Agencies: don’t make your pro bono work for charities a PR exercise

Every PR agency should be investing time and money in CSR and pro bono initiatives.

Don't tick boxes with your pro bono work, make a genuine difference, argues Jenny Mowat

Bold statement, I know, but it's one I stand behind. However, there are a few considerations.

It’s crucial that this isn’t positioned as a tick-box activity for CSR objectives, or even a marketing tactic.

So first, it’s about outlining why you value this investment of time and resources, and then identifying the right partner to kick-start a programme that will bring valued impact to the organisation.

One of the most important parts of identifying and building a pro bono relationship – particularly for something as important as representing the vital work of NGOs – is ensuring that your principles are aligned and that you can actually serve them best.

This is especially true as we push towards a more conscious and purpose-driven society.

Right from the start, you need to ensure that every member of the team kicks off the project with a genuine desire to further the cause of the organisation you’re championing.

I believe pro bono agreements shouldn’t be seen as a short-term PR stunt to add to your creds and be forgotten.

Instead, teams should nurture their relationship with an NGO, like they would any paying client, and see this as a long-term opportunity to support a good cause.

For many NGOs, the vast majority of the money raised goes straight towards the charitable work they are doing, so they can’t afford to invest heavily in a comms team.

It’s your agency’s role to become an extension of their team, with a shared passion for the cause you’re helping raise awareness about.

To successfully achieve wider awareness of an NGO’s work in the media, a PR agency needs to not only understand the work the organisation does, but why this work is so important and necessary.

After all, for many NGOs, PR is a valuable tool for reaching out to the individuals and organisations they rely on for support with reaching fundraising and business partnership targets.

So, when deciding whether to take on a pro bono project, you must not only believe in the cause you’re working for, but know you have the expertise and resources to do it justice.

Just like a prospective client will review your creds, take time to consider the media contacts you have, and whether they are the right people to amplify the NGO’s story.

Whether it’s a charity you’ve admired from the sidelines for years, or a new organisation making a positive impact within your industry or the sectors your serve, chose to work for an NGO because you care, not because it will look good in your marketing collateral.

Jenny Mowat is managing director of Babel PR

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