The end of the year is approaching and, for foundations and others, that means it’s time to consider how you might use whatever remains in your communications budget. Making the most of these resources will keep your work, and the work of the grantees you support, moving the needle as much as possible.
There are a handful of straightforward ways communications budget funds can be spent that both make sense and produce valuable results, even in the last weeks of the year:
1. Create a Compelling Annual Report
Your annual report can be much more than a listing of the grants you made and some basic financial data. It’s an opportunity to let interested audiences know what your priorities are and what you’ve achieved, as well as to share best practices.
Whether printed, digital, or both, your foundation’s annual report is an encapsulation and record of the year — and the close of the year is a reasonable time to kick off the production process.
Take a look at what the Walter & Elise Haas Fund has done to transform their annual report into a dynamic, engaging communications piece. Khan Academy also provides inspiration for how an annual report can shine.
2. Invest Early in Web Upgrades
If you foresee the need to update or improve your website or other digital properties in the coming year, getting that in the works before the current year expires serves dual purposes: you ensure you’ve got the funds allocated to keep up with the ever-changing web landscape and you’ll make good use of any remaining budget surplus.
3. Launch Online Marketing Campaigns
The Kenneth Rainin Foundation accumulated 3,500 views of their annual report — that’s three times more views than they saw in the previous year. That publicity was made possible through a strategic Facebook and Google ad buy that activated their digital strategy goals.
In Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s case, they were honoring 10 years of extraordinary success and wanted to engage those who would be part of the next decade’s milestones. For a foundation, online marketing isn’t about fundraising or sales — it’s about building collaboration and momentum.
Online ads can help you reach audiences that otherwise lack the opportunity to engage.
4. Update Your Brand Messages
As you work on your annual report and look back at the year, there’s a chance you’ll discover that the brand messages you’ve been using need to be realigned to map to your growth. And as you look ahead to the coming year’s new challenges and goals, you may also anticipate a need to update your messages to match what’s to come.
Undertaking this work helps to ensure your program officers and communications team remain well equipped to share your evolving story.
5. Sponsor Grantee Training Sessions
Providing grants isn’t the only way a foundation supports its grantees or works to achieve its mission. Grantee training sessions covering brand strategy, messaging, campaign strategy, social media tools, and more all can help raise grantees’ level of awareness, understanding, and effectiveness.
Sponsoring trainings such as these not only pays dividends for your grantees — making them better able to engage funders, volunteers, and constituents — they also help build relationships (and collaboration) among your community.
6. Build Your Photo Library
As you’ve grown and refined your areas of giving, have the images you use to represent you kept pace? If not, a professional shoot can reinforce your brand and your purpose. New photography helps off and on-line communications feel fresh and on-brand.
Build your brand — and your ability to effect change — by looking ahead, sticking to strategy, and making the most of your communications budget.