Communications can include activities like marketing, report writing, events, media and creative communications. These skills are very important in the NGO sector as charities and civil society organisations face a need to promote themselves and communicate details of their work to the public. Campaigners and awareness raising groups are the most obvious examples, but charities may need to connect with the public for a variety of other reasons, from raising funds to highlighting areas of need. Volunteers with a background in marketing, in any sector, will find that their skills transfer easily into communications roles, while recent graduates with strong writing and communication ability can also learn the necessary skills to contribute in this area.
In the civil society sector, marketing involves the production of promotional materials, building a brand for the organisation and putting their message across clearly. This can be achieved through traditional marketing and advertising, but is increasingly managed through the websites and social media. While this may seem like the preserve of the private sector, in order to fundraise effectively or galvanise public opinion, non-profit organisations need to generate trust and build their reputation.
Alongside marketing exercises, civil society organisations often organise events. These may be to launch projects and reports, discuss topical issues or raise funds, but they all play a role in building the profile of the organisation and bringing people together. Events range from small meetings to conferences for hundreds of people and as such require strong organisational skills and attention to detail.
Report writing forms another element of roles in communications. Donors often require that reports are written to analyse and evaluate projects, while many organisations also engage in research which needs to be disseminated. In both cases, it is important that the results of projects and research are communicated clearly and accurately and that they reach a wide audience. Strong analysis, writing and editing skills are required to produce good quality reports.
The final piece of the communications puzzle is working with the media. The media represent the most direct path to the public and as such civil society organisations that want to raise awareness or campaign on an issue need to interact with the media and encourage positive news coverage of their work. This might involve speaking to print journalists, or appearing on television and radio, while some organisations have even gone as far as to establish their own radio networks to target specific members of the community. As with all elements of communications work, the key is to identify a clear, succinct message and put it across in a way that is understandable to the public.
Communications is a very sought after skill among our partners and many of our volunteers work in a communications based capacity. Some of our volunteers are transferring out of the private sector from marketing or media based backgrounds and find their skills are hugely relevant to working in development. Equally graduates with little work experience find that their research and writing skills, gained during their degree, can directly contribute to the work of an NGO overseas. Please see below for some example placement descriptions in the communications field.