“But is this really my responsibility?”
That’s the response I sometimes get when I’m encouraging a nonprofit communications director to step up and start an often-hard conversation within their organizations.
Of course, it’s usually not their job, technically. But the problem is that when executive directors and other senior staff don’t provide that kind of leadership, there’s a gap. Communications staff often can’t be strategic and effective themselves unless that gap is filled. So, comms staff can either hope that their leaders suddenly step up (and wait indefinitely) or they can start the conversations themselves.
Here are five places where I see this happening time and time again . . . nonprofit executives haven’t put these things in place for whatever reason, and so the communications staff has to ask for them.
Mission Strategy. What are the organization’s programmatic goals and priorities for this year, this quarter, this month? Comms staff need to know this, but it’s frightening how often they don’t get these answers.
Project Management. Who’s ensuring staff coordination and tracking of projects and deadlines? Don’t assume programmatic or executive directors or even operations officers are. And yet comms staff absolutely need internal project management coordination to be successful. It’s often comms staff who introduce project management tools like Asana or Trello into nonprofits.
Non-Email Internal Communications. How do people communicate internally? Again, this should really be the domain of an executive director or operations director, but alas, comms again often gets stuck dealing with it.
Professional Development. Communications staff simply cannot do their jobs well without ongoing professional development. Our work changes much too quickly, especially online. Comms staff shouldn’t have to fight for professional development time and money; it should be expected. And yet, they often have to make the case.
Assigning Comms Roles on Programmatic Teams. Comms is cross-functional and cross-team work. Communications directors shouldn’t feel like they always have to go up their side of the org chart and then back down through the other side to get program staff to cooperate on comms work. It should be a cross-team expectation that staff will work collaboratively without involving all the layers of management as gatekeepers and messengers.
I know, I’m sorry. I wish you could just do your job and not your boss’s. But sometimes they really don’t even know it’s their job because they are trained subject matter experts, not trained managers or executives! The only way things will improve is if someone starts these conversations, and sometimes that someone is you.