There’s a great conversation happening about whether one person can be both the communications and the development director in the Nonprofit Communications Professionals Facebook Group.


Here’s the original question:

I’m seeing so many job ads lately for communications AND development managers/directors. I thought orgs were finally wising up and realizing that they’re generally not going to find one person who could and would want to do both jobs? I mean, one person could theoretically do both but they require such different skill sets! Agree/disagree?

We can debate the merits of combining these functions and skills into one person’s job — but the reality is that smaller nonprofits still do it all the time, wise or not.

In my experience working with hundreds of communications/development directors and combinations of the two, here are the three forms that a “Development and Communications Manager” combo job usually takes:

(1) It’s really a development communications job, with whatever other additional communications the person can manage to fit in (often with unrealistic expectations about that all around). But the first priority is donor messaging and communications channels. These people get overworked and burned out really fast, because they are being asked to do the work of several people.

(2) It’s really an “internal agency” function that does work on demand for any combination of marketing, fundraising, and program staff leads, usually without much strategy.  I hear from people in these roles all the time, begging for help on how to be more strategic. Even though the org chart says they are working in service of all of these different “masters,” they often have a much better perspective on the OVERALL communications needs of the nonprofit.

(3) It’s really a communications job, with development thrown in. These nonprofits are often funded primarily through large grants or contracts or other big and somewhat steady revenue sources, but they are trying to build up an individual giving program. So they tap the communications department to jump start it.

Oh, and here’s a fourth, and the worst: a combination of these, with absolutely no communications strategy or plan in place.

As you can see from my commentary, I’m not a huge fan of combining these responsibilities into one human being’s job. One integrated team of several people? Absolutely. But it’s too much work without very clear priorities and limits for one person. And unfortunately, in many situations, those priorities and limits are never set.

Of course, sometimes this is the best the organization can do. My hope is that the executive director and whoever takes a job like this are honest with themselves and each other about expectations, and work diligently toward growing the team.



Published On: April 14, 2016|Categories: Communications Team Management, Relationships, and Boundaries|