Nonprofit organizations are faced with budget shortfalls year after year. And competition among nonprofits has never been greater. Yes, we said competition. It’s not a dirty word for nonprofits, though some may have you think it is. Every nonprofit out there is competing for donor dollars, media attention, employee and volunteer recruitment with other nonprofits. They are all worthy causes (or nearly all), or they wouldn’t enjoy nonprofit status. How is a donor to know which nonprofit to give his/her money to? How is a corporate sponsor to know which nonprofit star to hitch its big-name wagon to? For many nonprofits, the answers to these questions may be found through public relations activities.
Public relations offers a low-cost means for gaining public attention for nonprofit organizations. Through media relations (including, but not limited to press releases), speaking events, networking and fundraising events, nonprofit organizations can get rise above the fray and become noticed by the people who matter: potential clients, donors, volunteers and employees.
But public relations must be used selectively for maximum impact. Public relations activities are most effective when they help an organization present a cohesive whole to its public. For an organization to use public relations to stand out in the crowd, it must do three things in addition to providing quality services:
- Determine which 1-3 messages it wants to convey to the public.
- Develop a plan including a goal, objectives, target audience(s), strategies, tactics, budget and measurement to support the message(s).
- Implement the plan, conveying the message(s).
It sounds simple, and it is, but it does require forethought and an ability to stay on task. Every public relations opportunity should be viewed with the overall plan in mind. Does it contribute? How can we maximize its effectiveness? What groundwork should be done? What follow-up should be done?