Many people look forward to the new year for a new start on old
- Author Unknown
Let's start the new year with a solemn promise to break some of
our old habits. In the case of the nonprofit sector, the way we
thought about public relations for our organizations could certainly
stand some new thinking.
It wasn't that long ago that public relations was something that
most nonprofit organizations thought they couldn't afford. They
tried to get by with PR volunteers instead of a paid professional
public relations staff.
It wasn't that long ago that some nonprofits thought that public
relations meant getting a mention about a fund-raising dinner in the
society pages. Some nonprofits confused public relations with
advertising and tried to get it pro bono from local ad agencies.
Some nonprofits confused public relations with fund raising - and
had the same person handling both. Others confused it with
publishing booklets or with glad-handing.
Tom Harrison, president of the Russ Reid Co., a marketing and
communications agency that helps nonprofit organizations through
direct response marketing, public relations and government funding,
sees it very differently. He believes that there is beginning to be
a remarkable and positive change in the way nonprofit organizations
are using public relations.
Here's his theory:
Competition for donor dollars has heated up intensely, and fund-
raising techniques themselves - in direct mail, TV, special events -
have become far more sophisticated. Nonprofit organizations have
borrowed proven marketing techniques from corporate America. Now the
more sophisticated nonprofit management has begun using corporate-
type public relations strategies. And it's working.
Today, just as no corporation would introduce a new product, make
a management change, or corporate move, or support the day-to-day
marketing of a product without public relations, many not-for-
profits are turning to public relations as an integral part of the
But let's be clear. Today's management doesn't want yesterday's
public relations by press release or answer the phone media
relations. Today's nonprofit management sees public relations as an
investment. And they demand a return on that investment in three
Public relations must:
* Build awareness of your organization, and position it as a
valuable contributor to society.
* Create an environment to enhance fund-raising opportunities
among target audiences such as foundations, corporations,
volunteers, and individual donors.
* Educate and persuade your target audiences about an issue or
Public relations, then, plays an important role in both your fund-
raising efforts and your organization's program itself. For example,
if you're the March of Dimes, you use public relations both to build
support for fund-raising campaigns and to educate teens about
pregnancy, birth defects and prenatal care. Public relations
supports both fund raising and your programs - or you're not getting
your money's worth out of it. …