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Social media for nonprofits: Creating an editorial calendar

June 24, 2021
A group of nonprofit professionals plan their social media content with sticky notes.

Nonprofit organizations have a lot of good to share through social media. If you’re lucky enough to work for one, you know that the impact of your purpose is likely far-reaching and resonates with people outside of your local area.

This widespread relevance makes social media a star candidate for promoting your cause to current and potential supporters, especially since 82% of Americans had a social media profile in 2021. When used effectively, social media can be an asset to your nonprofit on multiple fronts, from boosting awareness to driving online donations.

But it can be difficult for some nonprofits to consistently plan marketing communications due to a lack of time, resources, or money. That makes cost-effective social media one of the chief ways that you can connect with current donors, as well as newcomers, in telling your nonprofit’s story. 

In this guide, we’ll explore how you can plan to make sure each post is compelling and relevant, even if your nonprofit is new to social media.

How to create and use editorial content calendars

An editorial content calendar is essentially a planned series of social media posts. Marketing agencies and departments use editorial content calendars to plan and organize quality posts months in advance. These calendars are often created in a spreadsheet and include the following sections:

  • The date the content will be posted on.
  • Content details—this can either be the copy or simply a topic, like “Volunteer Photo.”
  • Any photos, videos, or other media that will accompany the copy.
  • The channel (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram) that the post will live on. Strategically think through which posts work best on which platforms.

Consider posting frequency when building your editorial calendar. Balance having enough posts per channel per month to keep followers engaged without overwhelming them. Your nonprofit’s posting frequency will depend on your goals and audience, but it’s important to plan how often you want to publish content based on each platform’s algorithm.

For example, scheduling multiple posts a week (or even a day) makes sense on Twitter because the platform displays tweets to users in chronological order. So, if you want the best chance at getting your updates in front of your audience, the more frequent the better. But the opposite is true on platforms like Facebook, where the return on investment of time and money drops substantially for those who post more than five times per week.

Content, content, content

To truly engage your social media audience, content is king. If your nonprofit only has a few critical pieces of content to share in any given week, great! It’s better to have relevant, attention-grabbing content and post less often than to update your audience frequently with lackluster posts.

So, what does engaging content look like? For nonprofits just getting started with social media, here are a few ideas to try:

  1. Personal stories from those impacted by your organization, accompanied by a photo or video. Incredible, meaningful stories are a focal point of most nonprofits. Since they’re often keenly emotional in nature, these stories work inherently well on social media, where the user is often scrolling past information quickly and needs something unique to grab their attention.
  2. Calls to donate or other calls to action. Be sure to make the call to action very clear and provide any links or other resources donors need to quickly complete the action.
  3. Photos of volunteers and volunteer groups during a volunteer opportunity that will further your nonprofit’s purpose.
  4. Important announcements for events or internal updates. Social media is a great place to share about upcoming fundraising events, and you can make signing up easy by giving donors a link to register online.
  5. Numbers that show a donor’s impact. To go the extra mile, you can tell specific impact stories from beneficiaries to show how donors are making a difference in individuals’ lives.
  6. Highlight any national or international news that is related to your nonprofit’s purpose, if applicable.

Once your nonprofit gains more experience with social media, you’ll start to understand which types of posts and content resonate with your audience. Make sure to analyze social media marketing metrics like new followers, clicks, shares, likes, comments, and more to learn what works and what doesn't

Editorial calendar example

Image removed.

Using the content ideas above, we’ve created a sample editorial content calendar for an imaginary nonprofit organization. The sample nonprofit has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

When it comes to these various platforms, every social media channel has a personality of its own. Content doesn’t always translate universally across each one. Viewing the sample calendar above, you’ll see that photos (personal stories, event photos, etc.) are posted to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Calls for donations, on the other hand, aren’t posted to all platforms on our calendar. 

High-quality photos are always a plus on social media, so include them whenever you can. If no photos are available, consider creating an infographic from written content (such as statistics that display donor impact) to grab your audience’s interest.

Grow your organization through shared experiences

Always keep in mind that social media is about forming a shared experience and fostering community between your organization and its supporters. While you’ll want to keep your supporters up-to-date, always welcome and facilitate two-way conversation as well. To ensure your social media content is being consumed and appreciated by your constituents, consider performing a yearly supporter engagement survey to evaluate how receptive donors are to your current communications strategy and illuminate the ways in which you can improve.

With a bit of planning in advance, you’ll lay the groundwork for your nonprofit’s social media strategy months ahead of schedule. This not only allows you to produce the best content possible but also provides a way for you to track the success of your campaigns. 

Never lose sight of your nonprofit’s mission, and ensure that each post aligns with this voice. With this in mind, you’ll be on your way to a thoughtful social media presence that engages current and future supporters and facilitates long-term relationships.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing