120814-blog-red-starsTo help people enjoy a holiday season that’s filled with more fun and less stuff, The Center for a New American Dream runs two main campaigns: Simplify the Holidays, which provides tools and resources to reduce stress and increase personal fulfillment, and SoKind, an alternative gift registry.

I asked Wendy Philleo, New Dream’s executive director, to share how her staff have approached planning and communicating two large, holiday-focused campaigns at the busiest time of year. Here’s what they’ve learned:

Start earlier than you expect

New Dream was surprised that, when surveyed, their audiences said they wanted more holiday help even earlier in the year. New Dream’s clever solution? A daily Simplify the Holidays planning calendar, with over a month of bite-sized tips to ease people into the holiday season. Next year, New Dream plans to start the Simplify the Holidays calendar even earlier.

However, an earlier sharing schedule means that New Dream needs to start its own internal organizational planning earlier, too. An unexpected benefit of this earlier planning is that regional coordinators and volunteers are better able to plan their alternative holiday gift fairs. LightBox Collaborative worked with New Dream to set up their nonprofit editorial calendar to help with this planning, and the organization continues to expand upon it.

Earlier planning can also help New Dream secure coverage in magazines and holiday-themed publications, marketing they’re eager to do. Many print publications require at least 2 to 3 months lead time (for example, Real Simple’s December issue deadline is in August), which doesn’t even include the time the organization will need to create materials. The good news is that New Dream has compelling stories to tell, they just need the time and resources to get the work done.

Add value with social support

From their long experience, New Dream knew that people need more than just tools—they also need ongoing social support from their friends and community. For New Dream, that means going beyond tools and creating content ripe for sharing on social media, like a fun quiz on the meaning of the holidays, coming out soon. New Dream also always celebrates the stories of real people who have successfully simplified their holidays on the SoKind blog. These shareable stories inspire the blog’s readers and, through sharing, can motivate others.

Connect personal action to larger impact

New Dream has a bigger goal than just helping individuals have more meaningful, simpler holidays. They know—and science shows—that personal actions to reduce materialism can also benefit a person’s quality of life, their families and communities, and the environment. New Dream helps people learn about the greater impact of their actions by sharing research about the many benefits of a less materialistic lifestyle.

Get continual feedback and measure what matters

Since launching the SoKind alternative gift registry in October 2013, users have set up over 3,400 gift registries, and more registries are created every day. New Dream has also collected feedback from SoKind users, which has been overwhelmingly positive with over 98% of people saying they would recommend SoKind to a friend.

In their user surveys, New Dream also asked people which features they wanted added to SoKind. Armed with that information and a business plan, New Dream will soon expand SoKind in ways that provide more of what their audiences want that also supports the organization’s goals. Look for a new, improved version of SoKind in the new year.

New Dream has also been successful extending its Simplify the Holidays campaign throughout the year into other holidays that are overly and overtly commercialized, such as Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Easter, and Halloween.

That’s impact that makes a year-round holiday communications schedule worth the work!

Image courtesy of Flickr user the green gables

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Lauren Girardin
Lauren Girardin () is a LightBox collaborator who hopes your holidays are filled with the simple joy of time well spent with family and friends.