Market Focus Nonprofit PR: Doing PR for fun and nonprofit - Nonprofits are relying more than ever on PR, and getting better at it As Ana Vargas discovers, those that do it best do it like the corporate guys - sort of.

Pity the poor nonprofit with no marketing money and certainly no cash for PR. While that may be the view of some people, the fact is that many nonprofits are huge organizations that have larger operating budgets than many corporations. Some of these large outfits that have long gone without name recognition are beginning to take a closer look at their PR strategies, some updating old tactics and others initiating their first long-term plans.

Pity the poor nonprofit with no marketing money and certainly no cash for PR. While that may be the view of some people, the fact is that many nonprofits are huge organizations that have larger operating budgets than many corporations. Some of these large outfits that have long gone without name recognition are beginning to take a closer look at their PR strategies, some updating old tactics and others initiating their first long-term plans.

Pity the poor nonprofit with no marketing money and certainly no

cash for PR. While that may be the view of some people, the fact is that

many nonprofits are huge organizations that have larger operating

budgets than many corporations. Some of these large outfits that have

long gone without name recognition are beginning to take a closer look

at their PR strategies, some updating old tactics and others initiating

their first long-term plans.



’Nonprofit is a tax code, not a way of doing PR,’ says Michael Ertel,

manager of PR for Quest, a not-for-profit servicing the disabled in

Florida.



’Nonprofit PR has long been considered a spin-off of real PR because

there’s the big added asterisk that says nonprofits have no PR budget.

But we need to act like businesses and develop strong strategic

planning, almost as if we’re looking for stockholders.’



Says Maggie Williams of Fenton Communications, a DC firm that caters to

not-for-profit clients: ’Nonprofits are mission-driven and will use

their limited dollars for substantive projects before investing in PR.

But now groups are starting to make sure they communicate their mission,

because they realize good PR leads to more support and funding.’



For example, until a few years ago, Volunteers of America, a nonprofit

serving young, elderly and homeless people nationwide, placed little

emphasis on media relations and external PR. Even with affiliates in 40

states, the nonprofit had remained largely unknown. ’We realized that we

needed to get the word out about our programs, to raise public support,

widen our sources of revenue and get collaboration from community

leaders,’ says Carl Ericson, director of PR for Volunteers of America’s

national office.



In the last two years, the organization has invested in a national

branding effort, including media-relations outreach and a PSA campaign

promoting its services. The 2000 campaign - ’There are no limits to

caring’ - features volunteers and clients, with information on

Volunteers of America services.



The group estimates that the 1999 and 2000 campaigns have reached 98% of

US households and penetrated 100% of the top 100 media markets with

distribution in all 50 states.



’We’ve learned to emphasize high-interest topics like our

assisted-living programs and youth outreach,’ says Ericson. Since the

campaign kicked off, Volunteers of America has doubled the number of

people it serves to 1.5 million and has seen an increase of youth and

senior volunteers.



Media training reflects a shift in the way nonprofits are approaching

media relations. When nonprofits first discovered the press, success

stories about clients were frequently the pitch of choice, but media

interest has waned. ’One challenge is that lots of editors are looking

for flashy, often negative stories and react cynically to ’do good’

stories. So you’re often placed between the media’s desire for sizzle

and the organization’s need to tell upbeat, positive stories,’ says

Michael Frenkel, president of Frenkel Communications in New York.





Cry, and you cry alone



But nonprofits have also had to face a lack of responsiveness when they

claim issues are ’critical.’ ’The press and the public don’t fall for

sensational tactics anymore,’ says Dave Barringer, director of brand

management for the national office of Goodwill Industries International.

’When nonprofits do something sensational they face skepticism or

disbelief. Nonprofits are starting to realize that people want to be

dealt with rationally, not emotionally.’



In addition to media relations, branding has become essential as more

nonprofits compete not only for volunteers but also for the same grants

and funding. The United Way recently began requiring donors to check off

where they want their dollars to go. Organizations that had spent little

time on branding soon began to lose funds while others such as Goodwill

Industries maintained donor support.



But even groups with strong brands like Goodwill, which runs thrift

stores to support its job-training services, are reevaluating and

putting more dollars into PR. ’We’ve always had a stable brand with name

recognition as high as Coca-Cola’s,’ says Barringer. But many of the

store customers didn’t know about Goodwill’s job-training services and

many of those who donated clothes to the stores didn’t shop at them.



So last year Goodwill began stationing in its stores kiosks with

information on its work-training services and giving customers brochures

or messages printed on their receipts. The kiosks were usually placed at

store entrances with the message, ’Do You Need a Job, or Know Someone

That Does?’ Response was immediate in that Goodwills received job

applications and requests for job-training services right in the

store.



Goodwill also began updating its brand after learning that donors did

not shop in the stores. With an average of 20 million people donating

twice a year, Goodwill realized that this audience was a critical source

of revenue. To kick the bargain-basement reputation, the organization

remodeled stores and created a campaign called ’This is not your

grandmother’s Goodwill.’ The effort included local PSAs, VIP openings of

remodeled stores and local postcard mailings.



Although nonprofits can face problems similar to those of corporations,

their PR goals can also be more complex. One of these is dealing with

their diverse audiences. ’Nonprofits often have to reach a wider

audience.



They aren’t just communicating to consumers but to opinion makers,

donors, lawmakers, volunteers, members, affiliates and the people they

are servicing,’ says Fenton’s Williams.





Playing to a broad audience



As with many nonprofits, the National Education Association’s audience

is very broad. ’The biggest challenge is managing all the information

and getting messages to all of our audiences,’ says Kate Mattos, the

NEA’s director of communications. In addition to lobbying efforts on

education legislation, raising the public’s confidence in public

education is also a primary goal for the PR staff.



How do you target such a wide range of people? The NEA has focused on

awareness-raising projects such as the ’Read Across America’ campaign,

which provides children with learning opportunities and promotes public

education to parents and others. The third Read Across America day,

conducted on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2, included read-ins and

activities for 25 million children.



In spite of increasing coverage about gun control, The Center to Prevent

Handgun Violence still faces the task of taking on a large and varied

audience. ’Most Americans want more gun control but the other side has

more passionate voters. Our challenge is defining our audience from that

great gray middle of people who are not acting,’ says Naomi Paiss,

communications director for the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.

Focusing almost all its resources on the presidential election, the

center’s PR staff will highlight the differences between the

presidential nominees’ policies on guns. An information van will be

touring key states with close races to inform voters and local media on

the issue, providing tailored information to each area.



Unfortunately, while nonprofit PR pros recognize the need for skillful

PR, nonprofit leaders are not always as understanding. ’Sadly, many

nonprofit executives believe that public relations strategies are a

luxury. Many executives hire newcomers for (PR) specialties, an approach

that generally lacks a results-driven strategy,’ says Paulette Peynet,

president of Peynet Public Relations in Portland, OR.



But as the business of being a nonprofit becomes more competitive,

insiders expect to see more strategic PR and hiring outside the

nonprofit community.



Major players like the American Cancer Society have already filled top

spots by recruiting from Fortune 500 companies.



Adds Goodwill’s Barringer: ’The next battle will be convincing nonprofit

executives not to hire community relations people but experts in

marketing, branding and media relations.’





NOT-FOR-PROFIT KNOW-HOW: FOUR NONPROFITS DOING IT RIGHT



Name: Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (Washington, DC)



Mission: Lobbying, education and external outreach on gun-control

issues



Size: 500,000 members



dollars dollars dollars: dollars 20 million (organizational budget)



PR budget: not available (most of organizational budget goes toward

lobbying and other PR activities)



Size of PR staff: 7 full-time



PR leaders: Naomi Paiss, communications director; Brian Morton,

associate communications director; Nancy Hwa, assistant director; David

Bernstein, assistant director, political communications



PR agencies: no agency of record



Current campaign: Van dispatched to key undecided states to spread the

word about the differences between presidential candidates Gore’s and

Bush’s stances on gun control





Name: Goodwill Industries International (Bethesda, MD)



Mission: Supports its own job-training programs through its thrift

stores



Size: 60,000 employees; 181 member organizations, each a local Goodwill

Industries



dollars dollars dollars: dollars 11 million (total national office

budget)



PR budget: around dollars 1.5 million (for national PR and marketing;

doesn’t include local organizations)



Size of PR staff: 12 national, 181 local PR directors (includes branding

pros)



PR leader: Dave Barringer, director of brand management



PR agencies: no agency of record



Current campaign: ’This is not your Grandmother’s Goodwill,’ focused on

remodeling stores and gaining more support





Name: The National Education Association (Washington, DC)



Mission: Member organization that promotes confidence in public

education and advocates on public education issues



Size: 2.5 million members, including K-12 teachers and education support

staff



dollars dollars dollars: dollars 220 million (organizational budget)



PR budget: dollars 5 million



Size of PR staff: 28



PR leader: Kate Mattos, director of communications



PR agencies : Eisner Communications; Widmeyer-Baker Group



Current campaign: ’Read Across America.’ Read-ins for children to

promote interest in education efforts (in its third year)





Name: Volunteers of America (Washington, DC)



Mission: Service organization targeted at young, elderly and homeless

people. Promotes community services and volunteerism



Size: 11,000 employees nationwide; 32,000 volunteers last year; 41

affiliates in 40 states; serves more than 1.5 million people.



dollars dollars dollars: dollars 491 million (1999 total revenue)



PR budget: dollars 1.9 million



Size of PR staff: 5 full-time and 2 part-time pros in national office;

30 nationwide



PR leaders: Steve Abbott, communications vice president; Carl Ericson,

public relations director



PR agencies: Kershner & Co.; BigRoom Productions; Susan Peterson

Productions; Shandwick New York Current campaign: ’There are no limits

to caring,’ with PSAs focusing on community services provided.



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