Winning the Internet

Please don’t quit! Keeping online staff happy in their jobs

After a great run, the Winning the Internet blog has been retired. However, you can still keep in touch with New Media Mentors here.

It’s no secret that turnover can sometimes be high in the digital organizing world. It’s a fast-paced environment and new job opportunities pop up every election cycle. As with any other job function, employers need to think about hours, pay, organization culture, etc. With online staff though, there are a host of other things to think about too. Here are four things you can do to keep your online staff happy.

1. Make sure they’re working with purpose.
It’s not uncommon for online staffers to believe in the cause they’re working for, but start to feel unsure they’re actually making a difference. This stems in part from the way organizations plan their online work. It’s tough for most people to see how posting something to Facebook is actually going to create real change in the world. This is why strategic planning is so important for online work. Make sure you have a strategic online communications plan in place that links online work directly to the organization’s long-term goals. I’ve seen connecting the dots like this dramatically change employee attitudes.

2. Give them freedom to try things.
The online world is always changing. It’s easy for staff members that don’t have permission to try new things to feel stifled. Also, it’s not unusual for the things that worked online last month to no longer work today, so when people aren’t able to keep up they can feel less and less effective over time. It’s a good idea to put a process in place for trying new things while mitigating risk.

3. Let them contribute – not just service the rest of the staff.
Online organizing can be powerful and it deserves to be considered alongside offline organizing and other ways of creating change. Sometimes you can re-energize your online staff members and increase the effectiveness of your organization by including online staff in strategic planning meetings, etc. Asking them to contribute early on can make a big difference.

4. Make sure they have the tools they need.
If you’ve ever tried to take the legs off a table without a ratchet you realize what a huge difference having the right tool for the job can make. Yes, there are lots of super cheap and free tools available online, but hacking cheap solutions together can feel like a frustrating waste of time when you have more effective things you could be doing.

If your $40k/yr staffer is spending half of her time hacking things together to save $300/mo, there might be a solution that’s better for the organization too. I strongly recommend having your online staff put together a strategic online communications plan, then figuring out what tools they need to implement the plan in an efficient way. It might involve finding a little more budget for the program, but if you can gain back a significant amount of staff time, the move could be huge for your online staff and your organization.


In addition to these things, it’s good to have an open and honest conversation with online staff periodically and find out what’s frustrating them. It’s tough to keep staff happy when you’re not sure what’s bugging them.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.

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