Creating a Year-to-Year Legacy Communication Plan

Posted on November 1, 2018

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By Joann Collins

The seasonal nature of the fundraising events business means that your communications team is usually in one of three repeating phases: Planning, Implementing, or Analyzing. Then as soon as you’re done with your analysis, it’s time to plan for the next year. During that transition period as the cycle starts anew, how can you make sure you’re learning from and building on the previous season? How can you build efficiencies, so you’re not reinventing the wheel every year, but also not repeating everything identically to the year before?

Keeping track of everything your communications team does is vital. Not just in case of the old “someone gets hit by a bus” scenario. But even if the same people are implementing your plan year to year, the best memories are fallible. We’re only human.

What should this documentation include?

  1. A full list of all emails sent, including autoresponders. List the topic, audience and date sent. This spreadsheet can also be used throughout the year to keep track of where communications are in the review and execution process.
  2. Incentives and discounts. List how much of a discount you offered, what the code was, the date of the promotion period and how it was promoted. List fundraising incentives and rewards as well.
  3. Social media posts. What topics did you promote, on which channels, and when?
  4. Website updates. Event information is ever evolving. You should have a complete list of every single page on your website, with its URL and an overview of what information lives where. That way, when something changes, you know where to update it.

You don’t need fancy project management software. It can be as simple as a Word document or a spreadsheet. Make sure it’s shared with the whole team, so everyone can collaborate and contribute while referencing the most updated version.

All of the above documentation should also include a schedule, so you know at what point during the year it needs to be done. Did you provide holiday-themed fundraising tools? Did you post logistical information at four-weeks-out, in order to give participants time to prepare? Did you promote recruitment offers at key points throughout the year?

Don’t rely on your team’s memory to ensure that everything happens on time. Build reminders into your schedules―both for when the communication should be sent/posted/updated as well as when it should be started―so you’re not always playing catch up.

Do you know if your communications are working? Whether they are or aren’t, do you know why? You can survey your audiences to see what they think, but a more accurate result will come from testing. Emails, webpages, incentive promotions and social media posts can all be A/B tested to see what works best. Make sure you only tweak one aspect at a time in order to get clear and meaningful results.

In addition to looking at the results of your testing, you’ll also want to pull analytics on a regular basis, so you can look at trends of your email, social media and website performance month-over-month and year-over-year.

Now that you have solid documentation of all of your communications and analytics on what performed best, what do you do with that information?

When it’s time to create the plan for the following year, you’re not starting from scratch. But don’t just repeat yourself, either. Your audience is going to be a mix of those who are familiar with your organization and those who are brand new, so mix it up while still keeping that which worked best.

Here at Event 360, we not only utilize these best practices for each of our clients, but use our experience and institutional knowledge across clients. There is no one-size-fits-all communication plan―every event and every audience is different―but there are a lot of things we have learned from the results of one communication plan that can be applied to another. Reach out if we can help you with your communication plans.



A graduate of Northwestern University and the University of Southern California, Joann Buckley Collins has been writing and developing communication strategies for nonprofits since 1998. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two sons, who think that “mom writes emails all day.” When not writing emails, Joann is hiking, playing tennis, reading and cooking. You can find Joann on LinkedIn.


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