On Thursday, I’m teaching a new webinar called Streamlining Communications Decision Making: From Strategic Planning to the Daily Grind. We’ll talk about all kinds of communications decisions that nonprofits have to make and everything that goes into making the best possible decisions.
Of course, who makes the decision is one of those key elements!
In nonprofits (and most organizations), you can simplify the decision-making organizational chart to three levels:
These people are most often board members, executive directors and C-suite managers. (C-suite means the people with “Chief” in their titles, like Chief Operations Officer, Chief Financial Officer, etc. or people who fill those roles, but might have Vice President or even Director or Manager titles, as long as they sit at the top of the organizational chart.)
Their communications decisionmaking should be strategic in nature, with long-term thinking. They should only get involved in tactics under special circumstances or when there is no operating structure in place for a particular situation.
These people are often middle managers or in smaller organizations, the directors or team leaders who report to the executives. They direct the operational implementation of the strategic decisions, looking weeks and months at a time.
These people are the staff making all of the little decisions required to implement the communications tactics day-to-day, following the guidance of the management decisionmakers.
How this actually matches up with a nonprofit’s organizational chart depends on the size of the organization and its management culture.
For example, in very small nonprofits without paid comms staff, the executive director would do all three levels.
If that executive director gets a communications intern, she might delegate operational decisions to that person, but would likely retain the executive and management decisionmaking. If she hires a full-time communications director, she may split the management decisionmaking or delegate it entirely.
Ideally, your organization delegates decisions down as low as possible, but in most nonprofits, you’ll see some overlap.
Let’s look at social media management as an illustration. Say you have one person in each of these positions:
- An Executive Director should make executive decisions.
- A Communications Director should make management decisions.
- A Communications Associate should make operational decisions.
The executive director should be involved in strategic decisions about how to use social media. What target audience will we be reaching through each social media channel with what type of messaging and brand personality?
The communications director should be involved in setting the editorial calendar for those channels including the timing and frequency of specific messages and calls to action to ensure the right people get the right messages at the right time.
The communications associate should be writing the copy and designing the graphics for the posts, often with the communications director picking up the slack as needed.
If your executive director is editing tweets written by the communications associate, you have a problem. I’ll talk more about that during the webinar!