Here’s five reasons why.
We can all agree that coaching at the executive level can be integral to nonprofits’ success. But what about your communications staff whose passion drives them to work long hours and consistently go above and beyond? Junior staff and middle management in the nonprofit sector often do not have access to mentorship or professional development opportunities. Below are five ways coaching or mentoring can make a big difference for your marketing/communications staff.
But first, what do we know about the effectiveness of mentoring and coaching?
You don’t have to take my word for it that coaching and mentoring in the nonprofit sector is effective. Many executive directors and upper-level managers work with coaches regularly to build new ways of thinking and implement new ideas. One of my favorite thinkers in nonprofit executive coaching is Kimberley Sherwood. Kimberley says that coaching creates accountability, a safe space to hash out challenges, and in doing so, more effective leaders. The impact of coaching one employee reverberates throughout the entire organization as they work more effectively with their team and introduce new ways of thinking into the organization. Shouldn’t junior and mid-level staff members have access to the same benefits?
The Communications Staff Member’s Reality
Marketing and communications at a nonprofit is a tough job. Oftentimes, there are no senior-level staff members with marketing experience. Because of this, nonprofits struggle to put together effective communications job descriptions and hire candidates that have a full communications skillset. The extreme version of this is “we need a young person who can do social media.”
And, nonprofits often budget under what is really necessary to hire a qualified communications staff member. This results in hiring under-qualified candidates who are tasked with building a marketing program from scratch at an organization that has never had a concentrated marketing effort before. Yikes.
This staff member likely doesn’t have a supervisor or other internal mentor with a marketing background, isolating them and making it difficult to get others’ input within their team. Or, when they do get input, they receive feedback that is more based on personal preference than the marketing best practices they are trying to implement.
Plus, the job itself is stressful. If a staff member is running social media channels, they get work-related notifications on their phones at all hours. They often have their grand plans for strategic marketing interrupted by superiors’ urgent requests that aren’t grounded in strategy. With so much going on, it’s easy to burn out.
(Disclaimer, this section was put together from a conglomerate of conversations with junior/mid-level communications professionals in the nonprofit space. It is not empirically researched and, of course, the individual experiences of comms professionals vary).
5 Ways Mentoring Supports Communications Staff Members
So with this in mind, here are five ways low- to mid-level communications staff benefit from mentoring:
1. Identify and Address Gaps in Their Skillset
There’s a wealth of professional development resources out there for marketing professionals, but limited time to navigate them. As a mentor, I work with communications professionals to identify the key gaps in their skill sets and prioritize professional development opportunities.
2. Keep up with Rapid Change in the Industry
Another reason to focus on professional development is that the marketing industry changes quickly, and professionals must adapt to these changes. I work with communications staff to keep their skill sets up to date.
3. Prioritize and Strategize
In nonprofit marketing, there is always a tension between short- and long-term projects. So many tasks are urgent and the game-changing heavy lifts are often left on the back burner. When I work with communications staff members, it adds a layer of accountability that helps them prioritize high-value, long-term projects.
4. Have a Go-To Person for Challenges and New Ideas
Because maybe nonprofits don’t have a senior-level person with marketing expertise, it is instrumental to have a go-to person. When I work with a staff member as a mentor, I’m on call on email to hash out challenges or be a sounding board as new ideas come up.
5. Manage Wellbeing
Nonprofit communications staff member turnover is high. Working with a mentor can help employees identify what they need to do to stay well at work and set appropriate boundaries.
If you would like to learn more about mentorship and professional development with Catharsis, reach out! I’m always happy to jump on a call to learn about the situation at your nonprofit!