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How to hire the right person for a nonprofit marketing team

6 min read
Aug 7, 2023

Your nonprofit’s marketing team champions your cause, builds awareness of your organization, and brings your message to new audiences. How can you make sure you’re hiring the right person for your team? 

Here are five hiring tips to help you recruit, interview, and hire the best candidate.

1. Create an accurate job description

Before you can start your search for your next marketing team member, take the time to consider exactly what the role will entail.

What areas will the new team member focus on? Which projects will they be responsible for, or where will they play a supportive role? What won’t they be involved in?

The more specific you can be, the easier it will be for candidates to know if they’re a good fit for the position. 

It’s easy to get carried away and create a job description that is essentially a wishlist. Think critically about the job you’re describing.

Can one person do everything you’re describing in normal work hours? Is the kind of experience you’re hoping for commensurate with the salary you’re offering? Do you need to adjust your expectations? 

Once you’ve described the job duties and qualifications, solicit feedback from other team members, even those who won’t have a role in hiring. 

Is it clear? Does the title match with the description? Is there anything missing? A second or third set of eyes can help make sure the job description is as accurate and attractive as possible. 

2. Focus on skills

No matter the level of the role, or the specific job duties, there are some qualities that all nonprofit marketers need to have. 

These include:

Good communication skills

Marketing is communication, so marketers need to be able to use words and images to clearly convey ideas to an audience. 

Storytelling ability

Nonprofit marketing relies particularly heavily on storytelling, so look for the ability to present ideas in an engaging and cohesive way.

Digital literacy

Digital marketing isn’t just an add-on to the main event anymore, it’s a significant part of nonprofit marketing.

From email to social to AI, an understanding of digital tools and how to use them effectively is crucial for all marketers.

A lifelong learning mindset

Marketing is constantly evolving and requires curiosity and adaptability to keep up. For the best marketers, this fact is fun and exciting, not a necessary evil.

Flexibility

Often, marketing requires adjustments, and sometimes even complete pivots. Someone who’s stuck on the way they originally did things or resistant to change is going to have a rough time on a marketing team.

Analytical thinking

A lot of marketing is a giant experiment. You try things, see how they work out, and course correct as needed.

Metrics and data are helpful indicators of how the experiment is going. Marketers who can think about projects and campaigns with an eye towards analytics will have better results than people who are scared of numbers. 

Cooperative skills

Very few nonprofit marketing initiatives are the sole work of one marketer, all alone against the world. Most are a collaborative process, with several people touching the final product. Team players are necessary. 

3. How to read a marketing resume

What’s in a resume? It seems fairly simple, right? You look for the skills and experience that match up with your job description, and pick the ones that seem to fit best to interview. 

Obviously, skills and experience are the most important part of the resume, but there are some other things to look for, too.

Resumes and cover letters are marketing documents, and the first samples a candidate gives you, and they can help you get a picture of the candidate as a marketer. 

Here are a few things to keep an eye out for:

  • Attention to detail: Spelling, grammar, formatting (normally, I’d say cut people slack on these things, but they’re essential job functions for marketers).While many hiring managers are no longer requiring cover letters, they can be useful for marketing roles, since the letter functions as a writing sample. 
  • Clarity: Does it require a lot of work to understand? Is anything confusing?
  • Nonprofit experience: Nonprofit marketing has its own quirks, and while experience with big brands may be impressive, it won’t necessarily directly apply. Someone who is used to marketing causes may be able to hit the ground running in a way that someone who is used to marketing products might not. 
  • Writing skills: Is the resume interesting? Does the cover letter tell a story? These documents are dry by default, so pay attention to effective and engaging communication. 
  • Connection to the cause: Why are they interested in working with your organization instead of any other? Marketers have the responsibility to try and make other people care about your cause, a thing that’s easier to do if they care about it too.

Things that seem more important than they are:

  • Degrees: People come to marketing careers through many avenues, and while a degree in marketing or communications is certainly useful, these aren’t the only option. Successful marketers are people who can tell stories, make an argument, use language and visuals well, and communicate with diverse audiences. People with degrees in English, theatre, philosophy, art, psychology, graphic design, or even no degree at all, can be successful in marketing roles.
  • Internships: An internship on an entry-level resume is an opportunity to ask questions. Did the candidate work on projects or answer phones? Just because there’s a fancy-sounding agency on the resume doesn’t mean the experience was particularly meaningful — you’ll need to ask. 

Also consider that unpaid internships are an impossibility for many people. Someone who spent their college summers working at a restaurant to pay bills isn’t necessarily a less skilled or dedicated marketer than someone who was able to go months without a paycheck. 

4. Interview intelligently

Once you’ve selected your candidates to interview, you may find yourself frantically Googling, “good job interview questions.” This actually isn’t a terrible place to start, but ideally you’ll want your interview to be a mutually beneficial conversation, not just you firing question after question.

Think about what you want to communicate about your organization to the candidates. What is your culture like? Why do you work there? What is important for people to know before they jump in? 

Try to avoid routine interview questions that don’t really tell you anything. “What is your greatest weakness?” simply invites non-answers like, “Sometimes I work too hard,” or “It’s hard not to hold everyone else to the incredibly high standard I set for myself.” No one’s going to tell you, “Well, I’m late all the time and I’m easily frustrated,” which would actually be useful. 

Instead, ask questions that help you learn more about their experience and personality. What were their favorite past projects? What were their least favorite projects? Why? What skills have they found most useful in the past? What are they hoping to learn next?

5. Talk is cheap

One thing about communications professionals is that we are often very, very good at talking. The problem is that this can cloud an interview process, so that you mistake a candidate being articulate, engaging, and ready to chat your ear off for actual marketing skills.

Consequently, it’s very helpful to see some work. The best way to do this is to ask for a portfolio or samples of past work, and review it with the candidate to learn more about their process, how it performed, and the resources they had available to create it. 

If at all possible, resist the urge to create an assignment like, “Create a poster marketing our organization” or “write ten social media posts promoting our event.” That is asking someone to work for you before they work for you!

If you really can’t tell the quality of someone’s work unless it’s directly about your organization, then offer a stipend for creating brand-new material. (And please don’t use the materials created by people you didn’t hire without paying them for their hard work!)

Build the team that builds your organization

With a clear job description, a focus on relevant skills, a thoughtful interview process, and a review of relevant work, you’ll be positioned to add the next valuable member of your nonprofit marketing team. 

We hope you find just the right person for your amazing organization!

 

About the author:

Megan Donahue is a communications consultant, writer, and nonprofit nerd. She's the host of Love & Robots and fascinated by the intersection of nonprofits and technology.

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