In 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.