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Social Media for Nonprofits 101: Creating an Editorial Calendar

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Nonprofit organizations have a lot of good to share on social media. If you’re lucky enough to work for one, you know that the impact of your organizational mission is likely far-reaching and has resonance with people outside of the geographic area of your headquarters. This wide-spread relevance makes social media a star candidate for displaying your nonprofit, especially since 81 percent of Americans had a social media profile in 2017. When utilized 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 and manage marketing communications strategies, whether it’s a lack of time, resources or money. Just evaluating the variety of communications options available for your organization can be a lot to handle, especially if there isn’t a dedicated staffer in-house that is responsible for communications efforts. 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. But if you’re new to organizational social media, how can you plan to make sure each post is compelling and relevant?

How To: Editorial Content Calendars

At Bloom, we love managing our client’s social media channels and often use editorial content calendars to plan and organize quality posts months in advance. If that phrase just blew right over your head, don’t worry… that’s what we’re here for! An editorial content calendar is essentially a planned series of social media posts. We’ll make a calendar in an Excel or Google sheet and include the following sections:

  • Posting date
  • Content (This could be actual copy or simply a topic, like “Volunteer Photo”.)
  • Photo that will accompany the copy
  • Channel (If your nonprofit has multiple social media accounts - such as Twitter, Facebook or Instagram - this section is where you’d list which account(s) each post should be featured on. It’s a good idea to strategically think this out, as certain posts are better for certain platforms. More on that later.)

Consider posting frequency when building your editorial calendar and make sure you have the right number of posts planned per channel per month to remain engaged with your followers without “spamming” them. Your posting frequency will depend on your organization and your audience, but it’s important to plan up-front how often you want to publish content based on each platform’s algorithm.

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

For more on social media planning, check out Salsa Engage, a software for creating and scheduling series of social media posts that publish at the same time you send out your organization’s emails.

Content, Content, Content

To truly engage your social media audience, content, not publishing frequency, 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 killer content but post less often than to update your audience frequently with lackluster posts. In fact, research suggests that donors are content with less communication than nonprofits suspect.

So, what does killer content look like? For nonprofits just getting started with organizational social media, we’ve provided a few ideas for relevant posts that will work well in engaging donors.

  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 -- and 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.
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  1. Calls to donate
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  1. Photos of volunteers and volunteer groups
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  1. Any important announcements, like events or internal updates

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  1. Numbers that show how donor’s contributions are making a difference
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  1. If applicable, national or international news that is related to your nonprofit’s mission
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An Example

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

Let’s talk about platforms. Every social media channel has a personality of its own, and content doesn’t always translate universally across each one. Viewing our sample calendar above, you’ll see that photos (personal stories, event photos, etc.) are posted to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. General updates and calls for donations aren’t posted to all platforms on our calendar -- perhaps there isn’t a compelling image to accompany it. Maybe for your organization there is! If possible to include, high-quality photos are always a plus on social media. If no photos are available, consider creating an infographic for content such as statistics that display donor impact to grab your audience’s interest.

The Bottom Line

Always keep in mind that social media is about a shared experience. 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 doing a yearly communications survey to evaluate how receptive donors are to your current communications strategy and illuminate ways in which you can improve.

With a bit of advance planning up front, you’ll lay the groundwork for your nonprofit’s social media strategy months in advance, which will not only allow you to produce the best content possible but provide a way for you to track the success of your campaigns. Never lose sight of the mission of your nonprofit and ensure that each post aligns with this voice, and you’ll be on your way to a thoughtful social media presence that engages current and future supporters and facilitates a long-term relationship.


Author Bio

miller-hollingsworth-bloom.jpgMiller Hollingsworth is an Account Manager at Bloom Communications, an integrated communications agency bridging the gap between the marketing, market research, and public relations disciplines to serve organizations making an impact in their communities. Miller holds a BS in Integrated Marketing Communications from the University of Mississippi with minors in English and Business. She is also a proud Georgetown University alumni and holds a Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications.

Topics: Partners