PR at NonPRofits rising

nonprofit-organizationsIn the fall of 2012 I repeated a survey of Long Island’s nonprofit organizations that I had done in 2011.  The survey’s purpose was to learn how nonprofits are handling public relations duties and what kind of resources they were devoting to PR.  The results of the first survey were not surprising, and put numbers to what public relations practitioners have anecdotally known all along: nonprofits struggle to get their messages out because they don’t have the budgets to fully engage trained, professional PR staff or consultants.  The numbers were pretty disheartening.

There’s better news this year.  Although their plans are modest, the same nonprofit organizations say they will devote more staff and resources to public relations efforts in 2013.  Of 125 respondents answering the recent survey, 17% said they were “probably” or “definitely” more likely to increase their public relations staffs within the next 12 months, compared to just over 11% who said the same in the survey a year ago. The number of nonprofits stating they would not hire PR people this year decreased by 10%.

And while in 2011 the overwhelming majority of respondents (87%) said they would not increase their public relations budget, that number dropped to 80% in the 2012 survey, a minor but encouraging improvement. One significant increase noted in the survey was the amount of training PR staff, volunteers and interns receive from the nonprofit organizations.  More than half (52%) of the respondents said they provide training, up from only 25% in last year’s survey.  According to the new survey, 25% of Long Island’s nonprofits have at least one full-time staff member devoted to public relations, with most PR functions being conducted by part-time staff, volunteers and interns.

Maybe these better numbers are the result of an improving economy. And while there’s no reason to celebrate these upticks just yet, it’s good to see some positive changes, however slight.  They mean better messaging for nonprofits, hopefully leading to improved success in fulfilling their important missions.  It could also possibly mean more jobs for public relations professionals — and especially for new and recent college graduates.  Your thoughts?

P.S. Many thanks to Hofstra students Vania Andre, Sophie Krall, Abby Littleton and Xavier Lofton for their help with the survey.

40 thoughts on “PR at NonPRofits rising

  1. Pingback: Importance of Public Relations for NonProfit Organizations | emoschel

  2. Erica Barnes

    These results are very promising! Hopefully these improved numbers mean these organizations have an increased awareness of the imact of PR on their companies. Perhaps they had known all along but were simply unable to facilitate a public relations branch for their organization. It would be interesting to find out the reasons behind these new percentages.

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  3. rcardno91

    As a prospected PR professional, I am a huge fan of non-profit organizations. The non-profit sector provides great opportunities for people with PR skills. The private sector is going to continue spending millions of dollars on advertising because they can. Non-profits do not have the same budget as big business, but they can effectively use PR tactics without the hefty price tag. When PR is done right it can be just as effective as advertising, if not more. Working for a non-profit organization can be very fulfilling.

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  4. Alex Packer

    Very few non-profit organizations have the proper funding to hire communications teams, and many that do feel that their money could be better spent elsewhere. The vast majority of the American public go through their days with very little knowledge or interest in the efforts of non-profit organizations, while much of this can be blamed on the general complacency of the public, the lack of PR is also a factor. When do the public ever rally around anything without an effective call to action? Never! and that is one of the fundamental functions of PR. I’m confident that if more non-profits hired PR professionals there would a lot more public support.

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  5. Jeremy Beck

    I think these trends are important for students planning to go into PR but I think overall it says something about the ideas about PR and its affect on business. I think non-profits are beginning to realize it isn’t always how important their cause is, but rather how many people recognize their cause.

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  6. caliannfornia

    I think it’s great the nonprofits are slowly putting more of their money towards PR. For my PR 107 class we are working with a nonprofit called Stupid Cancer. I think after working with us they are realizing that PR is really important. We were able to get them more media stops on their road trip and interviews. PR really works wonders so I hope nonprofits continue to accept PR but hopefully at a faster pace.

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  7. Brittni Hicks

    I think these numbers are encouraging. It’s nice to know that as I am entering the real world, there may be a chance for me to find a job!

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  8. aunaturalenyc

    Its great to hear that non-profits are realizing the importance of PR. Now that we are doing a Non-profit campaign in class, I can see that PR is really necessary for these organizations just as much (if not more) than others. Non profits need the PR to get their message out there, isn’t that what non profits are all about? I have worked for non-proft before, and see all of the PR work that needs to be done, it’s just not my PR niche.

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  9. Mia D'Angelo

    I love that nonprofits are devoting more time, money and effort into their PR. I understand that this must be difficult for nonprofit organizations, but if the PR is done well it could greatly assist their organization. Money is always an issue, especially in nonprofits but luckily nowadays many tools that can boost PR are low cost or no cost at all (facebook, twitter, blogs etc.) Although some tools take time and effort to set up and maintain, there are always windows of opportunity when it comes to public relations so I am happy to see the small, but important shift in results from this survey!

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  10. aciardullo

    Public Relations is essential to every company. It is good to see that the number of people realizing this has increased. That’s good news for all of us PR majors!

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  11. Kellianne

    I love to see how people are finally realizing that PR is necessary in non for profits! I think it’s beneficial to the organizations to include PR in their decision making. Part of going through the process of obtaining a PR degree, we are taught so many skills that we could use especially in non for profits. I think it’s great to see the trust organizations are having in the PR field.

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  12. stevenpmorin

    This study certainly shows a bright future for the PR industry. In a world with a rapidly-growing interactive society, being able to properly handle Public Relations is more important now than ever. Also, as I’ve learned in Marketing, during a down economy, many companies incorrectly think that the positioning of their brand is superfluous spending, when in fact it is some of the most important funding an organization can have; an organization’s place in the public’s eye is always directly related to their value.

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  13. bluelenex

    I think that this could be good for jobs for college students but some people are reluctant to go into Non-profit because of the fact that they don’t hire as many PR people as for profit agencies do. This could be good for people to start thinking about non-profits.

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  14. Sasha Mirpuri

    It is nice to know that non-profits are realizing how important public relations is and are willing to use more of their budget toward it even though the improvement is a slight one. Hopefully, as the economy improves, their will be better results in the years to come and more job openings for us PR people!

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  15. Kneekiki

    I think that any non-profit should have someone who is capable of handling PR as well as other areas for the non-profit. Public Relations is extremely important for any industry and if non-profits can afford to bring on a full time PR consultant it will help them significantly. And if it creates more jobs than I am for it!

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  16. Alex Hyman

    I would have thought that there would be more PR for nonprofits. These are typically companies who rely on word-of-mouth to expand their company.
    It is good to see that these companies are spending more time dealing with PR and to better their image. It is important for these companies to work with many different forms of media in order to stay afloat.

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  17. Helen Masha

    It is always good to see that the good work of PR is being recognized! Like mentioned before I agree that although the funds may not be there for non-profits, it only means that there needs to be an evaluation of whats important and best for the organization. There is no question that good PR is extremely beneficial to the success of an organization and it is very important that the messages of the company are being publicized in the best and most efficient way possible.

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  18. Beckett Mufson

    I’m surprised to learn there isn’t already a solid market for non-profit PR. It seems to me that non-profits are chock full of interesting stories that media sources would find interesting. On top of that, I always find non-profit advertisements tacky and borderline abusive of donated money. PR would get the word out, bring money in, and do it without making the group come off as at all corrupt. If it’s not on the rise, I can’t fathom why not.

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  19. kerrischreiber

    The more nonprofits increase their PR, the more they will get noticed. A nonprofit may not always have the money to hire a large PR staff but they should have these people as a main focus on their staff. It will only create more buzz and get their messages across.

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  20. EMC

    I am a little surprised that the increases weren’t more dramatic, but then again, trends take time to permeate businesses with less resources. As a soon-to-be PR professional, it is promising though.

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  21. Hunter F. (@kristintellsall)

    With our last huge course of our major being PR 107 where we do a campaign for a non-profit company it is definitely easy to see the challenges that they face. However, it is good to see that the field is growing. Non-profit PR I think has always been under appreciated. Representing causes and running on a zero dollar budget only calls for trouble. Hopefully through grants and donations they will be able to thrive and gain more PR service.

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  22. Amanda Daley

    I had the opportunity to work with a non-profit organization last semester for one of my classes. Me and three other students were brought on by this organization to help them promote some of the things they did. They brought us on because we would be able to do it for free as opposed to them paying for it. It’s nice to hear that non-profits are starting to understand how important it is to have people on your team who are dedicated to the organization especially for the small non-profits who need more help being noticed by the public.

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  23. gionnacerniglia

    That is great news to hear that non-profit organizations are increasing their employment rates. Being a PR major and the scary thought of graduating in a year, it is always a pleasure to hear that more non-profit organizations are increasing their employment rates. Although the numbers did not increase drastically, it is a start in improving employment.

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  24. ejm1059

    Well it’s a start. At least they know the importance of having a good PR foundation and are taking the steps to better their organization.

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  25. AndreaRebello

    Although the increase is small, it is still an increase. Hopefully, as the economy gets better, these numbers will continue to increase. I believe that a strong PR department is essential for any organization in order to maintain a good image and a strong relationship with the public. Being a PR major, seeing these numbers increase is a positive thing and gives me hope for the future.

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  26. Annik Spencer

    This is good news! I think that we are seeing a bigger focus on PR in non-profits (which is reflected by the change in your results from 2011 to 2012) because non-profits are realizing how important PR can be! The challenge that PR faces in non-profits is the cost. I’m sure that every non-profit would jump at the chance to have an in-house PR practitioner working on their PR every day. Although, this is often not feasible for their budget. I think what non-profits have to realize is that they may be able to utilize employees they already have. Their employees might possess the skills that PR practitioners have, which means they would be able to help with PR if given the opportunity.

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  27. Claire T.

    I think there it definitely means that jobs will open up for PR professionals (both new and old) with these nonprofit organizations, but I think it’s hard for a nonprofit to hire someone with such a specific job to do. In most cases it’d be more beneficial to employ a marketing professional who specializes in PR. This allows the company to spend less while still having someone devoted to getting their message out to the public.

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  28. Jenny Rowe

    I work closely with a few non profit organizations, so it is great to hear that many are increasing their involvement in public relations. Even working with a small budget, I think it should be a priority for non profits to incorporate PR, which is extremely vital to any organization looking to spread their information to the public.

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  29. Ian Poulos

    All of the improvements mentioned in the study are noteworthy, but I think the one that deserves the most attention is the 27 percent increase (from 25 percent to 52 percent) in dedicated training time. Since non-profits often have restricted budgets, I would expect them to minimize costs by hiring low-cost PR – like interns, for example – and by reducing the amount of training time offered. However, the increase in training time documented by the study shows that these organizations are likely becoming for efficient and productive with their management choices. The numbers indicate that they are not hiring additional PR help blindly; rather, there is a sincere effort being made in the additional investment.

    Ultimately, any positive increase is a gain. The results are favorable even though the improvements from year to year are relatively small in magnitude.

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  30. Marissa Dombkowski

    Though the increase in these numbers is small, it is still an increase. This is a very positive thing because this number could increase year by year and pretty soon, more nonprofits will be hiring PR professionals. It’s a start and heading in the right direction. This does give a slight glimmer of hope to those that are graduating soon and looking to be hired and work in the field of PR.

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  31. ccorte6

    I don’t see these numbers as a huge success for PR in the non-profit world, but at least its a start. I think what probably is affecting these numbers is that there are now multiple ways that non-profits can do PR without huge budgets. They don’t necessarily need millions of dollars to create a Facebook or Twitter page. I think these numbers are reflecting the times, but I don’t think its that the economy is getting better but that our technology is.

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    1. Sarah Caruso

      I agree with the above comment. Firstly because these organizations still won’t have the money to hire a lot of people to do PR; secondly if the organization is small, and I’m guessing many of these nonprofits are, then they will really only need one or two people. I guess it depends on what they are doing to get their organization out there; if they are only using social media then they won’t need 10 people in their PR department.

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  32. Kristen Kelly

    PR is important to any organization trying to reach the public. It’s great to see that the results from your survey show that non profit organizations are increasing their involvement with public relations. It’s hard for them working with a small budget to hire professionals in PR, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t or shouldn’t find other ways to do it. Having interns and/or volunteers who have knowledge in the field would be beneficial to them if they can’t actually hire full time professionals. At least having people with knowledge of PR and how to work with organizations would be better than having someone with no knowledge what so ever. I hope that these results show that the economy is improving and that it will continue to improve as our generation of PR students seek to find jobs in the next couple of years.

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  33. Michelle Shelorke

    I watched this really interesting TED talk in my PR Campaigns class that ties along with this really well. It’s about people’s perceptions of charities and nonprofits and how we should view them as essential parts within our society. I think that as PR professionals, our work and ideas can have the greatest impact in the nonprofit world. Here is the link to the video if anyone is interested! http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pallotta_the_way_we_think_about_charity_is_dead_wrong.html

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  34. nikkigyftopoulos

    I find it very encouraging to hear this positive feedback from the survey of non-profit organizations. Although the numbers did not change drastically, they did improve and show more interest in the development of PR involvement in non-profits. Undoubtedly, non-profits are going to have a limited amount of money to spend on hiring PR staff, but, in the end, it will help their organization and their cause if they try to increase their PR department. As a college student who will be looking for a PR job in the next few years, I see these results in your survey as very encouraging and uplifting. Even though I am not very interested in going into non-profit PR, this survey demonstrates that the appreciation and the need for public relations in all sectors is continually growing and becoming more important.

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  35. alexis gionesi

    I think it is extremely important for nonprofits to increase involvement with pr, and it is very encouraging to know that they are doing so. It would be rewarding and beneficial to be able to maybe one day intern or work at a nonprofit. Hopefully the numbers keep going up!

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  36. LucieSorel

    Working for non profits is very interesting to me. When people criticize public relations and label it as “spin” this gives the field a bad name. However, public relations for non profits improves society and benefits the disadvantaged. It is good to hear that the industry has improved this past year. Hopefully as a whole, the country is making moves towards being more nurturing and supportive of non profits. I would like to have a chance to intern or work for public relations in a non profit company. This would be both gratifying and educational.

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  37. blarouche

    It’s nice to hear that nonprofits are thinking more about the importance of PR. Nonprofits can gain so much from successful PR even if they feel that the PR is a big expense. In the long run PR will help the nonprofit and the results of your survey are encouraging.

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  38. janabanana12

    I think it’s great that nonprofits are increasing their involvement with public relations, because they need it just as much, if not more than for profit organizations or businesses. Because they are nonprofit, they need that extra “oomph” to get the attention of the public, and public relations experts can do just that. With nonprofits, most involvement is voluntary, so anyone and everyone can leave right away, if necessary. Therefore, for that one full-time staff member or the one person who is 100% fighting for a cause, they need someone who can help get the public to believe in them.

    Reply

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