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Read this if you don’t have enough resource in your charity’s comms team – part 3

24 June 2011

Jim Raymond concludes his three-part article by discussing how to influence senior decision makers in your charity 

In part 1 and part 2 of this series we explored how to reduce the overload on your role and how to make a case for increasing the resource in your comms team. This final part is about influencing the senior decision makers in your charity to take action.

One of the things 10 years of working with charities on digital comms has taught me is that no matter how good the technology, without skilled resource within the charity the results will be limited. The second thing is that it is common for senior managers within charities to want the results digital comms can bring without understanding the type of and amount of resource required.

Working together 

More junior charity people very often understand the types of skills required and the need for more resource but get frustrated with “the charity” for not getting it. This can lead to an impasse and I see all too many opportunities disappear because people are too busy to make things happen.

I believe there is a deal here which bridges the impasse. The junior team members need to make the case for communications in terms senior managers can make decisions about. Senior managers need to help and encourage their junior team members to make the case and then back them up with resources.

Here are a few tips I’ve seen work in influencing decision makers:

  • If you need more resource, identify who will make that decision and talk to them. Find out what they think early on – in particular what their concerns and objections are to your proposal.
  • Most decisions need to demonstrate impact, results and have a clear financial case. Can you demonstrate the communication impact of your proposal and can you also show fundraising, advocacy or even service delivery benefits?
  • Have you been realistic with the costs in your proposal? Better to have some contingency than to seem naïve or overly optimistic. Have you considered ongoing costs as well as one off costs?
  • Do senior managers understand what you are talking about? With digital comms in particular, it is much better to demonstrate real examples to help people understand what it is you are talking about.
  • What’s the best format for your proposal? You may not need to write a long proposal –  sometimes a pilot or working prototype may be better. Find out from the senior manager what they need from you before you spend time creating an amazing treatise.
  • Visualise this proposal from the senior manager’s point of view. What does it look like to them? What are the risks to them personally if the proposal doesn’t work? How can you make it deliver the results they need?
  • Be passionate and enthusiastic. Senior managers need to believe in your ability and commitment to see the idea through. If you aren’t excited about it, you’re not going to get them excited about it!

I firmly believe that the difference between poor and great results is having the right skills and resources in your team. Unless you are very lucky, your senior managers will not make this happen – it’s down to you making the case and helping them make the right decisions!

Jim Raymond

operations director, Convio

Convio is a leading provider of integrated marketing software and services for charities in the UK.