Meet Nancy Nonprofit: A Nonprofit Communication Director Persona Profile

Nancy NonprofitOur book Guerrilla Marketing for Nonprofits was written with the needs of the smaller nonprofit in mind, but we also knew as we wrote it that even workers in larger nonprofits would benefit from the principles of guerrilla marketing. That’s why we researched our audience and tried to anticipate their needs in the book. Below is a profile of an average nonprofit communication director. It is based on statistics found in secondary sources and primary research interviews. We didn’t have to spend a lot of money to create the profile, all it took was the time and energy to do the research ourselves. You can create a persona profile of your audience too. It helps you put a face on the people you want to reach.

Nancy Nonprofit: Communication Director

The average nonprofit communication worker is a white (81%) female (68%) age 35-44 working for a small organization with $500,000 or less in annual budget.

She earns about $44k per year at her job. More than likely she has a Liberal Arts degree and does not have any formal background in marketing. What she knows about marketing she picks up from practical experience, by reading books, while browsing the internet, or by attending workshops and conferences every other year or so.

Her job title is more likely to be Public Relations or Communications Director than Director of Marketing.

The Executive Director of the organization she works for is an idealistic Baby Boomer male in his mid to late fifties. Her boss is very affirming, but she sometimes has trouble explaining the importance of marketing to leadership. Often she only interacts with the board members of her organization (51% white) when she produces the annual report.

She prefers an informal approach to working with her colleagues and willingly collaborates with others who can help her accomplish the goals of her organization. She is very mission-driven in her focus, but feels the lack of resources available and the low administrative clout she has hinders the real impact she could help her organization make.

Her organization most likely is either providing health care programs, engaged in education, dedicated to human services for families, public safety, housing, crime & legal protection, or provides counseling in employment and financial matters. Her organization (20%) may have affiliation with a religious organization.

Her bosses saw fit to put her in charge of communications, but she often doesn’t get to sit in on the type of meetings that would help her do her job best, such as meeting with the board of directors, program leaders, volunteer coordinators, or sitting in on strategic planning sessions.

She is mainly expected to coordinate the media production needs of the organization rather than work proactively in branding it. If her organization engages in branding, it will usually hire an outside firm with annoying creative types who haven’t the least idea what is really needed in her organization. They will change the logo and leave her saddled with a branding style guide book she doesn’t particularly like. After the branding firm is finished with its recommendations and leaves, her organization will return to business as usual, until the next time someone decides they want another logo.

There isn’t a formal place for marketing in the strategic planning or budgeting process at her organization. Marketing is often considered as synonymous with fundraising. She spends a good deal of her time developing media for use in fundraising for her organization. The biggest hindrance to her organization’s marketing is that people within it are not on the same page about what messages connect best with the people they want to reach. Her organization rarely, if ever, uses research or testing before launching a new program.

In addition, she is not able to put her focus on marketing communications as much as she would like because she is often tasked with duties that pertain to other aspects of running the nonprofit she works for that are not in her job description. Her job requires multitasking and she is frequently asked to take on tasks that are far beyond her background and training. She often feels frustrated and burned-out. The fact that the various department leaders and staff in her organization don’t understand marketing and sometimes even resist her input frustrates her.

She is barely aware of the need to adapt to the demographic (ethnicity and age) changes in the marketplace in volunteer recruitment and fundraising, though she is keenly aware of changes in the clients her organization serves. She knows the market is getting more complex with the 64% increase in the nonprofit sector in the last decade, but she may not have made the connection to what that means for her work for the future of her job.

She wants practical help in planning the marketing of her organization and she needs to produce results. With such demands on her time, she can’t afford to waste time with theory and academics.

She loves what she does because she believes in the cause. And even though the people she works with can drive her to the brink of insanity sometimes, she loves them like family and will defend them with all her heart.

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    7 thoughts on “Meet Nancy Nonprofit: A Nonprofit Communication Director Persona Profile”

    1. Hi Chris,

      I left a comment about this article on Facebook. It is very true, researched, and detailed.

      I noticed something is this article about branding. Are you opposed to companies who offer branding services or just the methods that they use? I know that Jay had told us that we should incorporate professional services into building our businesses, to save us time and money.

      One of my businesses is a social network made up of small business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals supporting each other through branding their businesses. We try to offer our members access to professionals who can help them build their brand images, not just logos.

      I am a strong believer of branding from within, and this can be demonstrated by the fact that my social network’s header, logo, buttons, etc. were created by members and voted on by members. We also have a Brand Ambassador program for members to recruit other members. Everything is internal. We are even going to offer a branding bootcamp that will help them to create their brand from within, not just their visual presentation, but the overall perception of their brand by their customers and prospects. We will be using professional graphic designers and web designers to create final visual images, but plan to do this with the incorporation of the input from the business itself via workshops and worksheets. Do you think we are taking a good approach to help people with branding their business?


    2. Thanks Heather. No, I am not opposed to NPO’s who outsource. But when outside firms take over and fail to include stakeholders withing the organization a new branding strategy can be torpedoed by insiders who feel marginalized in the process. The best scenario is when the branding strategy has the most internal buy-in. Good branding firms know this and will strive to achieve it. A few more work only with top leadership and take the shortcut of creating a new logo and style guide and leave communication director with a mess to clean up.

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