Some 1.56 million nonprofit organizations exist in the United States, according to the National Center for Charitable Statistics. These nonprofit organizations focus on different causes and have different goals across many fields, including housing, education, the arts, healthcare, and science. No matter what industry they’re in, these organizations rely on effective nonprofit public relations strategies to function effectively, gain support, and accomplish their mission.
Today, unprecedented levels of information are being produced by traditional and social media. The massive amount of information available to the public has made it challenging for many people to distinguish between facts and misrepresentations. While trust in the media and news sources fluctuates over the years, only 41% of Americans currently trust mass media, according to Gallup. Many people have developed a distrust of media sources, public relations, and professionals in the field of communications because of the belief that they spread false or biased news.
Given this environment, when creating public relations strategies, nonprofit organizations looking to cultivate credibility should consider doing the following:
Be transparent. Since the American public tends to distrust the media, it is important for nonprofit public relations strategies to focus on providing truthful messages and being transparent when it comes to who they are and what they do.
Raise awareness. One of the main goals of a nonprofit organization is to raise awareness. While some larger nonprofits are known around the world and supported by well-known foundations, others serve in their local communities. For these smaller nonprofits in particular, it is important for their public relations strategies to revolve around making their community aware of their presence.
Raise finances. Nonprofit organizations often make use of volunteers as well as paid employees. Regardless of whether or not individuals are paid, nonprofits need some kind of financial support to allow them to effectively work for their cause and keep their doors open. Fundraisers and meetings with potential donors determine whether nonprofits can accomplish their goals or not. It is vital that people understand the purpose of the organization during fundraisers. Potential donors want to understand that their charitable donations are being used for a good cause.
Rather than promoting a product to increase sales and surpass competitors in the market—as businesses do—nonprofit organizations use public relations to share information about their goals. The following are vital components of an effective nonprofit public relations strategy:
When engaging with the media, it is important for nonprofits to openly share their goals as well as their plans for reaching those goals. Discussing both long-term and short-term goals is important, but nonprofits should also have daily, monthly, and annual plans for how to achieve those goals.
While it can be tempting to try and spread awareness as widely as possible, some individuals and communities will be more receptive to the goals of a particular nonprofit organization. Because of this, it is important for nonprofits to determine who their target audience is and what messages and tactics will be most effective for that audience.
Large nonprofit organizations may choose to reach their target audience through different platforms than smaller nonprofits use. However, whether through community events, newspaper op-eds, word-of-mouth, radio interviews, social media posts, or other platforms, it is important for all nonprofits to maintain regular and consistent communication.
Whether at a fundraising event or one-on-one meeting, it is important for current and potential donors to feel a connection with the nonprofit organization that goes deeper than merely a financial one. Developing personal relationships with donors is especially important for small nonprofit organizations, as they heavily rely on them.
Public relations experts serve as the bridge between nonprofit organizations and the public, so it is important for them to build targeted strategies. A nonprofit public relations specialist should begin by having a thorough understanding of the organization they work for. They should have an open and ongoing relationship with those in charge, so they can better understand past, present, and future goals.
When building a nonprofit public relations strategy, an individual should focus on recruiting new volunteers, educating the public and specific communities, fundraising, reaching out to new members and potential donors, and communicating goals in an honest way.
Public relations experts can gain experience working for nonprofit organizations in their communities before working for larger nonprofits. They should look to work for organizations that inspire them, where they can work for a cause they believe in.
Individuals looking to build public relations strategies for nonprofit organizations can consider earning a degree in communications or public relations to prepare for their career. If you are interested in building effective nonprofit public relations strategies, explore how a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication—Public Relations degree from Louisiana State University Online can help you pursue your career goals.
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