A Road Map to Your 2023 Communications Plan

Ahh fall, a time for celebrations, watching the season change, and, planning for next year. Often, communications is an under-resourced function for non-profits and foundations—a little planning can go a long way. For example, field staff taking weekly photos of a common theme can lead to an outreach piece about activities across the country or around.

The flow diagram above is not linear; you can circle back and generate more ideas, or do more research after conducting the reality check.

Generate Ideas
Identify both your must-haves and big dreams for your organization’s outreach.

  • Talk with creatives
  • Review existing communication tools—what worked and what didn’t
  • Explore new media and social media avenues
  • Consider new angles, hot topics, key themes
  • Come up with a few ideas that will require “creative stretch” for your team

Research key opportunities for the upcoming year with non-communications staff, e.g. program staff and even people who focus on logistics—they often know upcoming key conferences and trips.

  • Compile a list of upcoming program and technical activities
  • Review event calendars
  • Review peer and competitor tools
  • Share “stretch” ideas with technical colleagues
  • Review what got media attention last year and why

Draft Tool Kit
Set the expectations and targets for collecting data, stories, and information to aid communications. Determine what stories you want to tell and how you want to tell them.

  • Sketch out story ideas and frequency
  • Compile reference examples
  • List public outreach activities (social media, events, etc.) and their frequency
  • Detail info-gathering and archiving needs

Reality Check
Run through communication ideas with creatives and marketing consultants, field managers, and project leaders. Determine what can realistically be done based on all input and analysis gathered.

  • Who’s doing the work?
  • Are tools aligned with key events throughout the year?
  • How easy is info or source material to get?
  • What are the cost implications?
  • What needs to be outsourced?
  • Can it be done in one year?

10 Questions to ask in the Communications Planning Process:

  1. What do people need to know about our work? What misunderstandings need to be corrected?
  2. Who best represents our work? Who are our stakeholders?
  3. Are there certain stories that connect well with our donors and the community we serve?
  4. Is there information we can gather from our current events and projects? What questions can we ask, what types of visuals, statistics, testimonials or commentary are needed?
  5. Are we using social media? Video? Print? Web? What creative approaches would we like to take?
  6. Does our communications plan make use of our current project schedule and fit into our organization’s overall strategic plan?
  7. Is senior management onboard? Is staff available to help with implementation?
  8. How much time do we have for these projects? How committed are we?
  9. Do we have attainable goals and targets?
  10. Do we have the resources?

Your strategic communications planning should result in an allocated budget, a set timetable for your staff to carry out the necessary activities and detailed summaries of the tools that will accomplish your non-profit communication goals and objectives.

  • Budget
  • Tools
  • Timetable

Key Take-Away: Keep it Simple!

  • Prioritize and look at what will have the greatest impact
  • Not everything has to happen in one year
  • Keep it flexible; allow time and funds for opportunities that appear over the course of the year, too.