Day in the Life of a Nonprofit Communicator – Emily Roush-Bobolz
Welcome to our latest installment in our series on the “Day in the Life” of nonprofit communicators! This series lets you describe your workday in your own words.
We’d love to feature YOU in this series! Don’t be shy – tell us what you do in a typical day as a nonprofit communications pro.
Emily Roush-Bobolz is the Communications Manager for Hemophilia Federation of America. She has two degrees in mass communications as well as integrated marketing, and has worked in communications for nearly 20 years. She began her career as a newspaper reporter for The Des Moines Register, but when the newspaper industry changed, she began working in communications and fundraising for nonprofit organizations in healthcare and higher education. She calls Iowa home, where she lives with her husband, two biological children and three step-children (and two cats).
And this is her typical day:
Before 8:00 a.m. – It’s 6:30 a.m., and my alarm is going off. I know they say you’re not supposed to leave your phone next to the bed – that you’re supposed to disconnect completely – but there it is, serving as my alarm.
I don’t hit snooze this morning, but I grumble and roll out of bed to get my two elementary school-aged children up and out the door to school, which is conveniently just a block away from home. While they’re getting ready, I peer at my emails that have come in over night from my co-workers located all over the country in different time zones. The quick glance gives me an idea of what I’m facing today. So far, it doesn’t look like I will need to put out any fires today.
The convenience of working from home means as soon as the kids run out the door, I breathe a sigh of relief for that task – they’re dressed, fed and going to make it to class on time, as long as they’re not distracted by the rocks, sticks, leaves and other wonders nature has to offer along the way. I make a cup of coffee, grab my phone and head to my home office, still in my comfortable pants yet uncomfortably messy hair. I mentally prepare for any stress that may come my way today.
8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m – “They” say the most successful people read their emails later in the day. I wish I could be like them. But I start my day re-reading the emails that came in since I walked away the day before, as well as reviewing the emails from the day or two before to make sure I’m not missing a deadline or unintentionally failing to return a message, send someone a link or graphic they need, or chiming in on requests for my opinion.
As the Communications Manager, my next step is to dive into the black hole of social media. I check Facebook messages and notifications to make sure we have happy community members and see what other organizations are sharing our posts, making a mental note of what type of content they like to share. I also make a mental note of analytics for our recent posts, and if it’s close to our every-other-week staff call, I’ll gather the analytics in a more understandable manner for co-workers, so they understand how this relates to the work they do.
While in Facebook, I schedule a few more posts for the days ahead, just in case I get too busy in the coming days to attend to social media. At least I know something will appear if I get too busy. Today, I’m doing a little more than usual, because I’m taking Friday off for a very late Valentine’s weekend get-away with my husband.
10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. – It’s that time of day for some meetings, although my meetings are via phone or GoToMeeting because we all work remotely. Today I’m on the phone with Development to discuss promoting our involvement as a charity partner in the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. in October.
We discuss how our Creative Director will make a promotional video since he’s in D.C. right now. I gather the timeline of registration deadlines and other important dates, so I can promote on social media and get a plan in place for a story in our magazine. Because I started with the organization as the Development Coordinator, planning our annual charity bicycle rides, Gears for Good, I have a good idea of how the department works and what they’re looking for when it comes to promoting this event.
After the call, I take a break for lunch. Some days I might leave the house, go for a drive and grab some lunch somewhere, just to get out of the house and get some fresh air. But today I throw a chicken pot pie in the oven, and head back to my desk to take a look at my to-do list for the day while it bakes. Once my lunch is ready, I eat at my desk while reading emails, checking the editorial calendar and other little tasks that do not require too much attention.
12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. – Today I’m sending our Sangre Latina eblast, a mass email to the Spanish-speaking members of our bleeding disorders community. We have an important message for our friends in Puerto Rico who continue to suffer following the hurricane. We’ve been raising money for our Helping Hands program to provide emergency assistance to those living with bleeding disorders who need help. We now know of an additional resource to help them, so we need to get the email sent so they can meet the application deadline.
A few days ago I worked with our graphic designer to translate some existing graphics into Spanish, and I now make sure they’re pulled from email and placed in an organized, centralized folder. I build the email in our email system (while cussing under my breath, wishing we could switch to a better system!), then send a test to Martha, our Puerto Rican-born program coordinator. She finds some translation mistakes, so with some calls and back and forth emails, the email is read to send.
2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. – I think my day is winding down and I can maybe dig into some books on editorial planning or blogs about story banking, but suddenly a few reminders in my Outlook Calendar pop up to reminders me of webinars I signed up to attend. Although the webinars are tomorrow, it reminds me I wanted to send a link for a new fundraising site I found to someone in Development, and another article on storytelling to our Web Specialist who has a background in creative writing and we plan to start tapping into those skills to write for our magazine. So I’m distracted for a minute while I search for those emails and forward to my co-workers.
I’m always learning. I’m always reading books, articles and blogs. And I love it. So I always want to share articles, blogs and webinars with co-workers. I don’t know if they are life-long learners, like me, but they’re nice enough to show their appreciation for my sharing.
By now my kids are walking through the door after a long day at school. So I take my break, give them hugs and hellos, make sure they hang up their coats and backpacks, wash their hands, and find an after school snack. They know Mom has to work, so they go about their business and I can quickly get back to my office.
This is usually the time in the afternoon when I think of a few wish-list items, such as a page I think we should add to our website or a new email signature we should ask the staff to use, so I make some notes of what I’d like to share with the Communications Team on our next call. I want to start tomorrow organized, so I take a look at Google Calendar and I also jot down some notes of graphics I will need to request from the Creative Director to plan ahead for the following week.
I also make note of all the emails I sent throughout the day, and the past two days to be honest, that have gone unanswered. That’s one of the challenges of working from home with other remote staff. It’s hard not to pop into someone’s office to toss around ideas or to ask for that one thing I’ve been waiting to receive. So I wait and wait for emails to be returned. Or I send a text to remind them to read my message. It requires a lot of planning ahead.
After 4:00 p.m. – My cat lies on the desk next to my computer, his purring reminding me I have other obligations beyond work, so I should be wrapping up my day. I plan to end my day at 4:30 today. Most days I go until 5:30 p.m. or later. I want to make sure I get some of those wish-list items started, or maybe a few more things on the Google Calendar. And a SalesForce task came in with some advertising that needs to get in our next eblast, so I need to make a note. And just so I don’t miss the note, I open the email system and add it right now, so my mind is at ease that it is done. And I just remembered I wanted to look up editorial planning software since I’m taking over as Production Manager of the magazine, so my day stretches to 5 p.m. instead.
I feel like I never really walk away, because my mind continues to think about editorial planning, organizing and creative writing long after I walk away from my desk. It has always been this way. I started making newsletters by cutting and pasting magazine images onto a piece of paper with my own, made-up captions when I was 10-years-old, so communications is in my blood. But my family and my health needs me to walk away, so I’m logging off now.
Thanks for sharing your day, Emily!
Want to be featured in this series? Tell us what you do in a typical day as a nonprofit communications pro.