This week my numbers became faces. Fifty people came to Hofstra to attend my conference titled, “PR on a Shoestring Budget for Nonprofits” which was designed to offer real help to organizations who are often unsure about how to “do” public relations. These folks were from many of the same nonprofits who responded to my survey of Long Island nonprofits last year. Fifty-eight percent said they devote less than 2% of their budget to public relations and marketing, 70% have no full-time staff member handling PR, nearly all PR functions are grouped with other tasks, and little or no training is given to the staff and volunteers who do the PR work.
My goal, with grant support from the National Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University, was to provide the basics to these nonprofits, which are clearly struggling to get their messages to their audiences. We kept our three workshop sessions simple. “Social Media vs. Traditional Media was presented by PR pros Debra Scala-Giokas of Certilman Balin and Donna Rivera-Downey of Girl Scouts of Nassau County;”Writing for Public Relations” was “taught” by future Hofstra adjunct professor David Norman of Kitchen Public Relations and me; and “Pitching the Media” was given by current Hofstra Adjunct Professor Laurie Bloom of Rivkin Radler and David Chauvin of Zimmerman/Edelson Public Relations. Our keynote speaker was Carl Corry, who runs Newsday Online. And assisting us were student volunteers Sophie Krall, Abby Littleton, Marilyn Oliver, and graduate assistant Vania Andre.
The attendees’ appreciation for the program was heartfelt. We received numerous accolades for the conference content and even more for staging it at all. There’s a real hunger out there for help, and public relations professionals should be providing these nonprofits with pro bono services and guidance as often as they can.
Getting messages out among all the media clutter is not easy. So I was kinda proud of myself this week. It felt good to lend a hand to people who need much-needed help. My colleagues and I made a lot of people happy–and a little smarter. And after my next survey numbers are published in early 2013, I’m planning to do this again. Your thoughts?