bank manager.
 
February. How to best understand what our clients are hoping to get from the food bank. An interview with a client whose young mother.
 
March. How to get weekly donations from restaurants. An interview with a restaurant contact.
 
April. How to get weekly donations from grocery stores. An interview with a grocery store contact.
 
May. How to open the food bank on Tuesday mornings. An interview with a volunteer.
 
June. How to work with clients that come for food box on Tuesdays. An interview with a volunteer.
 
July. How to close up the food bank at the end of the day on Tuesday. An interview with a food bank staff person.
 
August. Taking inventory at the end of the day on Tuesday. An interview with a volunteer.
 
September. Creating an order list for next Tuesday based upon the inventory. A conversation with a client and a volunteer.
 
October. How to work with the local community to encourage donations for the food bank. An interview with a homeowner donor.
Begin preparation of the end-of-the-year fundraising appeal using the three top interviews.
 
November. How to work with local gardeners to encourage donations for the food bank. An interview with a local vegetable gardener donor.
Begin preparation of the annual report for current donors using the six best interviews.
 
December. How to deliver food packages to housebound clients. A conversation with a volunteer and a client.
Begin preparation of the volunteer’s handbook using the 12 interviews as the basis of the handbook.
 
That’s it! Get going!
Copyright © 2016, Tim Magee
 
 
 
CHAPTER 8. Planning campaigns—and then launching one.
 
Guide 23 Channel: Your communication connection: where will you launch your first campaign?
 
Clearly define the channels that connect you to your target supporters: newsletter, blog, social media, AdWords?
 
Determining which communication channel you want to use to get started will largely be based upon who your potential nonprofit supporters are.
 
A good way to learn about this is to do a survey with existing supporters. Do they use Facebook? Are they members of LinkedIn groups? Do they like Twitter?
 
Getting Started.
Three very good places to get started are your newsletter, your SEO optimized landing pages and an AdWords for nonprofits grant.
 
1. They say that your newsletter list is king. The reason for that is that subscribers already have interest in your organization.
 
2. If you do a really good job of selecting keywords for your landing pages you will also see an increase in organic traffic from people who are interested in what you’re doing.
 
3. In Chapter 11 will begin looking at applying for a Google AdWords grant. This is also a phenomenal way of meeting new supporters.
 
That said, having a solid base in understanding keywords and landing page optimization will give you a leg up on using AdWords. So I would be tempted to perfect these as a precursor to AdWords.
 
But, if you find that you have a younger support audience, perhaps social media could be fourth channel to include in the beginning.
 
My Example:
At the Claremont Food Bank we are going to keep our initial communications channels limited to:
1. Our growing newsletter subscriber list.
2. Our SEO optimized blog and landing pages.
3. Our Facebook page.
4. LinkedIn groups that are appropriate for our organization.
 
My final recommendation is to check, check, check. Multiple communication channels can be very time-consuming. If you don’t feel something is working well for you, conduct a little research to see if you can find a solution. If you can’t see an immediate solution consider pausing that channel for awhile and invest more time in the other channels.
 
 
 
CHAPTER 8. Planning campaigns—and then launching one.
 
Guide 24 Launch: Launch your first campaign.
 
Let’s connect your first campaign to your perfect landing page—and convert visitors into donors.
 
So now you have a plan. You’ve chosen a series of 12 pieces to write for the coming year: one per month. You have an overall theme selected and draft titles for each of the 12 pieces.
 
So the first thing to do (looking back to Chapter 6), even before you begin writing, is to begin looking for your focus keyword. So let’s say that you’re going to write about donating food to your food bank.
 
You want to do this because you want the piece that you write to show up in people’s search results—so you should look for the keywords that are working for other organizations. As we mentioned a few chapters back, some of these organizations might have professionals doing their keyword research for them and you can piggyback on their efforts.
 
So you can begin your initial keyword research by doing a Google search and seeing which search results show up in the top positions and which Google ads appear as well. The results that you find will show variations of your draft keywords. Maybe some of the keywords will be better than your draft ideas. You will also be able to see which keywords rank higher in both the search results and in the AdWords ads. This is what you’re looking for!
 
For this week’s example I want to write a landing page in newsletter about donating to or food bank. I went to Google and I entered "donate to a food bank."
 
When I entered that I saw a number of good ideas:
Search Results:
  • food drive donation guidelines
  • donate food (this appeared four times on the first page results)
Google AdWords ads:
  • food bank donation list
  • donate your extra food
  • donate leftover food
  • donate excess food
If I’m going to develop an AdWords add I can target the ad to the immediate Claremont area.
 
But if I’m posting to a webpage I might need to clarify where the food bank is, so I did a second search:
"donate to the Claremont food bank."
 
The results were somewhat different. The result titles were typically the names of organizations that have a food bank in the Claremont area: places like churches and the City of Claremont. Not really keywords per se, but the names of organizations so perhaps "Donate to the Claremont Food Bank" will work fine.
 
So from taking five minutes of doing some research on Google I came up with half a dozen potential keywords that I could use as my focus keyword in the landing page that I wanted to write.
 
An Aside: One interesting thing here is that you might find that some of your ideas aren’t that interesting. I’ve had this happened a number of times where I do some initial research with a Google search for what I think is a great idea for newsletter to find out that there seems to be little interest in the topic. Better to find out now than after you have spent a lot of time writing something that isn’t interesting.
 
Step 1: So now, in Step 1 of launching a campaign, I have a potentially good longtail keyword to write my newsletter around: Donate to the Claremont Food Bank. It is specific enough that the right kind of donors will come to my website (residents and potential donors in the Claremont area).
 
Now I can write my newsletter/landing page. I’m on target, I wanted to write about donating to the food bank, and now I see from my Google research that this is a good idea to write about and I have my keyword ideas.
 
Step 2. Newsletters need to be short and sweet—especially for people on mobile devices. So typically what I will do is to write the content for the webpage first. People visiting a webpage typically want to have more detailed information, plus, research has shown that detailed webpages that have 2,000 words perform better than shorter webpages.
 
I’ll typically jot down a quick outline of what I think will be interesting to readers. For a food donation page it could be an easy outline of who, what, when, where, and why. This would include 1) a brief description of a typical food bank client is—a short paragraph with a photo. 2) why food donations are important. 3) what sorts of donated food are needed. 4) where our drop-off point is, and 5) what days are best for receiving donations.
 
I would be tempted to make each one of these five sections of the webpage interesting and engaging. Bear in mind that that many people visiting the webpage are visiting because they don’t have much prior knowledge about the subject. For example, in my case, many of our food bank clients are homebound elderly people. This could strike a chord with some of the visitors to the web page. Also, they might not realize that we’re looking for variety in the donated food—and we could give them a list of some ideas of the kinds of things that our clients would love to receive and their food packages.
 
Step 3. After I have written the piece, and edited it—I like to get away from it for a day or two and go back and read through one more time. Sometimes, after day’s break things appear in my writing that don’t make perfectly good sense—and this gives me a chance to fix those.
 
Step 4. Transferring the information from the Word document onto the webpage. We went over this in great detail in Chapter 2. You want to make sure that you have a couple of photographs. You also want to have a few links to other content on your site. So for example, you could have a link to one of your other newsletters that is a biographical sketch of another donor or one of the food bank clients. Also other important links include: subscribe, donate, contact, and social icons.
 
Step 5. Be sure and save your webpage initially as a draft so that you can play around with the page title, the meta description and the URL before publishing. Yoast will help you optimize your page as we saw in Chapter 6. When you’re happy with your focus keyword, your title and your meta-description go ahead and publish the page.
 
Step 6. I have a template for my newsletters. This really speeds up that part of the process for me. I can simply go to my newsletter service and copy and paste last month’s newsletter into becoming this month’s newsletter. Having the newsletter layout in front of me helps me to copy and paste from the webpage into the new newsletter.
 
When I’m done, I will typically print out the newsletter and sit down and really look at it carefully to make sure that it makes sense and there aren’t errors.
 
Then, I will send the newsletter to myself and make sure that when it arrives at my inbox that it looks good and that all of the links work. The main links that you want in your newsletter could include the link to the webpage that newsletters about, a subscribe button, a donate button, a contact button, and social icons.
 
Step 7. The final step before sending the newsletter out is to make sure that I have uploaded the names and email addresses of the most recent people who have subscribed to the newsletter. If someone subscribes to your newsletter and you don’t get around to sending them a newsletter for several months they’ll forget who you are—so you want to get back to them with a newsletter as quickly as possible.
 
Step 8. Send it!
 
Step 9. I have a system for both Facebook and LinkedIn groups where I can simply copy the subject line, the opening paragraph, and the URL and paste them into my Facebook page and into LinkedIn group pages and I’m done. This does not require much time or much work—but this is because of planning from when I wrote the content for the webpage.
 
In summary, you now have a high quality newsletter based upon a more permanent webpage for your website. This new webpage is part of your annual communications calendar and will hopefully serve double duty for you—such as appearing as part of your annual report.
 
Important: Your new webpage has been optimized with keywords so that people other than newsletter recipients will also find your page through Internet searches.
 
Your newsletter that you sent out to your subscriber list has a compelling subject line and a call to action to get your subscribers to go to your website. In Chapter 10 we will look into how to write the perfect newsletter.
 
So with these nine steps I have completed my monthly campaign goal—and I have contributed to a larger, multipurpose plan outlined in my communications calendar.
 
Future Step 10: One last thing. You will want your new landing page to be ripe for using in a Google AdWords ad campaign. We will look at this in greater detail in chapters 11 through 15. So for example, it’s conceivable that the really good keyword that you discovered in your Google research may be too expensive to be used in an AdWords ad.
 
So before publishing your webpage, once you set up your Google AdWords account we might want to do a second bit of research to make sure that your chosen keyword is appropriate for your AdWords account. But don’t worry about that right now! We’ll cover that in a few weeks.
Copyright © 2016, Tim Magee
 
 
In the next chapter (Chapter 9) we’re going to learn how to capture valuable new subscribers—and then send them the newsletters that convert them into donors.
 
Enjoy. See you next week.
 
Want to enjoy the Chapter 8 learning process with a teacher? See the online, teacher-led course behind this chapter.
Get free access to the Beginner’s Guide to Online Donations here. Each of the 14 chapters includes 3 individual, step-by-step guides to boosting online fundraising: 42 guides in total. See the syllabus.
Get the online donations book button and learn how to develop a communications calendar.
Copyright © 2016, Tim Magee
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