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…)


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.

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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?

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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Denise Moorehead, Communications Director, Third Sector New England
For more info visit:
This video was originally shared on by tsne with a No license (All rights reserved) license.

I’m in the thick of creating a 2008-2009 annual report, and the question I pose to other nonprofit communications professionals is, Why do we keep producing these things, and does anyone bother to read them anymore anyway?

Why do I pose the question? Well. if you enter the question, Does anyone still read nonprofit annual reports? in a Yahoo or Google search, some of the items that come up suggest that annual reports  are so last century. BUT, and this is a big but, the writers of these posts tell us that donors still care about what you are doing, who you are serving and your impact.

So, the question is, How do you provide this critical information to funders in a way that keeps the information lively and informative.

My colleagues tell me to consider a video annual report. Or you can try the four-page, keep it short and only discuss impact report. I also saw a report earlier this year that chronicled one young man’s journey thanks to the help he received from a nonprofit.

What advice can you folks give me and each other on the best way to create a relevant annual report in the “keep it simple and short” era? I’d love your help!