I’m using this week’s blog to announce the results of a survey I conducted of 160 Long Island nonprofit organizations to determine how they “do” PR. The survey proves what we’ve anecdotally known: Nonprofits understand the value of good public relations, but few have the resources for staff or tools get their messages to their publics.
No matter how small or large these organizations are, nonprofits typically devote less than 5% percent of their budgets to public relations campaigns and staffing, according to the respondents. And due to ever-increasing challenges and competition for funding, the overwhelming majority of them (87%) say they will not be increasing PR staff or budget in 2012. Just 29% of the nonprofits surveyed have at least one full-time public relations professional on staff, and only 25% of full- or part-time staff receive any PR training.
Because of tight budgets, nonprofits are depending upon staff and volunteers to multitask, often combining their public relations responsibilities with others including marketing (69%), fundraising (69%), event planning (67%), advertising (60%), and/or additional administrative duties (65%). Of those surveyed, half responded that they use volunteers for public relations work all or part of the time, and 21% say they have college interns handling some PR duties. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of respondents said they devote less than five hours to pitching stories to reporters each week; 64% report spending under 10 hours a week preparing or creating promotional materials; and 64% said they spend less than five hours updating social media profiles and posting relevant content weekly.
Qualifications and training requirements for handling public relations functions at nonprofits are mixed, according to the survey. Only 36% of those doing PR functions are required to have a college degree in public relations or a related field, and just 40% of those hired are expected to have some prior experience in PR. You have to question the effectiveness of their efforts if so few of them have a PR background before coming into the job.
My friend Ken Cerini, partner of Cerini & Associates, LLP, an accounting firm in Bohemia, N.Y. that specializes in the nonprofit sector told me, “In a climate where the nonprofit sector has been hit hard with negative press and changes in regulations, now is the time for nonprofits to make their voices heard—and PR is extremely important in this process. As a result, nonprofits need to consider how to effectively utilize the various channels, both traditional and social, to get their message out.”
Sadly, Long Island’s nonprofits lack the tools and expertise they need to “do” PR right. Despite this, more than two-thirds of the respondents believe that their public relations efforts are helping their organizations’ missions. This may be true, but imagine how much more effective they’d be with the right staff and tools.
So, after seeing their struggles in numbers, how can we help these nonprofits? I have plans which I’ll share here in the near future, but I’d like to hear from you. Your thoughts?
(A total of 160 Long Island-based nonprofits were surveyed online between October 27 and December 17, 2011, and also person-to-person at two major Long Island events: the Fair Media Council’s “Connection Day” on October 27 and the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ “Philanthropy Day” on November 18. Hofstra students Vania Andre, who is a wonderful research assistant, plus Lauren Katz, Christopher Scheben and Alexis Sibilio, were a tremendous help to me and I thank them!)