The following is an excerpt from Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits.
In 2013 the number of nonprofits that hired part-time or full-time new media managers increased fourfold. As nonprofits have gotten better at implementing multichannel communications and fundraising campaigns and improving their tracking and reporting systems, many nonprofits have come to the conclusion that creating a paid part- or full-time new media manager position is worth the financial investment. For very small nonprofits, this may not be true, but for medium and large nonprofits—or small nonprofits with a desire to grow their brand recognition and donors base—it’s becoming widely understood that new media managers have a unique and valuable skill set. It’s very difficult to find a new media manager that encapsulates all the skills listed below. However, if this person is willing to learn and if your nonprofit has a training budget, individuals who have most of the skills can eventually acquire all the skills necessary to ensure that your nonprofit can achieve the goals listed in your strategic plan.
1. Creative Thinking
Expert new media managers have the ability to anticipate the impact of emerging trends in mobile and social media. They voraciously consume nonprofit technology blogs and study the mobile and social media campaigns of other nonprofits for inspiration. They use their creative impulses to come up with innovative mobile and social media campaigns for their own nonprofit. Rather than feeling overwhelmed by the speed at which technology now moves, they are energized by it. Too often new media managers are bogged down by a strategy or content approval process that saps them of their creativity. They need to be given creative freedom and trusted to act upon their instincts. Some campaigns will fail, and some will need revision. But it’s only a creative new media manager who keeps current with emerging trends in mobile and social media that can launch campaigns that stand out above all others.
2. Good Writing Skills
Woe to the nonprofit that incorrectly assumes that a new media manager is a tech position. First and foremost, it’s a writing position. The ability to tell a story that captures the imagination of your donors and supporters and consequently inspires them to donate or get more involved is a skill only found in those who enjoy and excel at writing and who are committed to consistently improving their writing, grammar, and punctuation skills as well as increasing their vocabulary. Knowing how to format text for mobile and online readers is also critical in a new media manager. Too often great nonprofit stories go unread because of a poor choice in font size, lack of bullet points, or the outdated use of all capital letters.
It’s very common for nonprofits to assume that volunteers and interns can effectively manage their mobile and social media presence simply because they are young and came of age during the rise of social networking. While it’s true that the millennial generation has adeptness and curiosity about technology, using mobile and social media to tell your nonprofit’s story in an impactful way requires a well-rounded understanding of the history of website and email communications, online fundraising, and how social networking and mobile technology have become intertwined with all nonprofit communications and fundraising. Young volunteers and interns who are lacking in the longer view of mobile and social media can quickly advance provided they are mentored by experienced communications or development staff, or given access to quality training. If your nonprofit is lucky enough to find exceptional volunteers or interns, you should still consider paying them for their work, especially if they are recent college grads struggling to find a job. They will be more committed and make an excellent candidate for your new media manager position should your nonprofit decide to hire one.
4. Graphic Design and Photo/Video Editing Ability
To effectively work with image and video content, your new media manager must be adept at using graphic design and photo and video editing software. Creating promotional graphics, cropping images, adding borders or text, and creating visually compelling slideshows are skills acquired only through practice. Video content needs to be edited and embellished with visual effects, animation, and audio. The foundation of effective graphic design and photo and video editing is a creative eye and an appreciation of design, digital photography, and video. Quite often, your new media manager is also the person in charge of photographing or video recording events and program milestones. Being behind the camera takes confidence and a familiarity with digital equipment. If the photos and videos are poorly shot, it will be impossible to create a finished product worthy of publication.
5. HTML Knowledge
HTML looks much more intimidating than it actually is, and all new media managers should be skilled in basic HTML. To add a donate button, e-newsletter, mobile alerts opt-ins, and social network icons to your blog, for example, you need to know how to work with an HTML editing software. Quite often when working in an e-newsletter publishing tool or with a blogging platform, you’ll need to go into the HTML view to tweak fonts, page layout, and image sizes. If your new media manager is not trained in HTML, then finding and enrolling in HTML training should be a top priority, and it is an investment that pays off instantly through increased online donations, e-newsletter and mobile alert subscribers, and social network followers.
A new media manager will often toggle between five to ten different social networks and mobile and social media management tools in any given work day. At the same time, she or he might also be creating content for a website or blog, crafting an e-newsletter, creating visual content, or conducting research. It’s rare that any web-based activity lasts longer than 30 minutes. Rather, a new media manager’s day is divided into five- or ten-minute intervals—five minutes posting on Facebook, ten minutes creating a Twitter list, twenty minutes creating a Google+ invitation, three minutes posting on Tumblr, two minutes commenting on Instagram, and so on. The ability to manage multiple communities and projects simultaneously without significant mental drain day after day is a rare skill. Some development and communications staff who have added mobile and social media to their already full job descriptions feel overwhelmed when only managing a Facebook Page and Twitter account, but a new media manager’s sole purpose is to juggle multiple mobile and social media campaigns on a daily basis. To do it well, these managers must be exceptional multitaskers.
Mobile and social media are in a state of constant revision. Just when you have mastered a new functionality, it disappears and is replaced with another. New media managers have to be extremely flexible, rein in their moments of frustration, and adapt quickly. They cannot rigidly attach themselves to any current social network design or functionality because changes often occur overnight and without warning.
Exceptional new media managers are plugged into breaking news and current affairs on a daily basis—not because they have to be, but because they want to be. Odds are that your new media manager is the first to know when stories and reports related to your cause are breaking and gaining momentum online. When writing blogs or moderating discussion on social networks, new media managers need to be well-informed so they can back up their statements with facts. Because their knowledge base is representative of your nonprofit’s public persona, they need to be allowed the time to read and research trends and news related your nonprofit’s cause. A new media manager should also be skilled in conducting online research. Rather than getting stuck and delayed by not knowing an answer to a question or a solution to a problem, they find the answer by mastering search engines. New media managers are a walking, breathing, tweeting encyclopedia of knowledge and thus exceptionally valuable to the nonprofits they work for.
9. Community Building
The ability to use mobile and social media to generate online ripples of awareness is a very valuable, too often underestimated skill. At the beginning of the rise of social media, effective community building was equated with being human and “joining the conversation,” but community building has progressed beyond personality as the primary means of inspiring engagement and interaction. Nonprofits are not human, and unfortunately too often it’s the grumps, egomaniacs, and Internet trolls that are joining and usurping online conversations. Community building is now more strategic and based upon proven best practices. Tweeting, posting, and sharing content that triggers a positive response in donors and supporters require a new media manager to take an analytical approach to community building. Of course, your nonprofit must respond to questions and pertinent comments on mobile and social media with wisdom and graciousness, but the goal of increasing engagement and interaction in online communities should not be to merely inspire conversation, but to also produce tangible results and help your nonprofit achieve the goals laid out in your strategic plan. Three years ago “the conversation” and “listening” were defined as the driving purpose behind utilizing mobile and social media. Now that we know that mobile and social media campaigns empowered by quality content are what increases donations, volunteerism, and event attendance, the strategy must come first. New media manager with years of experience will likely have come to the same realization and are more advanced in their community building skill set.
A new media manager will often be a couple steps ahead of other staff members in terms of nonprofit technology trends. At organizations where change is consistently met with resistance, new media managers will have to have excellent leadership skills to move an organization forward. They need to tactfully, but forcefully be the advocate at their nonprofit for advancement in mobile and social media adoption and budget increases—including asking for raises when the time arises. A new media managers’ job is a stressful one that can easily lead to burnout if the walls of resistance are strong and their compensation doesn’t reflect their skill set as it grows over time. Also, as the online representative of a nonprofit, a new media manager has to be comfortable with expressing opinions publicly. New media managers are confident in their experience and knowledge, but not arrogant. This balance in character must manifest itself both online and at the office.
Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits
Based on more than 20 years of experience and 25,000+ hours spent utilizing mobile and social media, Mobile for Good: A How-To Fundraising Guide for Nonprofits is a comprehensive 256-page book packed with more than 500 best practices. Written on the premise that all communications and fundraising are now mobile and social, Mobile for Good is a step-by-step how-to guide for writing, implementing, and maintaining a mobile and social fundraising strategy for your nonprofit.