The Five-tool Fundraising Communications Pro

With Major League Baseball’s All-star game just around the corner, I thought we’d take a look at fundraising communications through a baseball GM’s lens. First, for all you baseball and/or analytics fans out there, have a look at this preview for the upcoming film “Moneyball” starring Brad Pitt…

Let’s say your job is building a fundraising department and you’re looking to hire someone who can do communications work for your organization. How do you act as fundraising’s Billy Beane? (The shrewd GM, depicted in the above film, who looked beyond the obvious stars and, using a unique analytics method known as “sabermetrics”, consistently found players who were young, but full of potential – many of which lived up to that potential) There are the obvious stars in fundraising – those who’ve been part of major campaigns, have a history of increasing major gifts, bring decades of experience to the table – if you can afford those hires, great! You’ll likely be glad to have those people aboard.

However, given the shift in communication ideology (from “broadcasting at” to “talking with”) and the need to spend wisely, you might take a look at a different set of factors when trying to find the next communication pro for your organization. With that in mind, here is a list of tools you might want your new hire to possess…

Video production: With decent quality cameras on nearly every mobile phone, most people know how to make a video. But do they know how to make a high quality video that enraptures your audience? Look for potential hires with backgrounds in TV (news or entertainment) production. With the increasing rise in video’s importance, you’ll be glad you did.

Social media savvy: Everybody knows they have to get involved with social media sooner or later, but not everyone knows how – so hire someone who does. What makes a social media communicator savvy? There are obvious indicators like follower and friend counts, how many networks they’re engaged in, Klout scores and so forth. Beyond those indicators, how often do other social media users talk about them? Are they often retweeted? …linked to in blog posts? Have they been invited to speak at various events and conferences? More than any follower count, the community should tell you just how socially savvy a communicator is.

Presentation skills: With all those social media channels available to you, your organization needs content. From webinars, to running a video blog, to representing your organization as a speaker, to working with traditional news media, public speaking has never been a more important core competency for communicators in any field. Fundraising is no different.

HTML knowledge: If you can find someone who does all the above well AND can build a good-looking website from scratch, your search is probably over. But even a basic understanding of HTML can go a long way. Do they know how to enter code and resize a video or picture so it fits nicely into a blog column? Can they make a link open in another tab? (something that’s not easy to do in Google’s Blogger) It’s the little things that can cause big headaches if no one knows how to fix them.

Honesty and Integrity: I know, this appears to be a lame fifth point (the title suggests five tools, so I need five points, right?), but honesty and integrity are more important than ever in communications. As Gary V so eloquently puts it in this video, “there is no hiding.” Everything you, your organization or whomever speaks for your organization posts on line has the potential of being seen by everyone, everywhere. Sure, most private messages and links will never see the light of day, but you never know. Just ask Congressman Anthony Weiner. This goes beyond just being honest, but also being a positive person. Optimism, not pessimism, is the tone of choice for most social media users.

If fundraising is part of a candidate’s background, and they have a combination of the above skills, then all the better. But don’t limit yourself to those with a history in development. Instead, do what Beane’s teams did – look at the metrics or skillset that matters most to you and go after those candidates with matching credentials.

If you’d like to talk more about what makes a good fundraising communications pro, please join me for our upcoming webinar Thursday, August 11 from noon-1pm CT. To learn more, click here.

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