Why Your Communications Staff Is Scared To Death

If you’re a nonprofit executive and you’re reading this, I have a message for you:

Stop scaring your employees. Stop treating them like sheep, trembling at the thought of taking even the slightest risk.

Sheep never take risks because they’re afraid of the clippers. That approach might work just fine for sheep, but won’t work for a nonprofit that wants to get ahead.

Risk is the source of great ideas, shorter shortcuts, and happier employees. But somehow, you’ve set up an environment where people are afraid that they’ll get judged or even fired if they take a risk.

You’ve developed a nice obedient herd, when you need fearless lions and tigers!

What risks am I talking about?

Among the areas that impact communications, I challenge you to encourage risk around:

  1. Content creation – Encourage the making of great things! Most of your employees have a creative passion outside of work, that they’d love to tap at work. Stop thinking that creativity is a worthless time-suck.
  2. Engaging on social media – Your communications staff knows a lot more about social media than you ever will. Don’t take it personally, just know that they’ve studied the topic more than you have. Make experimentation a required part of every campaign, as long as they can clearly measure the experiment. This is a policy you have the power to create.
  3. Email marketing – A mountain of data exists that points to a strong relationship among email marketing, social media, and donor acquisition and sustained giving. Again, create policies that reward measurable experimentation in this area.

The problem is not with your people

You hired the right people, so the problem is not with them. The problem lies within the work culture you’ve created. Yes you. Through the various incentives in your policies and practices, you’ve created the culture.

The good news and the bad news

The good news is that you can change the policies and practices that have squelched your staff. The bad news is that only a small fraction of you will take this seriously.

You

But you, I have faith in. You know what it feels like to not be heard, not be valued for your ideas, and not being utilized to your full capacity.

You are way better than your past “leaders”.

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