Family on a walk on a board walk

One of the last conversations the most recent cohort of the Communications Director Mentoring Program had was around how you prepare for an extended leave (or exit) when you are a nonprofit communications director.

This is something all of us should be doing because you should be able to take a planned vacation or go on extended family leave, for example, without everything screeching to a halt or you having to answer the phone and email while you are away. The same holds true for unpredictable accidents and illnesses — you need to be able to take the time off to heal without worrying about the work. And of course, someday you might want to move on to another position and you’ll want to leave a good foundation for the next person.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, here are some of the key points that the group came up with . . .

Logins and Passwords. You need to have these captured somewhere that others can access. Don’t forget about any two-factor authentications you have turned on! If those are attached to a mobile phone owned by the nonprofit, make sure someone who is still working has it. Or change the number or remove the authentication temporarily.

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Describe how things get done. What are the steps? Who is involved? How often does this happen? For example, how does the email newsletter come together and get published? How often is the website or your social media channels updated? How is all of that content created?

If you can create templates and document processes that people can use and follow before you leave, that’s even better! That way they can give it a go and have you there as a backup for questions and troubleshooting before you leave them on their own.

Map to All the Things. In what folders or files or drives does all the marketing content live? Where are the photos and logos and boilerplate (all this stuff that we sometimes call the Marketing Bank)?

Style Guides. What should everything look and sound like? Again, a marketing bank and templates are a huge help here to keep things looking and sounding consistent.

Contact Information. Who does what and what’s the best way to reach them? This goes for internal staff (e.g. when are certain people involved in content creation, reviews, and approvals) as well as external vendors and freelancers.  If the website suddenly goes down, will they know whom to call?

Editorial Calendar. Of course, leaving an editorial calendar behind so people know what should go out and when and where is also a huge step toward keeping the organization’s communications on track.  Even if you don’t have an editorial calendar, think about the things that need to happen on weekly or monthly basis and leave good lists behind.