Nonprofit PR: Working For a Cause

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Posted At: January 16, 2013 2:25 P.M.
by Grayson Martin

I have been associated with nonprofit organizations my entire life. I grew up as a member of my local Boys and Girls Club, where I had my first paying job once I became old enough. I have always had a place in my heart for helping others, especially children. I also had life-changing brain surgery at the Children’s Hospital, so it seems that my whole life has pushed me in the direction of working for a nonprofit company.

Interning with the Children’s Miracle Network this summer opened my eyes to what a nonprofit PR professional has to do on a daily basis. The website “Nonprofit.org”  contains multiple articles that are all full of insights and tips for a nonprofit practitioner.

Know you craft                                                                                                                                                                                                         The job is multifaceted, so a practitioner must be well-rounded in all areas of public relations. Writing skills are crucial because you must keep your organization’s name on the forefront of the public’s mind. Exposure is everything, so you need to be able to write effective news releases that can deliver the message of what is going on with your organization and move people to help.

Networking is always important                                                                                                                                                             Working with a nonprofit will require you to build a motivated group of supporters who are passionate about what your client does. You will need to maintain relationships with these supporters to always have financial backing and support.

Be creative                                                                                                                                                                                                            Nonprofit professionals need to have a creative mind, as well. The same old song and dance fundraising ideas eventually grow stale. You need to be innovative in coming up with new and exciting ways to motivate and inspire others to support your cause.

We were constantly busy coordinating fundraisers and events during my time with the Children’s Miracle Network. Some of our large events included major golf tournaments around the Birmingham area, such as the Regions Charity Golf Tournament.

We had an auction at the pairing party that raised a significant amount of money. We also set up a tent on the golf course that had educational information about the hospital, and we asked patrons at the tournament to sign up for a raffle. The information that we received from the raffle was valuable because it went into our database for potential donors. We also worked alongside our partner organizations like Dairy Queen, Sam’s Club, Wal-Mart and Publix. The more you branch out with your areas of support and partnerships, the more opportunity it provides you for fundraising possibilities.

Set yourself apart                                                                                                                                                                                                Tonya Garcia at PRNewser lists five best PR practices for a nonprofit program. Some of the main points Garcia makes include setting yourself apart with a message-driven story, mapping out communication activity and using social media to inspire and engage.

The Children’s Miracle Network did an excellent job of putting a child’s face to every fundraiser we took part in. That lets people know where their money is going and that it is a worthwhile cause. Successful execution of a nonprofit’s activities is important.

Don’t go through the trouble of planning an event without anyone knowing what happened. The Children’s Miracle Network always made sure to have a photographer from the local news on hand or a press release sent to the media, even for what some would consider small events. That is what makes a communication strategy successful.

Use social media                                                                                                                                                                                                        As Garcia noted, it is important that nonprofits understand and harness the power of social media, a very cost effective way to disseminate a message and raise awareness. It also enables the organization to interact with key publics, giving the organization a human side.

Motivate others                                                                                                                                                                                                      With fundraising being such a large part of a nonprofit’s survival, the PR professional must be able to reach and motivate people with the resources that can help sustain the organization. Seth Godin is a motivational speaker who has redefined the idea of tribes. Godin talks about the amount of power these tribes can have and how much they can accomplish if they are motivated. Godin says that there are tons of tribes out there, but some of them are dormant, waiting on a leader to call them to action. A successful PR practitioner is able to rally these tribes and lead them to action.

Believe in what you do                                                                                                                                                                                       People are often motivated by a story that brings a cause to life. A great background story can be the difference between success and failure for your nonprofit. As a PR professional, you need to be an efficient communicator who can relay that message behind your organization to the public. You need to convince the public that their money and support are going to a worthwhile cause, and this is where you need to be able to sell it.

At the end of the day, a nonprofit PR practitioner doesn’t have the most glamorous job, and you might not make the most money either, but in my opinion, it is by far the most rewarding line of public relations work. Nonprofit is not for everyone, but give it a try. You never know whose life you may change.

To learn more about the variety of skills needed in nonprofit PR, visit the website “Nonprofit.org”  for multiple articles offering insights and tips for a nonprofit practitioner.

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