Reclaiming Your Communications Calendar

By Natania

It’s January – a new year and time to reflect and look ahead to your organization’s plans for the coming year. You just wrapped the busiest fundraising season, and before you know it you’ll be launching your Valentine’s Day campaign next month, right?

Not necessarily.

It feels natural that we’d base our communication calendars off of the most common marker of the passage of time – the calendar we use every day. Yes, there are instances where it makes a lot of good sense to piggyback off a national holiday. For instance, if you work for a women’s health organization, you may want to have a campaign focused around International Women’s Day.

But what about when there isn’t a natural correlation between a holiday and your mission – is it really worth trying to make one fit into the other?

Organizations have always done this in some way shape or form; and if it’s not a fully dedicated campaign around a holiday, at a minimum it’s an ask to “make a gift in someone’s honor for Father’s Day” or the like. Depending on your mission, that may work well for you…but in my experience (and tbh, for many organizations), these campaigns that attempt to push an organization’s mission into relevance with a national holiday perform mediocre at best, and are utterly forgettable. Why? Because it’s not authentic.

Social Media Fail

When brands adopt holidays poorly.

Now, I know authenticity is becoming a buzzword – but before you roll your eyes at this, consider the fact that you put just as much effort into those holiday-based campaigns as you do any other high-performing campaign that speaks directly to your mission. So why not try testing a more inspired, genuine messaging strategy instead of trying to put a square peg in a round hole and getting lesser results?

My challenge to you in 2019 is this: Don’t let national holidays dictate your communications calendar. Free yourself from the restrictions of holiday themes. Run some tests and see if something more mission-based resonates with your supporters. Pay attention to the news cycle, and react to things that are relevant to your organization in the moment they happen – those are often the messages that drive the most engagement and ROI.

Here are some ways to set yourself up for success in these tests:

  • Know your audience and what motivates them – build key messages around these issues and content
  • Communicate with them in the ways that are most meaningful to them – provide multiple ways for them to support you; be it through the mail, online, or through Alexa
  • Segment your tests to donors who haven’t responded to holiday-based messages in the past
  • Target your holiday campaign to the segment or individuals that do engage with it – you never want to take away options from supporters

And if you’re not ready to step away from a national holiday, at least try testing some other aspects of those campaigns to make them more relatable to your mission: try new images or photography (gifs, even!), incorporate video, or voice-activated technology. Venture into new territory that is authentic to you. After all, there’s no way to know what will work for you and your audience until you test it!