Winning the Internet

New Media Mentors take-away: Being realistic about resources is critical

This week I’m sharing two of my biggest take-aways from the third cohort of New Media Mentors—a program designed to help nonprofits make their online organizing work more strategic, effective and efficient.

Yesterday’s take-away focused on executive involvement when creating internal change. Today’s also gets at how organizations manage online work internally:

To maximize effectiveness, being realistic about resources is critical.

We work at nonprofits. Being short-staffed goes with the territory. I have yet to speak with an organizer that feels their online team is sufficiently staffed. Because our resources are in such short supply, we need to be especially vigilant and decisive about how we spend them.

This may sound like common sense, but this is probably the most common mistake organizations make. When my mentees tell me that “everything is a priority” at their organization, or if I can tell they’re drowning in work and never really know what they should be working on, I know they’ve got a prioritization problem.

I also see organizations that make an effort to set priorities, but do so arbitrarily. This is a problem because they could be wasting time on things that don’t matter, without even realizing it.

The bottom line is that the organization’s goals should drive staff to-do lists. Always.

Prioritizing goals and new media work can be difficult for people because they usually aren’t able to do everything they’d like to do. However, when organizers prioritize and create a realistic list of tasks designed specifically to achieve a particular goal, the results can be huge.

For example, an organization that usually just has enough time to post links to articles about 10 different program areas on Twitter and Facebook with no meaningful analysis or commentary could funnel all of this time into one powerful campaign focused on one program that involves creating and sharing compelling images on Facebook, hosting a Twitter chat, engaging in hashtag conversations, and connecting individually with popular social media followers to ask them to help with the campaign.

Unfortunately, even organizations that have talented staff and the best of intentions can be rendered ineffective if they refuse to be realistic about what their staff can do and prioritize. Though sometimes painful, I truly believe that prioritizing online work makes organizations more powerful and effective.


About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the New Media Program Director for Netroots Foundation and Lead Mentor for New Media Mentors. She aims to use her business school background and nonprofit experience to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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