A few weeks ago, I invited nonprofit marketers, social entrepreneurs and other mission-minded communicators to tell me about their careers, the work they do and their feelings about this vocation. (If you responded, thank you for your insights!)

thank you
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While I didn’t get a huge number of responses, the ones I did receive were telling. Here are a few patterns I noticed:

Career background & responsibilities

Most respondents were women with between six and 10 years of experience working in nonprofits.

While about 60% of respondents either studied a communications field in school or have several years’ experience under their belts, the remainder are “learning on the fly.”

About 40% of respondents are solely responsible for their organization’s communications, and ALSO responsible for other functions (such as fundraising, volunteer management, etc.)

Are these all yours? You’re not alone.
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Communications practices

Facebook is the reigning communications channel with almost all respondents posting at least weekly, with Twitter and e-newsletters tying a close second. LinkedIn, Pinterest and Snapchat are far more rarely used, if at all.

Regarding target audiences, the “clients, customers and members” category ranked the highest in priority, while far fewer place employees, board members and volunteers in this category.

What’s keeping you up at night

This is where I found the most interesting insights from the survey, and while again this is a small sample set, my hope is that you will feel solidarity with some of these sentiments.


First of all, in terms of skill proficiency and gaps, here’s where the responses fell.

The biggest gaps respondents identified in specific communications skills were, unsurprisingly, in the more specialized technical areas: graphic design, video/audio production, and analytics and metrics, though the only area that averaged out higher than “somewhat confident” was content writing.

On the “soft skills” side of things, respondents felt least confident about emotional resilience, self-confidence, assertiveness and team management.

Respondents were most confident in their critical thinking skills and (OF COURSE!!!) adaptability.

Big-picture communications planning, website/CMS management, public speaking and time management all fell pretty squarely in the middle.

do something great
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Attitudes about work

Here’s some good news from our respondents: They’re engaged and believe in what they do. Most agreed that they feel proud of what they do and can see how their work benefits their organization and the people they serve. They also agreed that they are growing professionally through their day-to-day work, that their bosses value them and that their organization supports professional development.

Conversely, on average respondents don’t feel they have good mentors, don’t know how to measure the success of their work and feel burned out. Despite this, almost two-thirds of respondents hope to keep doing what they’re doing or advance in nonprofit leadership.


The watchword for “What do you like best about your job?” is “helping.” Just about everyone answered this question with the ways in which they’re contributing to their communities. Another word that popped up a few times was “creativity.”

Respondents told me that poor leadership and scarcity topped their list of work-related worries when I asked “What’s keeping you up at night?”

From not enough funding or time to complete projects, to being underpaid, to the bigger mission question of, “Are we doing enough?” respondents feel the pressure of either external or internal inadequacy.

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Capacity and community

Throughout this survey, I found evidence that mission-driven communicators would benefit both from the ability to get more done and from feeling better connected to others who understand the work they do. The resources my respondents were most interested in were free downloadable resources and video or podcast content to enhance internal communications capacity, and online and in-person networking opportunities.

So, what now? This has been immensely helpful in guiding my next steps as I work to grow Collective Reach. I’ve already committed to producing a monthly worksheet or other resource, which you’ll automatically get if you’re subscribed to my newsletter and can also find on my free resources page.

If you’re interested in attending a networking event or joining a (private, non-Facebook-based) online community for mission-minded communicators at small organizations, let me know. I’ll see where the greatest interest lies and be in touch about next steps.

Thanks again to everyone who shared your insights through the survey! If this generated any thoughts, or you didn’t get a chance to respond to the survey and would like to tell me what’s on your mind, get in touch here or find me on Twitter.

Featured  image by Joel Henry on Unsplash

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