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Crash course in nonprofit communications?
July 29, 2014 4:13 PM   Subscribe

I am the de facto communications director for my nonprofit. I'd like to become actually good at it, but how?

I work for a nonprofit with a very small central office. I've been there about a year and a half. I was initially hired as primarily a grant and report writer and all-around editor, but gradually, as the staff changed and I got more experience, I began taking on more communications duties. Currently, in addition to writing and editing several reports and proposals per month, I am almost solely responsible for our web/facebook/twitter presence and for all InDesign layout work and graphics (because I'm the only one with Adobe experience). Our three satellite offices recently hired local communications people, and once they get more situated I will be expected to collect information from them systematically and edit their work, as they are not native speakers. I am currently in the process of trying to build up a contact list from scratch, for both development and communications purposes, and once that's on track I will be largely in charge of press releases and mailings as well (currently we don't do these much, if at all).

I've realized two things: I prefer the communications side of my work to the development side, and I don't really feel like I know what I'm doing. Yeah, imposter syndrome, blah blah blah, but I have never had any training at all in communications, not even from a supervisor. My previous job was 100% development, not communications. My direct supervisor now is the executive director.

I want to do a good job with the communications here, because I have a chance to seriously change the way my whole organization does things, and, on a personal level, to really make this an actual career I could enjoy (unlike development). I know we could be doing so much more, in much more sensible ways... but the task of figuring out exactly what to do and how to do it seems overwhelming to me. I truly wouldn't know where to begin. I'm in my 20s and have only worked in an office job for like three years total, and like I say, I have no training in this, and of course I have so much to do most days that a lot of things just wind up falling by the wayside.

So, what to do? My boss is very open to paying for training, but I wouldn't know what kind of training to even look into. I'd love it if there were some book titled "How to go from zero to communications director" or something. And of course, I would love any personal anecdotes or advice.
posted by showbiz_liz to Work & Money (5 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
Check out Spitfire Strategies and their "Smart Chart." (No affiliation except that they've advised others at the organization where I work.)
posted by slidell at 4:24 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I cannot recommend Nicely Said by Nicole Fenton and Kate Kiefer Lee enough.

Covers a variety of subjects, everything from content maps, knowing how and when to craft a style guide, and figuring out just what to say in difficult situations.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 4:39 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


Does your NPO operate at a 350k or higher budget? If so, you could ask Taproot for assistance. Bonus is it would not cost your organization anything.
posted by crush-onastick at 5:24 PM on July 29 [1 favorite]


I don't have experience with these, but here's some potential resources:

The National Council of Nonprofits has some good links.

Nonprofit Tech for Good is a site about social media for nonprofits and has some trainings listed.
posted by aka burlap at 6:08 PM on July 29


Start networking! You're lucky to be somewhere with lots of nonprofits, which means lots of nonprofit communications people. Start asking for lunch dates to pick their brains, or ask what networking functions they already go to. At a networking function, come with several questions ("what's the most important channel of communications for your org?") that you just ask everyone. People enjoy talking about themselves, and you'll get a lot out of it.

Get in touch with your local branch of the American Marketing Association. Most branches will have lunch and learn opportunities, and many of those topics will fit in exactly with what you're talking about. You just barely missed the nonprofit marketing conference this year, but the full conference program (pdf) still has good abstracts as a starting point.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:14 PM on July 30 [1 favorite]


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