Exploring Nonprofit Public Relations

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Posted At: January 1, 2008 9:45 AM
by Amy Kassis

There are many options for career paths within the field of public relations whether you choose to work for a corporation, an agency or a nonprofit organization. Brandt Garrison, development director for a nonprofit organization called GreaterGoal in San Diego, Calif., chose to work for a nonprofit because she had a passion for what GreaterGoal was doing.

GreaterGoal uses a unique combination of sport, humanitarian aid and service to help youth in Africa and Nicaragua whose needs may otherwise go unmet. GreaterGoal’s long-term goal is to teach children sustainable life skills and develop leaders through the integration of sports.

“GreaterGoal was the perfect combination for me,” Garrison said, “travel, sports— I am in!”

As the development director at GreaterGoal, Garrison is responsible for the growth of the organization as well as cultivating new grants and partnerships. According to Garrison, when working for a nonprofit organization, you learn as you go. She said she learned while working for a nonprofit that you have to step it up no matter what the task.

“You have to sell yourself, whether it is through communicating to the public or actually trying to gain momentum for your organization; you and your organization go hand in hand,” Garrison said.

Garrison’s position at GreaterGoal is just one example of the many job opportunities in the field of public relations. This flexibility of job opportunities is one of the many benefits of working in public relations, especially because there is a need for public relations in almost all businesses and organizations. Garrison said she has specifically enjoyed working for a nonprofit organization because of the versatility and variety of things she gets to experience. For example, Garrison was given the opportunity to travel to Mexico with GreaterGoal this past year to do community outreach, and she also helped evacuees during the massive wildfire outbreak this October in southern California. According to Garrison, the nonprofit sector has given her the chance to use her public relations skills to benefit different areas within different communities.

Garrison also explained how despite there being many avenues of work in the field, the basic role of public relations is the same across the board.

“Public relations is the technique of promoting and communicating a positive image between the organization or corporation and the public,” Garrison said.

Hence, whatever career you choose within the public relations field, it is important to be able to positively market your client or organization. Garrison said basic skills within the field such as writing, research and creating relationships are crucial to master and can be used in any job. According to Garrison, these skills ultimately determine how well you market your client, which ultimately affects the overall success of your client or organization.

Research is one of the most important aspects of the communication process that most often gets neglected and can result in failure. To avoid failure, Garrison recommends researching your client or organization’s personnel extensively to find out what they are all about.

“You have to build a strong foundation by understanding who you are talking to and dealing with,” Garrison said.

Garrison also said research is an excellent way to get your foot in the door within a company or organization. She said as a good researcher, you become an important asset to your company. She also said research is more than just looking up information; you must be able to apply the research and process it in a way that is beneficial to your employer.

“If you are a good researcher, you become your company’s source.”

Another important skill Garrison stressed is the ability to build strong and lasting relationships with your clients. Relationship building is based on research and the ability to work well with people. One cannot establish a successful relationship without first doing the research. Garrison said you must find out not only who the company or organization is, but more specifically research the individuals who work for them. In Garrison’s experience with GreaterGoal, she finds it necessary to get personal with her clients, even so far as to finding out what activities their kids are involved in.

It is no secret that research is an important step in creating relations with your clients.  Garrison is a successful public relations practitioner because of her ability to do the research and develop strong relationships with all of her clients.

Side Note:
Since this interview with Garrison, she has decided to experience a different area of public relations and is now taking on a job as communications manager at a small organic snack foods company based in Greensboro, N.C., but Brandt will remain living in San Diego.  

E-mail: Brandt Garrison

What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of working for a nonprofit?

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