Communications work is complicated enough as it is. When you aren’t exactly sure who is responsible for what, it gets even more complicated.

You can get clarity on important elements of your work processes, like who needs to be consulted and who has the final decision, using a simple roles and responsibilities framework.

One popular model is RACI. 

R = Responsible for the project. This person is the one doing the work.

A = Accountable for the project. This person has the final say.

C = Consulted. This person has information or resources needed by “R” to complete the work.

I = Informed. This person needs to know the project is taking place and when it is completed but does not need to be involved in its creation or approval.

Each person on the team is assigned a letter to indicate their role related to the project as a whole, or to individual tasks, depending on how you organize the work.

Every task should have one and only one R. If you find yourself assigning more than one R per task, you should break down the task even further.

I personally find RACI a little confusing, because I am prone to mixing up “responsible” and “accountable” and also blending “consulted” and “informed.”

So I came up with a modified version that makes more sense to me in the nonprofit communications world. And lo and behold, it spells out CALM. So now we have CALM = Collaborative, Agile, Logical, and Methodical, as well as CALM = Contributes, Approves, Leads, and Monitors. 

Let’s take a closer look at this new definition.

C = Contributes. This person helps the Lead with information, resources, or other assistance. She is expected to contribute to getting the work done and communicating clearly with the Lead.

A = Approves. This person approves the final product and perhaps interim drafts as needed. She may also do a final proofread or edit content for tone or style. The Approver should be involved early in scoping out the project (e.g. approving the creative brief) and updated as needed to ensure there are no surprises at final approval time.

L = Leads.  This person is primarily responsible for the project and making sure the work gets done. She tracks all the moving parts, ensures deadlines are met, does much of the actual work, and takes interim decisions to the Approver.

M = Monitors.  This person should be kept informed about overall progress and when the work is completed but isn’t responsible for the work in any substantive way.

Let’s apply this model to publishing an email newsletter. 

Let’s say you have a two-person team with a communications coordinator and a marketing director. The coordinator is the Lead on the newsletter. She works with program staff who are Contributors for that particular edition to draft articles about their projects. She then edits those articles and gets the newsletter formatted. The director is the Approver, and she does a final edit before handing it back over to the Lead to publish the newsletter. Program managers whose topics aren’t in this edition of the newsletter would be Monitors. They need to know what’s in this issue and when it’s available but don’t need to be involved otherwise.

What models do you use to assign responsibilities in your nonprofit? Does this new CALM model make sense to you? I’d love to hear your comments!