5 Considerations for Your #NPCOMM Professional Development Plan

Professional Development for Nonprofit Communications


Earlier today on Facebook Live (watch the recording now), I shared five considerations for creating a professional development plan in the nonprofit communications and marketing field.

#1: Live Your Life in Draft.

This doesn’t mean that everything stays hidden in draft and never published. In fact, it’s the opposite: freely publish and edit again later. It’s easier to let go of perfectionism if you treat everything as a draft.

The same goes for your professional development. No need to wait until you find the perfect program to enroll in, or the perfect job to work toward. Just go for it, without excuses.  You should always be learning and growing, so don’t let the fact that you don’t feel like you’ve learned or grown quite enough yet stop you from reaching for your professional goals. 

#2: Learn Every Single Day.

Read or listen to something new every single day, even if it’s just for five minutes while on your commute. We are working on updating our lists of favorite books, podcasts, webinars, conferences, and blogs to share with you. Stay tuned!  Of course, it’s always fun to move off those lists and get lost on purpose too!

#3: Weigh What You Are Naturally Good at Versus What You Love.

Sometimes you might be great at something, and that something might pay the bills. But your heart may not be into it. You may LOVE doing other kinds of work.  

I don’t think there is necessarily a right or wrong answer here. Of course, the ideal is that you can get paid to do what you love. But most jobs (especially when you are starting out) require you to slog through some work that you may excel at even if it feels like it’s starving your soul. 

Just be aware of the differences and work toward the right blend for you.

#4: Weigh Being a Generalist Versus a Specialist.

Nonprofit communications work demands utility players, especially at smaller organizations. But there are also plenty of jobs where some specialization is required to create a perfect fit. 

I think it’s helpful to use the “Knowledge, Proficiency, Mastery” scale here. Generalists will have lots of topics in their Knowledge and Proficiency columns, but little to none under Mastery. Specialists will have fewer topics in Knowledge and Proficiency, but more in Mastery. 

Even if you stay on the generalist side of the spectrum, I encourage you to have at least one specific tactical interest that you go deep on, like podcasting, Facebook ads, learning management systems, or WordPress plugins, for example. It’s nice to demonstrate that you do have the capacity to reach the mastery level when given the opportunity. 

Curious about where I think nonprofit communications will need more specialists in the future? Video and analytics, for sure. You can’t go wrong with professional development on those topics.

#5: Know What Your Professional Growth Looks Like.  

How will you measure your professional growth? Is it being in a certain job, or doing a certain kind of work, or having different responsibilities than you do now? Is it moving from knowledge to proficiency to mastery in some way? 

If you are interested in more responsibilities within the nonprofit communications world, I recommend thinking about how you can move from tactical communications work to more strategic work to CALM leadership work.

Want more? Join us on March 8, 2018 for the new webinar, For Nonprofit Communications Staff Only: How to Create Your Professional Development Plan.

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  • This is great, on so many levels, and I like that these tips can be applied to more than just nonprofit work. As a perfectionist, number one especially stuck out to me. Thank you!