Qualities of the best nonprofit marketers

You know your organization needs to succeed in digital in order to make an impact in the world. And maybe you’re at a point where you’re ready to bring on a new hire to help advance your mission.

So of course you need someone with digital chops. Someone reliable. Someone with experience and knowledge about marketing and communications. Someone who can really put their skills to work for the cause.

But in See3’s 13 years of work with hundreds of organizations, there are two surprising qualities we’ve noticed that make certain marketing and communications professional rise above all the rest. The folks with deep mastery of these skills are truly positioned to move the needle and deliver in digital, regardless of experience, age, or anything else. They’re not necessarily the qualities that come through on a resume, but over and over again they’ve proven to be the ones that make the difference.

And they are:

  1. Being a Voracious Learner

  2. Being a Generous Teacher

Here’s why:

First up, being a voracious learner...

Digital is non-stop and ever-changing. Your cause can be complicated. Your supporters are complex creatures with sticky things like emotions and desires to consider. All of these elements come to a head in marketing and communications, and all of them require constant learning and adapting. Your marketing and communications staff need to love learning, love the pursuit and the challenge of it all. They should seek out opportunities for their own development. That’s what it takes in order to perform well in this environment - and to make sure your mission rises above the fray.

How, then, do you spot a learner?

Well, first off, come right out and ask them about something they’ve learned recently that excited them. Find out how they applied that newfound knowledge, or what they feel the implications of it are.

Ask them about their mentors. Who do they look up to and why? From whom are they learning?

Ask them about favorite books and podcasts and other content in the field of digital, marketing, communications, psychology, fundraising... What do they seek out?

And perhaps most importantly, ask them about a time they’ve failed and how they’ve grown from that experience. Can they name a failure? That shows humility, which is a prerequisite to learning. Can you tell they adjusted their perspective or practice in light of that failure? Did it change them for the better? Now you’re onto something.

One of our favorite questions to ask in client kick-offs is “Think, for a moment, about a time you’ve failed. Now tell us what you learned from that failure.” It allows us to get a sense of what that person is all about without asking them to spill their guts about screwing up. Instead, the emphasis is on the learning and the growth - which they can expect more of throughout their engagement with See3.

Ok, onto number 2 - Generous Teacher:

Teaching is the skill that makes all other skills possible. In helping supporters make their impact in the world, your organization is - to some extent - a teacher. Whoever heads up your marketing and communications is at the front of the class.

“What can you teach?” is also the foundational question of a content marketing strategy. Great content marketing both speaks to your mission and adds value to (i.e. informs or entertains) your audience. Anyone representing your organization in the wider world should have an understanding of how to collect, interpret, and share your organization’s accumulated wisdom.

And finally, nothing makes a better learner than teaching. To teach, you have to master not only your material, but deeply understand your students and their environment. And aren’t those the essential elements of great communications?

How to spot a teacher:

Well...ask them to teach something. Anything. Did they offer context and clarity? Did they demonstrate passion? Did you feel connected to both the content they shared and the manner in which they shared it? Did you learn something new?

Teachers are great at making sense of information and drawing out insights. Ask them about themes and trends they see coming up in the field, or in your issue area. Get a sense of how they reflect upon the world and share those insights.

What language do they use? Is their speech peppered with jargon that may be covering up a lack of mastery, or do they seem to be able to distill big concepts into simple, to-the-point sentences that a real human would understand?

What questions are they asking? The best teachers ask powerful questions - both because they themselves genuinely want to know, and also because they are constantly gathering material to translate into other situations. If you’re surprised by a question, or have to stop and think about your answers, you’re probably talking to a teacher.

What qualities do you feel determine a great marcomm professional? Drop me a line at mbrosseau@see3.com. We’d love to learn. ;)

Join us for a workshop on how to create messages that activate!

See3 Director of Engagement Miriam Brosseau will be hosting a workshop on how to use powerful digital tools and tech to create messages that truly resonate with and activate your supporters. Join us in Boston on 10/25. RSVP here!

Author: Miriam Brosseau
  • Content Marketing
  • digital
  • nonprofit
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