At this time of year, our newsfeeds are filled with resolutions encouraging us all to set personal goals and objectives.

At an organizational level, Q1 also tends to be a time for goal setting and planning. Organizations we have worked with in the past are often actively engaged in compiling program statistics and setting fundraising targets for the coming year. Often forgotten or undervalued, a Communications and Marketing plan should be a key activity in your planning process.

William Joseph’s considerable experience working with charities in Alberta and Saskatchewan has taught us that Communications and Marketing for non-profits should not be done off the side of your desk or as “free” opportunities present themselves. Communications and Marketing activities should always be planned and measurable, and linked to overall organizational goals.

A strong plan is the foundation for success in any industry, in particular the not for profit sector. Careful planning will enable you to prioritize your spending and to avoid investing time or money in initiatives that don’t connect to your marketing and communications goals and ultimately your mission and vision.

Investing time and resources into a comprehensive plan will allow you to:

1) Create a road map for success
It is very difficult to get where you are going without a map. A plan will give you direction, define accountabilities, and enable you to achieve your end goals.

2) Audit your existing communications and marketing materials and initiatives
Best completed by a third party, an audit will help you to determine what is working and what isn’t. It will also help to determine the strength of your existing brand, whether there is brand consistency, or if you have a brand at all.

3) Set appropriate budgets
Dollars and time should be designated, because if it doesn’t go in the budget the work often doesn’t get done. A set budget also ensures that your goals are reasonable and achievable. Within your budgets it is also important to determine multi-year projects and line items for your communications activities and departments. This will enable you to seek out media partners, sponsorships, and opportunities to fundraise for communications.

4) Develop consistent written and visual branding
A consistent brand makes you recognizable in your community increasing awareness for your organization which could result in increased donations. A strong brand also establishes your position as an organization and the role you fill in the community.

5) Measure your work
The value of communications and marketing isn’t always immediate or recognizable. Measuring your work will demonstrate the value of marketing and communications to your organization and create transparency for donors and partners.

Depending on the size of your organization and available resources, a plan can be as simple or as robust as necessary. Also it is important to remember that a plan is always a working document and once you get started it should always be revised and enhanced and never filed away in a drawer.