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.


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!

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. 

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.


Compare Your Value to the Cost of Doing Nothing

Monday Marketing Morsels


Last week I talked about the connection between the perceived value of your work and how you set fees.

Oftentimes, this conversation with nonprofit clients quickly devolves into how long it will take you, and what your hourly rate is.

This is, in my experience, the worst possible way to have a conversation with a client about the value of your services.

If the conversation is going there, pull up. Instead, what you want to do is focus on the problem you are solving or the opportunity you are creating, and most importantly, the cost to the nonprofit of NOT solving that problem or of skipping that opportunity.  

It’s only when you are talking in these terms that both you and your clients can see the true value of your services.

Maybe your fee to help rewrite their year-end fundraising materials seems expensive . . . until they consider that their materials are raising less and less each year, and that they must get back on track or lay off staff.

Maybe your fee to help get board members engaged in the organization’s work seem expensive . . .  until they consider how much more productive the board would be with some training, and how staff would no longer despise working with the board.

Maybe your fee to coach a team to learn content marketing skills seems expensive . . .  until they realize you are teaching not just communications skills, but new ways to deliver programming that better achieves the organization’s mission, instead of continuing to be ignored by the people they claim to serve.

It’s in both of your interests to look at the consulting relationship in this way. 

Know your value, and the costs to your prospective clients of missing out on that value, and market THAT. Not your time. 

We’ll talk about how you set your fees during the Get Nonprofit Clients Group Coaching Program, which starts October 5. Early bird pricing ends September 18.




Getting Paid What You Are Worth – It’s Complicated


Last week I asked you to share your biggest marketing challenge right now (still time to add yours if you haven’t already!).

As I look through all of the answers, it’s amazing how interconnected 80% of them are.

It looks a little something like this . . .

The Marketing Struggle for Nonprofit Consultants

There’s a very complicated relationship between value (your ability to explain it, and nonprofits’ willingness to appreciate it) and fees (what you charge and finding clients who can pay that).

Spend a little time thinking about these dynamics . . . it might just help you come to some realizations about your marketing approaches.

We tackle these questions head on in the Get Nonprofit Clients Group Coaching Program. I’ve just re-opened registration, and the program starts October 5. Early bird registration will save you $300.

How have you seen these dynamics playing out in your own practice? Have any tips you can share with others on finding the sweet spot on value and pricing? Please share in the comments.