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The Season of Giving: Spotlight on Nonprofit Communicators

Nonprofit Marketing Communications Professionals

As the holiday season begins, many individuals find themselves looking for ways to spread cheer by giving back. For marketing communications professionals, this time of year is about creating compelling messaging to inspire advocacy and charity.

Today, two WVU Marketing Communications alumni share insights about their career in nonprofit communications during the "giving season."

Mauren Ater

Maureen Ater

Vice President of Marketing and Development for Goodwill Industries of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio

M.S. Integrated Marketing Communications (2009)

What drew you to working in the nonprofit sector?

One of my undergraduate internships was with a non-profit. I served as a public communications intern for an organization that served people with developmental disabilities. I was hooked! I knew that I wanted to work in the non-profit realm. Eventually I did work in non-profit, but then spent nearly a decade in the corporate world. I continued to serve as a volunteer and board member with a number of area non-profits who were doing work I was passionate about. Then, an opportunity arose to transition from the role of volunteer to staff member with Goodwill. I jumped on the chance to return to this work I’m passionate about!

How do you traditionally leverage the holiday season in your marketing communications efforts?

Goodwill is a unique non-profit in that we traditionally are requesting material donations from the community. The majority of our funding is generated from sales in our retail stores which then funds our outreach programs. As the seasons change, it important for us to communicate the need for donations and the needs fo the community to shop our stores….for value and for support of their own community!

How has COVID-19 impacted your nonprofit? How are you adapting?

The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding shut down earlier this year was devastating to Goodwill. Unlike other non-profits that may have funding that would sustain during this difficult time, Goodwill relies almost entirely on revenue from its retail stores. When the stores were shuttered for nearly two months, we were forced to furlough nearly 700 employees. Communicating out that extremely difficult news on the day we were forced to close was one of the hardest days I’ve had as a communications and marketing professional. Despite the shutdown and lack of funding, outreach services continued. One of my responsibilities is to serve as the director of Goodwill’s Community Campus. The Campus is a collaborative site where Goodwill offices are house along with 20 other non-profits. Programs at the Campus like the food pantry, charitable pharmacy and free clinic saw an immediate spike in the need for services. It was a scary and confusing time, but one I will never forget as those of us still working rolled up our sleeves, donned our gloves and masks, and did what we could to support others in our community. Now that our stores have reopened and our staff have been called back, things have stabilized for our agency but we continue to adjust to this new pandemic way of doing business. I think that effective and responsive communications have been such an important part of this experience. When furloughs first happened, we committed to providing the very best internal communications. We needed our staff who were laid off to know what was happening and that Goodwill was there for them. We have continued with these efforts and found that our staff morale has only improved since the beginning of the pandemic. We are not through this yet, but already, we know that we will be a stronger agency in the end.

What advice do you have for young professionals interested in working in the nonprofit sector?

I think there is a misnomer that when you choose to work in the non-profit world, you choose to make a sacrifice. In other words, if you work for a cause, you may feel good about it, but you won’t get paid as well for that work. I disagree. Non-profit work is incredibly rewarding, and in many cases, can pay well. Working previously in the corporate world, I found that pay was better, but benefits were worse. I paid more for health insurance, had less time off and very little flexibility with my schedule. These were important determinants when I decided to work in the non-profit world. I never felt as if I was taking a step backward in pay, but instead felt it was a confident step forward in my career and my life.

Anne Bowling Tuckwiller

Anne Bowling Tuckwiller

Executive Director, Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation

M.S. Integrated Marketing Communications

What drew you to working in the nonprofit sector?

After working for SustainU, a socially conscious startup based in Morgantown, I realized quickly I needed to be in an industry where I could make an impact. After moving on to a strictly for-profit sector, I found I was not as fulfilled as when I was working for a company that was focused on making things better, socially and environmentally. When moving back home to White Sulphur Springs, I knew I wanted to find a way to utilize my degree while also having a positive impact in my community. After working for a few years as Development Director at Carnegie Hall, I was invited to apply for the ED position at our community foundation and immediately found exactly what I was supposed to be doing. Not only can I utilize what I learned in the IMC program, I am helping our local nonprofits work towards financial sustainability. I can honestly say I have found my dream job.

How do you traditionally leverage the holiday season in your marketing communications efforts?

Much of nonprofit development is contingent on stewardship and strong donor relationships. We make it a goal to reach out to donors directly during the holiday season to continue to nurture those relationships.

How has COVID-19 impacted your nonprofit? How are you adapting?

Community Foundations often serve as a conduit in a community, particularly during a disaster. Part of our mission is to connect donors with organizations that meet their personal philanthropic goals, while also serving as a primary funding source for nonprofit organizations in our region. We quickly saw our most impactful role in response to COVID-19 would be that of funder for our organizations that were either directly responding or directly affected by the pandemic. We partnered with the United Way of the Greenbrier Valley to raise and distribute $215,000 in our three-county service area. We made grants for feeding programs/food banks, senior service programs, first responder/testing support, virtual education initiatives, basic needs assistance, and general operating support.

What advice do you have for young professionals interested in working in the nonprofit sector?

For me, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing the work I do directly impacts the community I serve. While you will make sacrifices, often longer hours for less pay than your for-profit counterparts, you will know at the end of your career the work you did made a positive difference. To me, there is no greater reward.


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