Doing Your Big Picture Communications Timeline

Big Picture Timeline

Kristina and I spent most of the Saturday before last working on our Big Picture Communications Timeline for 2016.

This is the exercise that I highly recommend nonprofits do before attempting an editorial calendar, and the same goes for consultants too! The steps are just a bit different.

For nonprofits, it starts with events and milestones both within and outside of their control, then calls to action, core topics, and story arcs. I devoted the entirety of Chapter 7 in Content Marketing for Nonprofits (Amazon) to the Big Picture Communications Timeline.

But doing it for our own company was a bit different. We let our thought leadership goals and training/mentoring programs drive the schedule. We were also explicit about both the content marketing schedule and the advertising schedules, which we had never really sketched out in this much detail before (which is why we felt like we were often working on too many different things at once this year!).

Here’s how we tackled it . .

Core Topics. I had already decided to do a series of four programs we are calling Marketing Accelerators, one per quarter, and to use those topics as guiding themes for each quarter. So we marked those out on the calendar, including when registration opened (and thus marketing began) as well as when we would be delivering the program.

Email List Building and Free Content. Next we mapped out some email list building campaigns and delivery of free content, like free webinars, leading into those Accelerators.

Pass Holder Only Benefits. Next we looked at what else we wanted to deliver in the form of training and resources to our All-Access Pass Holder Community and fit all of that into the schedule.

Other Big Milestone Dates. We added in the important dates for time-consuming projects like our Mentoring Program for Communications Directors, our Nonprofit Communications Trends Report, and when we put our Annual Pass on sale.

Identifying Gaps for Additional Speakers to Fill. With all of these key items in place on the calendar, we could now see where the gaps or slower times were, and we are working with several colleagues to fit their trainings into our schedule.

Kristina and I feel great about our 2016 plan!

How do you do long-term communications planning for your own business? If you’ve never tried it, give the Big Picture Communications Timeline a try.


Registration Closes Friday for Group Coaching Program

Get Nonprofit Clients Coaching ProgramIf you are really interested in how to market your business to nonprofits, and developing your own customized marketing strategy that will work for you, joining the Get Nonprofit Clients Coaching Program is the way to go.

I will offer this program only once a year, so it will be late 2016 before I re-open the program.

Want to create a marketing strategy that gets you the sweet life in 2016? We get started on Monday!

Want to join us? Registration closes at midnight ET on Friday, October 2, 2015.


What Would You Ask 2,500 Nonprofits?

2016 Nonprofit Communications Trends

Every year at Nonprofit Marketing Guide, we do a Nonprofit Communications Trends Report. We develop the questions around this time of year, open the survey throughout November, do some “sneak peek” releases of the data in December and issue the full report in January.

It’s a great resource for the community, and a great list builder for us.

I usually add 3-5 new questions a  year, and am brainstorming now.

We usually get somewhere around 2,500 nonprofits participating, most of whom are communications directors, with some development directors and executive directors too.

What question(s) would you like to see in the survey, that perhaps could help you with your own marketing decisions? Multiple choice is easiest, so let me know what answers you would offer as choices too. 

Share your ideas in the comments — and thanks for your help with brainstorming!

P.S. The Get Nonprofit Clients Coaching Program starts October 5 and registration ends this Friday. I’ve decided to make the early bird rates permanent, so no worries if you didn’t get around to registering yet!

With Nonprofit Clients, Patience is Mandatory

Dog PatienceIf you think you can just quit your job and instantly start making a living working for nonprofit clients, good luck.

From the outside, it looks like that’s what I did. But the behind-the-scenes truth is that I already had one major client lined up before I quit my job, great leads for several others, a cash cushion in the bank, and a significant other who offered to pay more than his share of expenses when needed.

All of that meant I could afford to be patient. I was, and the work came. But it was probably six months before I felt like I was in a solid, comfortable place.

Nonprofits are generally not fast decision makers or “impulse” buyers. You are talking about people who are usually quite frugal, and who have been “doing it themselves” for quite a long time.

It takes even more time for them to recognize that they need help, or that someone could do it better. It takes even more time on top of that to decide to spend the money (because they often have to go find the money or budget for the expense months — even a year — in advance).

Come up with your own lead development system, and work it hard, day in and day out. Then be patient. The clients will come.

We’ll discuss more strategies like this that are essential when working in the nonprofit sector during the Get Nonprofit Clients Coaching Program. Registration ends this Friday, October 2, 2015.

Creating a Rate Card for Estimating

Monday Marketing Morsels

It’s a perennial question, so let’s talk about it again . . . How do you set your rates? (This is a topic we also discuss at length in the Coaching Program, which starts October 5, 2015.)

When I first started freelancing, I never knew what to charge. After a year or two, however, I learned how long it would take me to do various kinds of work and to gauge how easy or difficult a client would be to work with.

I created a matrix that I would use to estimate project fees for clients. The matrix was something for my own purposes — I did not show it to clients. It gave me an easy place to start, and then I could adjust from there.

For example, it’s common for consultants to include what I call a PITA Surcharge (or “pain in the ass” fee) of an additional 10-30% when estimating for certain clients! Of course, you don’t openly discuss this with most of your clients; it’s just part of your own calculations. (I have discussed this openly with long-standing clients who are self-aware enough to know when certain projects are going to require a ridiculous number of drafts because of certain personalities involved. But that’s rare.)

Here’s the rate card I personally used to use to estimate writing jobs. You’ll see the two main factors were how hard the job would be (which affects the speed with which I could write, a rate I calculated for myself after carefully tracking time on many projects) and how much I thought the work was worth on an hourly basis.


The type of work (e.g., annual report versus press release) and the client (e.g., small versus large) influenced which hourly rate I used. Again, I did not actually give the client the hourly rate. I just used it to estimate the project fee, which is what I gave to the client as the estimate.

I don’t use this anymore, because I don’t do this kind of work anymore. I am not suggesting you use this chart or these fees; I am suggesting that you create your own kind of tool!

What’s your favorite way to structure your fees for your nonprofit clients? How do you calculate estimates for your clients? Please share in the comments. 

How to Do Marketing and Client Work at the Same Time

writing in a journalQuick Reminder: Early Bird pricing for the Get Nonprofit Clients Coaching Program ends tomorrow, Friday, September 18. You’ll save $300 by registering now.

When we asked about your biggest challenges last month, one common complaint was that you didn’t have time for marketing because you were busy with client work.

Of course, this is a good problem to have. But just feeling grateful for the work doesn’t solve your marketing problem.

Here’s a solution that I have used successfully over the years. It requires blogging or other forms of content marketing as part of your strategy, and some discipline immediately after doing client work, whether in person, on the phone, or on your own.

After each session of client work that takes more than an hour or so, get out your notebook. Jot down a few reflections that can be generalized to other nonprofits in similar situations as your client, or mind map what you just spent that hour doing.

This stuff is content GOLD. Gold, I tell you!  You are taking all that consulting brain power that you just applied to one client and stepping back so you can learn how to apply it to others.

And . . . you are sketching out a first draft of a blog post. Or maybe notes from a few of these sessions come together into one post. Or if it’s really good, it becomes an e-book or a presentation.

Of course, you still need to set aside some time to finish it up. But the majority of the hard thinking is already done!

Give it a try for a week or two. You just might be shocked how much marketing content you can create in those note taking breaks.

Have you successfully turned time working with clients into marketing time too? Share how you did it in the comments! 


You Have to Take the Long View

Monday Marketing Morsels


Quick Reminder: This is the last week of the Early Bird pricing for the Get Nonprofit Clients Coaching Program that starts October 5. Register by this Friday, September 18 to save $300.

Working for nonprofit clients — and marketing to them — requires a long-term strategy and commitment. There’s just no way around that.

This is not a “get rich quick” situation. Many times it’s not even a “pay off your bills in a timely manner” situation.

You may be tempted to look at those of us who have been at this for awhile and think, “Wow, it all looks so easy. So simple. So effortless.”


It’s usually anything but that. My own backstory is filled with family turmoil, major debt, and dropping a $75,000 client.

Yeah, things are working out pretty well now, but it took many years and a fair amount of anxiety to get here.

And it’s still hard. I don’t get some jobs I want. We launch online products that flop. That part isn’t fun, and it’s sometimes very upsetting.

But I never, ever, think about doing something else. Because this sweet life is one of my choosing and making.

I am in it for the long haul. And that mindset alone is an essential part of my success.

It allows me to make marketing decisions that may not generate income for six months, a year, or even two years from now.  But it’s all part of the long-term process of developing a nonprofit clientele.

Building trust takes time. Getting nonprofits to agree to spend money takes time. Is that time you are willing to invest?

It’s a very personal decision, but it’s probably the most important marketing decision you can make in this sector.


How My Consulting Practice Has Evolved

Evolution - stages of development


I was talking to a consultant friend the other day who felt like she was failing, because she was changing her business model to provide a different kind of service than she originally intended. She seemed disappointed in herself that she couldn’t make the first thing work.

I tried to reassure her that her experience was perfectly natural, and actually very savvy, because it meant she was being more responsive to what her customers really wanted. She was simply pivoting to something more meaningful and relevant to her customers, even if it was their idea and not hers! (more…)

Run as Fast as You Can from the Nonprofit Martyrs

But I work at a nonprofit!

I love working for nonprofit clients. It’s a life and career choice I do not regret, ever.

But that doesn’t mean I want to work with all nonprofits.

I avoid certain types of organizations based on my moral and political values.

I also avoid nonprofits staffed by martyrs.

Luckily most nonprofit staff are not martyrs, just hard-working, deeply passionate people. But we do run into them regularly.

The martyrs are pretty easy to spot, because they get very indignant with you when you ask them to pay for anything. Ironically, they are also the people most likely to complain about your FREE content too! They don’t think they should have to pay, because they work for nonprofits, AND they also tend to think that they deserve the most comprehensive information and services available, because they work for nonprofits. 

I totally get it when people feel like they need to ask for a discount or special terms or a full scholarship. It’s the reaction that I get when I tell them “No, because our prices and terms are already built for nonprofits,” that tells me all I need to know.

If they say, “OK, just had to ask,” and move on with the purchase or contract, or ask me when we might be running a sale for all nonprofits, that’s fine with me. I get it.

If they politely say they just can’t afford it, I totally get that too. We usually direct them to as many of our free resources as we can.

It’s when they continue to push, and try to make me feel bad or guilty, that I suspect I’m talking to a martyr. If they get the least bit bitchy with me or Kristina (who handles most of our customer service questions), that’s a sure sign.

At that point, I suggest that we are probably not the best service provider for them. Their next move is often to ask me for recommendations for where to go next. Since I don’t want to push a martyr on to someone else, I usually suggest they Google it.

In a few select cases, I’ve secretly unsubscribed them from all of our stuff, because I really had no interest in hearing from them again.

Many people make huge personal sacrifices to start and work for nonprofits. I appreciate their commitment and dedication. They deserve our thanks and admiration. They do not, however, deserve free labor and expertise from every consultant they run into.

If nonprofit staff try to make you feel bad about charging them, because they are such good people themselves, and you, well, you are just  trying to make money off of them (shame! shame!), I urge you to ditch the conversation as fast as you can.

How do you handle conversations with nonprofit martyrs? Please share in the comments.

P.S. We’ll talk about handling difficult client situations and pricing your services during the Get Nonprofit Clients Coaching Program that starts October 5. Early bird rates end September 18.