by Emily Diab
Public relations practices are all about results. Whether these results are for a large corporate agency or a small nonprofit organization, results they remain. These results show the successes, or failures, of an organization’s most meaningful initiatives.
Nonprofit public relations has a special duty in its initiatives beyond the typical public relations practices. This duty is to ensure active funding and community participation, highlighting the importance of effective PR practices.
Del Galloway, VP of public relations for United Way of America, addresses this duty as a particular challenge that nonprofit organizations face.
“We face a challenge because nonprofits have to be good stewards of people’s resources, primarily their money. Budgets are limited. You have to be innovative and you need to be more deliberate to ensure that your marketing and communications efforts are actually integrated. You have to get more bang for your buck,” said Galloway.
Nonprofit employees, especially those in the public relations sector, must be trained and capable of addressing this challenge. Since nonprofits depend on sponsors and donors to fund its organizations, PR practitioners must ensure positive relationships with them.
Two basic practices can be used to keep these relationships effective: transparency and communication.
The PRSA Code Provision of Conduct includes suggestions for professional practices in ethical responsibility. According to this code, transparency can be practiced by “build[ing] trust with the public by revealing all information needed for responsible decision making” and communicating “the free flow of accurate and truthful information.”
A public relations practitioner has the responsibility of securing and maintaining this transparency.
“You need to be very transparent and accountable. People want to know whether their contributions, including time, talent or treasure, are being put to good use,” Galloway said.
These challenges are apparent, but not impossible to face. Gaining trust from an organization’s stakeholders, in this case monetary donors, is important to the success of the organization’s future. The organization must communicate with its community, proving that just as a practitioner in any field should, a nonprofit public relations practitioner must focus on effective communication at all times.
A communicator in any field is responsible for the successful delivery of messages and maintenance of key relationships. A communicator in the field of nonprofit organizations, however, must apply certain principles in order to guarantee progress in their efforts.
“Nonprofit employees wear many hats . . . whether it’s writing press releases or an annual report, designing a donor newsletter, or stuffing envelopes. All of these aspects come together to form effective communication efforts,” said Mandy Sharp, a skilled public relations and nonprofit PR volunteer.
Prioritizing the needs of communication efforts can be difficult. The art of applying these principles effectively and prioritizing the needs to the specific audiences that nonprofits depend on is a special skill that a nonprofit PR practitioner must develop.
“Communicating with current or prospective donors requires a level of tailored and direct communication — a very unique aspect in nonprofit communication. Different communication strategies are necessary. It is indeed a huge relationship-building process,” Sharp said.
With the combination of skilled public relations practices and enhanced transparency and communication, nonprofit organizations can succeed in achieving the results of their initiatives.