Structuring Staff for Online Success
Nonprofit organizations are resource constrained, as we all well know. According to a 15-question survey Convio conducted between September 2008 and October 2008 of 60 nonprofits, the most common response regarding their organization's top barrier to success was insufficient staff.
In the Convio webinar "Why Structure Matters: Organizing Your Staff for Online Success" in late June, Brian Hauf, vice president of client success services for Convio, and Mondy Lamb, marketing director for SPCA of Wake County, discussed the need for organizational structure within an organization, the downsides of not having a plan and the impact of structure on performance.
Other barriers to online success noted by those surveyed were lack of coordination, lack of education of online marketing, database issues, integration of different Web tools/technologies and intradepartmental issues. The survey also found that nearly 70 percent of the organizations questioned have three or fewer employees dedicated to online-related programs.
Structure is important to online success, as it influences:
- which department is responsible for making decisions about your organization's online strategy, Web site content and online objectives;
- whether you have an online plan, and how often you revisit it;
- how effective your organization is at handling the challenges it will face communicating, planning and making decisions;
- how well your organization sets goals for its online initiatives, and whether you hold your staff accountable for reaching them;
- how you hire, train, share knowledge with and provide career paths for your interactive team; and
- your speed and agility.
Hauf gave an overview of the three most common organizational structures:
- centralized, where everyone who works on online programs is consolidated into a single department;
- decentralized, where everyone who works on online programs is spread across different departments; and
- hybrid, where those who work on online programs are mostly consolidated into a single department, but there are also others outside the department.
Not having a plan is planning to fail, Hauf said.
"The reality for most nonprofits today is having to make do with less," he said. "[Getting] the maximum results from the resources you have requires having a plan and sticking to it."
Structure also affects performance, as it can drive the behavior of the individuals helping you with online.
SPCA of Wake County has an annual budget of $2.1 million, a staff of 39 employees — 30 of whom staff two animal shelters and nine of whom work in the organization's administrative office — and its main source of funding is individual donors. It has a hybrid staffing structure that grew organically. Lamb detailed the organization's experiences with restructuring and shared the following advice for other small nonprofits when it comes to online staffing:
- Look at the staff resources you already have.
- Don't let the multitude of tools available intimidate you.
- Leave room in your plan to be inspired.
Lamb outlined these steps organizations can take to better organize their staffs for online success:
- calculating average hours spent monthly on your online presence;
- identifying key gaps in skills that you will need to fill;
- determining which organizational structure you fall into: decentralized, centralized or hybrid;
- developing an online plan that includes goal setting and clearly defines ownership and accountability for each metric;
- knowing the "blind spots" of your existing structure and overcompensating in the typical areas of weakness;
- outlining professional development priorities and career path alternatives for your staff; and
- re-evaluating your online team's structure, and looking for ways to concentrate your online staff into more of a hybrid or centralized structure.
To learn about upcoming Convio webinars, click here.