The Basics, First

On Thursday, I went on an informational interview with a local nonprofit group. As I am learning about nonprofit PR, my eyes keep widening in awe and amazement at how nonprofits function. Personally, I love it! It’s grassroots, compassionate, creative, and motivating.

I have learned and realized that resources are a huge limitation for PR within nonprofits. And its not just resources in terms of money, but time and staff. Organizations are challenged with keeping administrative costs down, yet are accountable for achieving their mission and goals–or vamoose there goes the organization.

What I also noticed is that even the basics of PR sometimes are not even contemplated because of these limitations. Not only is there not a budget for PR/Marketing functions or staff, but these activities are more often than not subsumed by fundraising activities. When and how do organizations have the time to strategically map out who their publics are, how they are going to reach them, what messages will work, and what tactics to use? These are the basics of PR planning.

One quote from my research on nonprofit PR and marketing I found illuminating is by Scheff and Kotler (1996) who wrote Crisis in the Arts: the marketing response. They assert that an organization must know its publics, current and potential. A group begins to do this by

Listening to the heartbeat of its community–what people like and dislike; what they find attractive, what keeps them away; which segments of the community are most likely to be interested in its core product…

So how can nonprofits listen? How do nonprofits gain their publics attention and keep it? Are media partnerships the answer? Or do volunteers become the voice, the PR rep for a nonprofit without a PR budget and staff? Or is a blog the anwer?

Obviously, I think blogs can work, but it should be used as a way to transparently communicate and be a voice in the community it supports. However, blogs may not be the right fit for every nonprofit. I acknowledge that.

Before nonprofits can really get into blogging and social media, they need to go back to the basics. They need to determine all of their publics, who they are, how they fit into the fabric of their organization, and then listen to their needs. It seems so simple, but I think this can be difficult when there just isn’t the time, money, or staff.

I propose we all get out their and volunteer our expertise, knowledge and time to help local nonprofits with their PR efforts or even start a blog for them.

Here are some facts for everyone:

  • 1.4 Million NPOs exist
  • 1.1 Million NPOs operate on less than $100,000 dollars annually
  • 2,986 operate on $1 million or more.

This info can be found and researched through the National Center for Charitable Statistics.

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