The Truth behind Nonprofit Marketing Help-Wanteds

 Nonprofit Marketing JobsThe Range of Nonprofit Marketing & Communications Job Descriptions I see is Incredibly Broad…

As I vet dozens of nonprofit marketing and communications jobs for our weekly jobs post, I get a good sense of what organizations like yours are seeking in their marketing and communications hires. This is key stuff for all of us—these roles and responsibilities are our lives, present and future—and I’ve become intrigued by the incredibly varied range of experience, skills and personal characteristics that organizations are looking for to fill a very broad range of roles.

In response to this increasingly varied (fragmented, you could say) range of nonprofit marketing and communications roles, I’m inspired to dig into these help-wanted calls to action—assessing the range of skills, personal qualities and experience called for; and their relationship with reality.

How to Hire the Right Nonprofit Communications Help

Hire the Right Nonprofit Marketing Help
Hire the Right Nonprofit Marketing Help

Most Help-Wanteds are Unrealistic

I’m struck time and time again by the impossible dream of everything-in-one communicator outlined in many job descriptions. Take this help-wanted for a Communications Coordinator with the Data Quality Campaign. The core responsibilities section alone runs for almost two full pages (and exhausts me by just reading it), all for a “coordinator” with one year of work experience. I expect the salary is quite low. Really?

The folks who apply are likely to have shallow skills in many things, which isn’t much to build on. The fact is that NO ONE does everything well, and this approach is counterproductive.

Why Not Craft a Job Description/Ad More Likely to Connect with the Right Person? Here’s a Strong Model

Why NOT craft a job description that emphasizes the skills, qualities, experience and characteristics that are absolute musts?

This job description for a Communications Manager at SACNAS is a strong model, emphasizing a short list of attributes that are an absolute must. THIS will help potential applicants self-screen; and generate the strongest applicant pool for SACNAS.

What’s Your Experience, Perspective or Hope for Nonprofit Marketing & Communications Hiring?

As I cover this topic moving forward, please add your stories and perspectives. Together we may just be able to influence nonprofit decision makers to be smarter and more effective in marketing hiring (a huge advantage to us). Thanks!

P.S. Get more nonprofit marketing tools, templates, case studies & tips delivered right to your in-box! Register here for the Getting Attention blog & e-news.

P.P. S. Read How to Hire the Right Nonprofit Communications Help

Nancy Schwartz on May 22, 2014 in Jobs and Hiring | 4 comments
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  • This is a disturbing – and in some cases,
    unreasonable – trend on the part of employers. It’s made worse when true talent and expertise is ignored instead of leveraged to
    streamline and/or eliminate a litany of responsibilities while
    achieving the same or better results.

    Instead of hiring for the minimum (the least amount
    of experience for the cheapest dollar), employers should be looking for employee “partners” or “collaborators”. How refreshing would it be if a job seeker were asked for their thoughts on how something could be done (to achieve a goal) versus what have they done or told what they need to do?

  • Mollie Katz

    Having been in the job market the last six months for a senior marketing communications position, I have read many job postings as well, here and elsewhere. You are right, Nancy, that often the job description reads like that of a more experienced person than employers actually say they want.
    With job responsibilities, I find many have core elements, what I consider more or less the standard PR job — devise and carry out a strategy, write just about anything, lead social media and analytics, do media relations with an emphasis on new media, work cooperatively with other departments, manage vendors and advise senior leadership on communications. Then there is usually a catch-all clause saying you should do whatever else you get assigned.
    The expertise in email marketing in your SACNAS example was more of a surprise to me. Advertising appears more often than email marketing in what I read.
    I see increasingly the request for design skills and back-end skills on websites. These used to be roles for other employees working with a communications person. Thinner and thinner budgets at organizations seem to be causing compression of multiple jobs into one.
    In a discussion I started about this online with other professionals via LinkedIn, the general consensus was that some understanding of design is good, but that better quality work is produced when writers conceptualize and write while designers design using the writer’s guidance.
    Here’s another situation to watch out for: Nonprofits posting job descriptions saying they wanted to go much more strategic and current in communications, but in reality being uncertain about making changes. Success will be difficult to achieve in these cases.
    I urge applicants to evaluate these situations carefully when they interview or even after they start at a new job and can see the landscape more clearly. Look carefully at the objectives of the communications approach. Are they clear? Does the group understand what communications would be needed to reach the objectives and what implementation would require?
    Sometimes on the ground nonprofits lack essential factors including unity on the organization’s brand (indecisiveness among top management), agreement on communications goals throughout the organization, willingness among the staff to be challenged to do things differently, true understanding of working strategically and budget to support new programs and processes.
    In these environments, even building a program gradually almost from scratch can be a process fraught with obstacles that hold back true leadership. Conversely, an environment that accepts new directions in communications can be a terrific place to use your skills to bring out the best in others, show results and make a difference that supports the organization’s mission.

  • Patricia Quarles

    Good discussion as I have experienced both as a volunteer for a nonprofit and as a job seeker. I agree that nonprofits are unclear about their mission statement, goals a objectives and their purpose. They are just beginning to embrace social media. As a job seeker with experience and skills we need to leverage our skills as collaborators to enhance the organization and bring forth how we can maximize that organization’s efforts. We all need money, but one does not go into this field to become rich there is the profit world for that.

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