When you think of a non-profit organization, you likely picture a cause-based organization that provides services and support to those in need. But you may not think about the role that public relations plays for non-profits, and how public relations can help these organizations reach their goals.
Non-profit PR is a unique discipline within the world of communications, aiming to build and maintain relationships with key stakeholders, garner support for a cause, and help raise funds. PR can enable these valuable organizations to build meaningful relationships with stakeholders, to raise awareness about their cause, and attract critical support for their success.
This article explores the significance of PR in the non-profit sector and highlights key strategies that can help non-profit organizations effectively manage their public image.
Defining Non-Profit PR: What is It?
Public Relations for non-profit organizations involves the strategic management of relationships between the organization and its various stakeholders, including donors, volunteers, the media, and the general public. The primary goal is to enhance understanding, trust, and support for the non-profit’s mission and activities. PR efforts in the non-profit sector focus on storytelling, reputation management, and engagement to create a positive public image.
How Does Non-Profit PR Differ from For-Profit Clients?
It’s easy for people to lump the field of public relations into a singular idea. The notion about a PR agency is that they just get good press for their clients (and step in when something goes awry). But there are so many more layers to what we do, from optimizing our client’s websites for SEO to media training before live interviews. And when it comes to working with non-profits, the work gets even more exciting and nuanced than for-profit clients. Here’s how:
1. It’s Less Promotional
Public relations is all about promotion, right? While, yes, the goal is to promote the non-profit organization, it’s done so in a way that doesn’t feel promotional in a traditional sense. Rather than promoting a product or a thing, the focus is on spreading the message for a cause. We are shining a light on the areas and people the non-profits are there to serve. So, we are often pitching the excellent work the non-profit is doing and raising awareness for those areas the non-profit serves. The goal is just to raise awareness and not to solicit donations. The donations come as a trickle-down effect.
2. Pitch Personal Stories and Highlight Local Leaders
As a publicist, it’s exciting to step out of the box a bit. That happens with non-profits since we aren’t focusing on securing explicitly promotional stories. Instead, we have more room for more thoughtful human-interest stories than pieces that feel like earned advertisements. Since it’s not a product or thing, we get to share personal stories or profiles of those who benefit from the non-profit organization. There are also opportunities to get a voice or local leader into the public arena through op-eds.
For example, with our work with All In Together, we get to place many op-eds that help get co-founder and CEO Lauren Leader on television. We also help promote their programming locally, giving a platform to those leaders in the areas where it makes the most difference.
3. Create Longer, More Thoughtful Campaigns
At Pace, some of our first clients and those we’ve had the longest working relationships with have been non-profits. That’s because non-profit organizations are in it for the long game. Although they might have newsy events, polls, or insight, their goal is to build long-term awareness. They’re not pushing out a product that needs to sell immediately. Getting donations are important, but the causes they are supporting aren’t going anywhere overnight.
We get the opportunity to work on longer and more thoughtful campaigns. That means working with various departments within the organization like the events team to develop a strategy to spread the message. For Concern–who helps the globe’s most vulnerable population– we pitch their events and pitch leadership to weigh in on appropriate topics and natural disasters. Sadly, those aren’t going away. So, we can build a long-standing relationship that ensures they’re always part of that conversation when those events do occur.
4. Offer Lower Rates for More Rewarding Work
Another more practical difference between working with non-profits versus for-profit companies is adjusting our rates. We understand that non-profit organizations have different budgets that we must take into consideration. The benefit, of course, is that we get to help organizations we believe in. Not only that, we get to be involved in ways typical donors or volunteers don’t. We can increase awareness, which helps the organizations and the causes they support thrive. And that is incredibly rewarding.
How to Build a Strong Brand Identity for Non-Profit Organizations
A strong brand identity is crucial for non-profit organizations to stand out in a crowded marketplace and effectively convey their mission. PR professionals can help shape and communicate the organization’s brand by crafting compelling narratives, developing key messages, and ensuring consistency across various communication channels. This consistent branding reinforces the non-profit’s credibility and helps establish a lasting connection with stakeholders.
- Storytelling for Impact: Storytelling is a powerful tool in non-profit PR, as it allows organizations to share the stories of those they serve and create emotional connections with their target audience. PR professionals can collaborate with beneficiaries, volunteers, and staff members to highlight impactful stories that showcase the non-profit’s impact and the difference it makes in the lives of individuals or communities. By weaving a narrative that resonates with the audience, non-profits can inspire support and engagement.
- Media Relations: Establishing and nurturing relationships with the media is vital for non-profit organizations. PR professionals can develop targeted media outreach strategies to raise awareness about the organization’s initiatives, events, and achievements. Press releases, media pitches, and press conferences can help generate media coverage and promote the non-profit’s cause. Building strong relationships with journalists and media outlets can lead to increased visibility and enhanced credibility.
- Engaging with Stakeholders: Engagement with stakeholders is key to the success of any non-profit organization. PR professionals can employ various tactics to foster meaningful connections and encourage involvement. This includes leveraging social media platforms, organizing community events, creating volunteer programs, and implementing donor recognition initiatives. By actively engaging with stakeholders, non-profits can cultivate a loyal and supportive community.
- Crisis Management: Even the most well-managed non-profit organizations may encounter crises or negative publicity. PR professionals play a crucial role in crisis management, providing timely and transparent communication, managing public perception, and mitigating potential damage. Developing a crisis communication plan in advance, with clear protocols and designated spokespeople, helps ensure an effective response during challenging times.
Effective PR is a valuable asset for non-profit organizations, enabling them to connect with stakeholders, raise awareness, and garner support for their missions. By strategically managing their public image through storytelling, media relations, stakeholder engagement, and crisis management, non-profits can cultivate a positive reputation, build trust, and make a lasting impact on their communities.
Embracing PR as a core component of their organizational strategy can help non-profit organizations thrive in their pursuit of social change. Looking for a PR Firm for your non-profit? Reach out to Pace Public Relations today!