Culture of CommunicationsI’m working on a new two-part webinar series for late April on building an organizational culture that supports your communications work. 

I’d love to hear what questions or challenges you are facing in the comments. Or you can email me directly

I’m using a basic definition of culture: The shared assumptions, values, beliefs, attitudes, and standards that govern how people behave. In this case, we are talking specifically about how these affect the ability of the communications staff to be effective and to produce great results in support of the nonprofit’s mission. 

While that definition may seem simple, of course, culture is complicated. So is figuring out ways that you as a communications director can work to improve the culture from within.

Here are five elements of culture that I am exploring, and I’d love to hear from you if you have good examples of these elements at play in both positive and negative ways. 

I’d also love to hear about the other elements you think are essential to building a great culture of communications in nonprofits. 

Shared Goals

Is the “why” of your communications clear? Is everyone working toward the same thing? When goals aren’t fully shared, do they at least overlap and connect?  In nonprofits without a supportive culture, we often see program and fundraising staff questioning the sheer existence of the communications department or assuming that all communications should be managed by programs or fundraising staff. Failure to connect all the dots is a major barrier to building a better culture of communications.  Conversely, in nonprofits with a supportive culture, all staff understand that strategic role of communications in achieving the mission.


Is information hoarded by departments or do people simply forget to share it because it doesn’t seem important to share? Are results — both successes and failures — discussed within the organization? How can a communications team make their own work more transparent, and encourage other parts of the organization to be transparent too?


It’s easier to dismiss complicated things that we do not understand than it is to dismiss clearly and concisely articulated concepts. Communications work today can be very complicated, but we are hurting ourselves when we don’t force ourselves to simplify so that others can more easily collaborate with us.

Comfort with Uncertainty

Good communications work requires a fair amount of agility and risk taking. If your organization won’t try anything new or jump at good opportunities without some assurances of success, your progress as a communications team will likely be very, very slow.

Respect for Boundaries

Communications work is never-ending unless you create boundaries around it. There will always be more you could do, and more someone else on staff thinks you should do. The same goes for expectations around how late you work and how much you can accomplish without adequate resources. Is it always more, more, more, or are people in your organization ready to say, “That’s enough?”

What do you think? Add your thoughts and reactions in the comments, or you can email me directly



Published On: March 20, 2018|Categories: Communications Team Management, Relationships, and Boundaries|