Transferable skills?

March 15, 2012

I often hear people tout the MBA style of management – “I just need to know how to be a good manager; I trust that my employees know the field and are skilled at what they do.” That managing a team of database the developers is much the same as managing a department of textbook editors is much the same as managing in a car manufacturing plant.

I have never really understood how this works in practice; while yes, knowing how to manage and assemble a team is a great skill regardless of the work involved, at the end of the day, why would I want to manage a team of editors if I didn’t know the basics about editing? Or the textbook industry? About what is involved in the process? It’s not fair to my team if I haven’t the foggiest idea what they actually do all day. Sure, ultimately they need to be the experts, not me, but if there’s conflict amongst the team, I need to understand what the issues at hand are.

So let’s narrow it down a little bit: what about transferring basic marketing and communications skills between industries or causes?

There will obviously be a learning curve with any new job, especially if you’re changing from, say, an animal welfare agency to a public health organization. Your core skills and experience will serve you well, but you will have to adapt to a different type of audience with different messaging, etc. But a solid foundation in strategic communications should handle most of that.

When changing jobs within the sector – or changing industry entirely – which skills do you find transfer the best, and which ones do you find you most often have to relearn or adapt?

It always helps to be a good writer, but how easy is it to change style? How do your PR needs change if you’re working with an under-served population as compared to a high profile sympathetic community? What have you found to be least affected by a change in employer?

(Your editor is facing a possible relocation – and thus these very questions – soon, and will take advantage of this blog while she can…)

Although tsne.org is not currently able to “go dark” in solidarity with the protests against SOPA and PIPA (Stop Online Piracy Act and PROTECT IP Act ) today, as a website that provides resources – articles, columns, videos, podcasts, publications and links to other resources – and as a social justice organization we feel strongly that the World Wide Web should remain a source of free speech.

The Digital Divide  still poses barriers for access to the Web for underserved communities, but once a user is online, the Web has always stood as a resource available to everyone. For nonprofits especially – to advocate on behalf of their constituents; to find answers quickly when working on deadline and under capacity; and, most importantly, to have an impact in their communities.

Many great organizations have laid out the arguments better than we can today. So please read them, and think about how this legislation could impact your organization and its ability to do work.

Everywhere you look these days, there are courses on, readings about and how-to’s for nonprofits on social media. While virtually every individual you know is on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, SlideShare, and/or on and on, does every nonprofit need to be there?

Should nonprofits be in the social media game?

According to a September 16, 2011, post on the go-to social media website Social Media Today, 65% of all U.S. adults using the Internet are now using social networking sites. That is up from:

  • 61% last year
  • And  just 5% in 2005!

But, the source is Social Media Today. So, some might be inclined to probe a bit deeper.

And I did. What I found is that those statistics were actually generated by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project. The study also included the surprising statistic that 50% of the entire U.S. adult population uses social media – even if they don’t use other online platforms. So, nonprofits do need to focus on social media, because our constituents are there!

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Denise Moorehead, Communications Director at Third Sector New England, discusses the use of podcasts and video in the nonprofit sector.

For more information visit: http://www.tsne.org

Drowning in Jargon?

July 13, 2011

As communications professionals, we’re always battling jargon – even our own communications-related jargon.

We at TSNE also wrestle with finding alternative ways to express some of these phrases, especially on the Web when we need to be as short and simple as possible.

What are some of your favorite – and least favorite! – examples of jargon you’ve encountered in the nonprofit workplace? What suggestions do you have for restating them in clearer terms?

Comment here or on Facebook with your favorite stories. If you respond by August 31, we’ll include your submission in a poll to go out to readers of the TSNe-Bulletin in September. The winner of the poll will receive a basket of Equal Exchange products.

 

At last month’s New Models in Collaboration convening, we realized we wanted to live tweet from the event. However, we’ve never – as an organization – done this before, so we had to work out logistics on the fly. Especially since our Communications staff is also part of the training team and thus running event support throughout the day.

Questions we found ourselves asking, before, during, and after the event:

  • What is our goal/reason to be tweeting this event?
  • How many staff do we have who are able — and available — to tweet? What training might they need first?
  • What content do we want to prioritize?
  • How long is reasonable for a staff person to be on tweet duty at a full-day event? What sort of rotation do we need to put in place to give someone a break?
  • How do we handle the breakout sessions – especially when there are more workshops than there are people available to tweet? (@npc_life was leading one of the sessions)
  • How do we juggle event support (“Help! The microphones just lost power!”) with focusing on content enough to glean tweetable content?
  • Do we need a hashtag? If so, what is the best way(s) to get it (#npcollab) out to people?

Some of these questions we were able to answer, some we had to guess at in the moment and try to improve next time, and some we never resolved. Developing our policies is definitely a work in progress.

How does your organization deal with live tweeting while also hosting/organizing an event?

Personal Responsibility, Really?

Have you noticed that the phrase personal responsibility has begun to resurface as the country discusses the looming debt crisis, major budget cuts and the word “taxes,” which seems to have become profane? The last time the phrase personal responsibility was used this much by those inside the Beltway, progressive causes were under attack, and progressives appeared to be on the ropes.

When Meanings Become Meaningless

As a communicator by trade, I am still awed by the power of words — and still amazed at some people’s willingness to manipulate them until the original meaning is almost meaningless. As a nonprofit communicator committed to advancing justice, I pledge to work hard to keep the denotation of personal responsibility front and center in my own discussions and writing. I hope to help keep the connotation that some less-then-progressive people are trying to yoke to the phrase from becoming the norm.

I intend to write and talk more about the personal responsibility of politicians to tell the truth about what it costs to run the world’s largest economy. I want to call them on any obfuscation about who is paying for what, and who is not paying their fair share.

Do You Have to Be a Person?

Now that corporations are equal to one human being, I’d like to ask companies to demonstrate personal responsibility in caring for the environment, employee health and well-being, and customer satisfaction as much as “s/he” ;-) cares for the bottom line.

I would like those of us with jobs and who make a living wage to demonstrate personal responsibility in ensuring the health and well-being of those in our communities who are not so lucky right now. I would like us to demonstrate personal responsibility for our youth, modeling this behavior to help them figure out what being a good citizen means and calling young people out (instead of hurriedly walking away) when we see them being irresponsible.

What About Everyone Else?

Mostly, I want progressive nonprofits and their staff to use the phrase personal responsibility in ways that illustrate how crucial taking responsibility for oneself — and one’s community — is for ensuring the kind of communities and world for which we are working so hard.

AND, I think it is time to co-opt some language. What about civic engagement and encouraging democratic principles?

Since we’re using WordPress for this blog, when WordCamp first came to Boston last year, I took the opportunity to attend.

A common theme throughout the event was the increased functionality of WordPress as a CMS (Content Management System), not just a blogging tool. Presenters were promoting WordPress as a CMS solution for nonprofits and small businesses.

I hadn’t realized how much WordPress  and other blogging sites (such as Blogger) were growing the CMS functionality of their products. For a small nonprofit that doesn’t have a heavy web presence, this could be an excellent solution.

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This past weekend I was at a housewarming where the topic of Valentine’s Day came up. Generally, most of us didn’t do much to celebrate it – we’re not fans of the crass consumerism, amongst other reasons.

But I, at least, always acknowledge the holiday, even if I don’t “celebrate” it by  buying anything or going out to dinner. Since it is conveniently located approximately 6 months from my anniversary, I personally like it as the kick in the pants to slow down from the craziness of life and the doldrums of winter, take a deep breath, and appreciate my partner. A reminder  to stop and smell the are-you-kidding-me-$40-per-dozen?!? roses.

And this hit me as a good practice for other parts of my life, especially work. We’re so caught up with deadlines and workloads (such as being too busy to maintain this blog!) and crises that I sometimes lose sight of why we’re here. I get so busy supporting our mission and the social change we seek to effect that I forget to take a breath and celebrate the change that has happened and is happening around us.

So I’m left pondering how best to incorporate simple reminders – like a birthday,  anniversary or Valentine’s Day – that help me to slow down and treasure the successes of our constituents.

What sort of vital battery recharging opportunities do you build into your work? What strategies do you employ to remember to stop and smell the roses to feel reinvigorated on a regular basis?

For more than a year now, I have pledged to blog more frequently. That shouldn’t be very hard. Geez, more than once a month would be more frequently.

But it suddenly hit me a couple of weeks ago. I was listening to the radio and heard the lyrics, “Who died and made you king of anything.” And it all fell into place: I don’t blog more, because I can’t figure out why anyone cares what I have to say.

Maybe I have low self-esteem. Or maybe, as a Boomer, I’m of the generation that was told bragging is impolite. And it seems to me that telling the world what I think — even if I do have a few decades worth of experience — is similar to bragging.

Folks 10 to 15 years my junior were grown when social networking changed the rules on what you did and did not share. But many learned to embrace the new medium. Of course, those coming of age today assume that you use the Web to share pretty much everything. So, blogging is a natural pastime for these folks.

But it takes a lot to “rev” myself up to write about what I think, what I do and what I would do on a blog.

So, now that I’ve figured out why I have not blogged more, let’s see if I can just “get over it” and let my fingers do the walking. (Although that phrase means something very different to me as a Boomer than it might to Gen X, Gen Y and Millennials.) But I’ll try not to let my age get in the way.

Are any of you other Boomers blog-shy? What do you do to keep at it? For my more youthful colleagues, what helps you get the fingers flying? And for those of you wishing not to reveal your age, just give me general advice (wink, wink).

As always, thanks in advance.

Denise M

I’ve spent most of the nonprofit portion of my career as a communications professional supporting the programmatic core of organizations. But I have also worked directly in program departments, creating and growing grassroots initiatives in the field.

While both program and communications staff are passionate about their work – and the mission of the organization they serve – there are often times when the two groups seem to be operating in two different worlds. As a communications staffer, I used to think, Why don’t the program people get it.

Then I went to work as acting deputy director of programs. After a few months, when my former communications staffers came to me with excellent ideas for promoting program work, I thought to myself, Why don’t the communications staff members get it?

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As I recently quipped on Facebook, I love Google Analytics. I love playing with and analyzing the vast array of data that it provides (after all, how else would we know that the number of visits via dialup has increased over the past year?). But I dislike preparing the report that goes to staff.

First, there’s the data that I find interesting and useful as online communications specialist. Then there’s data that my teammates, as communications professionals, find interesting and useful. And then the statistics that program staff find interesting and useful. As well as the broad trends and figures that senior leadership and the board want to see.

Not all of these are the same facts and figures. Executive Transitions likes to know how many page hits a new job posting has received, while our communications assistant looks at spikes in traffic corresponding with the promotional efforts she’s made for our training series. My boss and I are concerned with bounce rates, increase in traffic, and visitor engagement.

Sometimes there aren’t any noticeable trends or fluctuations since the previous report.

So, then, how best to present enough information to answer most questions, but not overload everyone with more information than they care to ever know?

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Heather Harker, Consulting & Executive Transitions Director, Third Sector New England

 

  • There is no precise definition of the difference 
  • Strategic planning relates to direction, vision and mission
  • Operational planning is how you will accomplish your mission
  • Some organizations make a clear distinction
  • Create a document that works for you
This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

Heather Harker, Director of Consulting and Executive Transitions, Third Sector New England

 

  • Determine why you are undertaking an assessment 
  • Some consultants help create a shared process and vision
  • Some consultants help measure your performance against standards
This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

Heather Harker, Consulting & Executive Transitions Director, Third Sector New England

 

  • An opportunity for reflection and taking stock 
  • Self-assessment by stakeholders
  • Organizational audit by an outside expert
  • Facilitated self-assessment
This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.
Tyra Sidberry, Director, Third Sector New England Diversity & Inclusion Initiative

 

This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.
Tyra Sidberry, Director, Third Sector New England Diversity & Inclusion Initiative

 

This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

Tyra Sidberry, Director, Third Sector New England Diversity & Inclusion Initiative

This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

Tyra Sidberry, Director TSNE Diversity & Inclusion Initiative

  • Leaders and champions
  • Understanding of goals
  • Patience
  • Understanding the impact of race, class and power
This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

Tyra Sidberry, Diversity & Inclusion Initiative Director, Third Sector New England

Ask yourself:

  • How does your work affect the mission? 
  • Who is a part of the conversations you have in doing your work?
  • Are there perspectives missing, and are constituents involved?
This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

Tyra Sidberry, Director, Third Sector New England Diversity & Inclusion Initiative

This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

Phillip Davis, TSNE, Grant Coordinator

 

  • Expanding the capacity of individual organizations 
  • Sharing best practices
  • Increasing community impact
  • Furthering the field locally and nationally
This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

Phillip Davis, Third Sector New England, Grant Coordinator

  • Honest dialogue
  • System of shared responsibilities
  • Opportunities for each organization to benefit from lessons learned
This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

Phillip Davis, Third Sector New England, Grant Coordinator for the Capacity Building Fund

  • The collaboration process itself provides important knowledge
  • Understanding whether collaborators are a good match
  • Opportunities to share knowledge with funders and modify goals
This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.
Phillip Davis, Third Sector New England, Grant Coordinator for the Capacity Building Fund

  • Attach documentation to your proposal
  • Weave community input into the proposal narrative

 

This video was originally shared on blip.tv by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.