PRoving the struggle

      8 Comments on PRoving the struggle

For years I’ve heard countless Long Island not-for-profit (NFP) professionals complain that they have little or no resources to “do” public relations. I’ve listened to the concerns of hundreds of people from NFPs who stream into all-day conferences held annually by the Fair Media Council (FMC) and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). They come to FMC’s Connection Day and AFP’s Philanthropy Day to learn the art of “doing” PR through dozens of workshops conducted by media, development and PR pros. These events and my work in the not-for-profit field have provided me with anecdotal evidence that NFPs perpetually struggle to effectively move messages to their publics.

Here in one of the wealthiest regions of the world, so many of our charitable organizations can’t communicate well and, subsequently, often struggle to survive. NFPs frequently conduct PR functions using staff with little or no training; they often write and talk to reporters without knowing what media pros want or need; they’re sometimes using web sites and social media as a panacea for PR but may not have the skill sets to build audiences through inspired visuals or wordcraft.

My goal is to take these assumptions and turn them into data. This week, with the help of a great team of Hofstra PR students, I launched a survey, “Public Relations at Not-for-Profit Organizations,” which should help to prove the anecdotes. The 26-question survey can be taken in five minutes. If the results back up the complaints, I hope to become an effective voice in efforts to find more resources so these deserving groups can fulfill their missions far more successfully.

If you know of a not-for-profit organization based on Long Island, please ask one of its representatives to take the survey. It’s online at http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e4y857obgt4n7eic/start.  My team and I will be at events such as Connection Day (last week) and Philanthropy Day (November 18), and we’ll report the results in December. Your thoughts?

P.S. — Special thanks to my Hofstra research team (shown with me above, l. to r.): Chris Scheben, Alexa Sibilio, Lauren Katz and Vania Andre.

8 thoughts on “PRoving the struggle

  1. alipr107

    I think that the line is very thin between PR and fundraising. My mom just recently went to Boston University to get her certification for fundraising for non-for-profits, and the assignments she did, and the material she learned was much like the material we learn in PR. Although her course was only a few months, her class touched upon social media tools, media framing, campaigns, and case study and research methods. The skill set required to be good at fundraising is a lot a like our skill set as PR professionals. I think that PR and fundraising has a future of merging together some way. Maybe the fundraising will be a new branch of PR down the road. I think that fundraising is a lot like PR in many ways, especially when it comes to trying to get the message out there in the public, without advertising. In my personal opinion, I think that both professionals have become closely related in many ways.

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  2. Thanishap

    The notion that NFP struggle with PR is very true. Without the financial resources PR may fall under a want and not a necessity. The thing that many companies dont understand is that PR is a great necessity. What’s the purpose of having an amazing organization if your mission isn’t being accomplished or your public doesn’t know about it. PR professionals are the people who gets the message across and helps the people understand the organization. PR professionals build the important relationships with necessary people as well a maintain the relationship. Unfortunately PR is not being utilized to its best capabilities but hopefully organizations will understand just how much of a necessity it is.

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  3. Pat Aitken

    You have hit on a real need for nfps – we are dealing with complex issues, communications can be laden with jargon, and getting a clear and convincing message to the public can be challenging. There is a nexus of development/marketing/pr skills. I know that I am not utilizing pr for my organization effectively, mostly because of lack of time and knowledge. I will be very interested to see the results of your survey.

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  4. jmorosoff Post author

    Yes, Liz. My goal is to create greater awareness of the struggle NFPs have in getting out their message, lobby to get them more funding, and suggest ways they can use no- or low-cost PR tools to help them communicate.

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  5. Liz

    I think a big issue of NFP public relations is, as you touched on in your previous blog, that the lines between public relations and fundraising are sometimes blurred. While they can work hand in hand, they are definitely two separate entities. What do you hope to accomplish with your survey? Would you like NFP organizations to receive greater funding for public relations? If so, that is probably a very worthy cause. In today’s world, if an organization doesn’t have a strong, consistent voice it can get lost in the clutter. I’m involved with She’s the First, a not-for-profit organization that sponsor’s girls’ education in developing worlds. She’s the First is very knowledgeable about social media and they understand the importance of grassroots and social media promotion and communication. If more organizations could learn to target their audiences using these new public relations tools, like She’s the First, fewer NFPs might die out. That’s not to say that social media is the answer, but it’s definitely a great supplement to any PR campaign for any NFP.

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  6. AOkPR

    I follow Mark Ragan on Twitter, and he posted this article yesterday: http://www.ragan.com/Main/Articles/43871.aspx, which basically states that PR can be taught on the job, but inquisitiveness cannot. This is relevant to PR within non-profits because anybody who is passionate enough about a cause to work for a non-profit clearly has a high level of inquisitiveness (because inquisitiveness is the root of passion) – so now all they have to do is focus that inquisitiveness to learning a little bit about PR.

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  7. emily crist

    It seems that interning for a NFP would be a great opportunity, due to this dilemma. I think that more attention should be paid to NFP PR internships by students looking for hands-on experience and exposure to the industry. It is sort of like two people in need helping each other out. I think it is terrible that good organizations with limited budgets struggle with PR. As a student, I think a PR internship at a NFP would be beneficial because you would have more responsibility and opportunity to really get a feel for what PR professionals do, and the organizations would get well-educated public relations students that are excited about the field. Good luck! I hope that your research yields good results.

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  8. Lauren Means

    I think the working of PR are seriously misunderstood. Many people think PR is some kind of magical, complex machine that spits out results once you hire the correct people or maybe wish really, really hard. There are so many misconceptions about PR that some businesses don’t even try to figure it out, and miss out on a valuable connection to their customers.

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