This past Friday I hosted a conference titled “PR on a Budget,” which provided valuable information to 35 participating nonprofit organizations on how to “do” PR using few resources. The conference was inspired by my annual survey of Long Island’s nonprofits, and I’m anticipating my 2013 survey will again show that these groups are hungry for public relations help. It’ll also strengthen the call for PR professionals, trade groups and academic institutions to provide pro bono assistance to under-resourced nonprofits who need it the most.
Surveys I’ve conducted in 2011 and 2012 prove what has been long understood: nonprofits realize the value of good PR, but few have the resources to create and implement public relations campaigns as well as they would like. They’re depending upon staff and volunteers who are multitasking, often combining PR responsibilities with others including marketing (69% in 2011; 70% in 2012), fundraising (69% in 2011; 58% in 2012), event planning (67% in 2011; 62% in 2012), advertising (60% in 2011 and 2012), and/or additional administrative duties (65% in 2011; 54% in 2012).
Of those surveyed, half responded in 2012 that they use volunteers for public relations tasks all or part of the time. Interns are brought on to handle some public relations duties; 21% of the nonprofits said they hired PR interns in 2011 and 18% in 2012. Most organizations devote very few resources to training, and little have any kind of planned PR strategy.
More PR professionals should offer pro bono services to nonprofit organizations to help them reach their publics, particularly their donors and supporters. There are already many PR agencies, corporations, consultants and academic programs donate time as advisors, mentors and volunteers to assist nonprofit organizations’ communication efforts. Trade organizations including the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) encourage such pro bono involvement through recognition programs and advocacy.
While this volunteer activity can’t substitute for an in-house public relations staff or an expert PR agency or consultant, it could bridge the gap that nonprofits experience at least part of the time. So if you know a Long Island nonprofit, please send them the link to my survey. We can use the results to raise awareness among PR professionals that nonprofits need help, and lots of it! Your thoughts?