Posted: October 6, 2014, 2:30 p.m.
by Kelsey Weiss.
It happens every October. Pink lightbulbs are purchased, pink ribbons are cut, and pink outfits are proudly donned to support breast cancer awareness and research. It’s a cause we happily support each year, because a large percentage of women and their families continue to be affected.
Depending on the month, such cause adoption happens multiple times every year — buzz is created, money is raised, and people become their favorite nonprofit’s champions. But then, something funny happens. The once-supported organizations fade into the background, making room for a new cause and waiting for their spotlight again the following year. But, to me, a question remains: What about the other 11 months of the year?
Nonprofit activism and public relations are a passion of mine. Having interned for and worked on a nonprofit committee for three years now, I continue to see the impact the work of just a small group can have on a larger population of people. We’ve seen it most recently with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. What people don’t realize, however, is all the communication lessons we can learn through working with a nonprofit organization, and how we can help extend its success for long past its given primetime. Based on my experience, here are a few tips:
Make it simple: Volunteer.
Seriously. Volunteering to help out the nonprofit of your choice helps immensely. As a special events intern, I saw firsthand how an organization’s employees often have to share responsibilities in order to make things happen. This may be working an event, making dozens of phone calls, or attending conferences and committee meetings as a group. It doesn’t matter what it is that may need more assistance; what matters is that everything gets done — and done well. The assistance that volunteers provide helps nonprofits reach organizational goals year after year, which leads me to my second point . . .
Volunteers help make the local and often critical connections nonprofits rely on throughout the year; they’re often the catalyst behind an organization that flourishes instead of one that flounders. Through involvement with your chosen cause, whether big or small, you’re given the priceless opportunity to meet and connect with those who are as equally passionate about the cause that you are — and to inspire others to join you.
As public relations students and budding practitioners, we are often told how critical forming and maintaining relationships with many people truly is — whether it’s with fellow practitioners, journalists and the news media, or past internship coordinators, to name a few. This idea becomes abundantly clear to me every spring as I rally the support of people I’ve worked with for a few years now on my event. Their continued support is often due to the relationship we’ve formed, and it’s critical to maintain it.
Communication really is key.
Whether you’re a volunteer or employee, you must be able to communicate well with your audience, as well as speak to the reasons why you’re involved. I understood this idea most as an intern when I was securing donations with various companies; they needed to like me as a person, and the organization I represented, before they would even listen to what I had to say. This necessity required me to be fully prepared with each communication tool I used, whether it was a quick phone call, email or newsletter I drafted.
These communication skills are an instrumental part of our public relations toolkit, and in the end, remind us that every move made could indeed determine the future of an organization and the people it fortunately supports.