Speak, Teach, Blog — And Learn

Nancy Schwartz at Getting Attention asked for thoughts on how nonprofit marketers can stay on top of their professional development. One great way that I’ve continued to learn and grow professionally both as a consultant and previously as a nonprofit director is to turn the tables and move from the student role to the teacher role.

Teaching forces you to analyze your existing knowledge and experiences and to fill in the gaps so that you can provide a solid learning experience for others. Here are a few ways that you can increase your own skills and knowledge while helping others.

1. Seek out community speaking engagements. Not only will you improve your basic public speaking skills, but you can also practice how to grab your audience’s attention and convince them to support your cause — skills you can transfer to other facets of nonprofit marketing.

2. Speak at professional events. Ask to speak at your state’s nonprofit conference or at the state or national conference of the association that represents professionals working in your subject area. Giving a professional speech usually requires you to condense a lot of information into a small amount of time and to still be interesting — another skill that works across the board for nonprofit marketers.

3. Write a blog. Blogging is great form of peer-to-peer networking and mentoring. The frequent posting will stretch you to think about your work in new ways and to share valuable experiences and insights that may have otherwise been trapped in your office forever. We’ve already got a great community of nonprofit communications/marketing bloggers in place, so please join us!

4. Write an e-book or white paper. If you can’t keep up with a blog, try writing an e-book or white paper instead. Not only will the process help you grow professionally, you can also use it to market your organization (e.g. collect email addresses of the people who download it and follow-up with additional information about your group).

5. Write for a trade magazine. Every profession and subject area has its own trade magazine. Many of these magazines are thrilled when practitioners are willing to write articles for them. Some will even pay you for your article. It’s yet another task that challenges you to produce your best material.

6. Teach an in-person workshop or online course. I’d only been blogging for about six months when I was asked to teach an in-person workshop on nonprofit blogging. That forced me to become familiar with all of the existing resources out there. See the course notes, including links to some great leaders in the field.

Get out there and share what you know, and you’ll learn even more in the process.



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  • Sunny Smith

    These are some great suggestions! It is not always that one considers giving back, teaching or producing something in order to learn, but these types of situations are perfect for prompting the learning bug. All of these situations force people out of their comfort zone and are challenging – perhaps these are characteristics that open a mind to new information. The natural sense of pride that many people have in their work also encourages them to seek out new information or answers so that they can perform their best.