By Barb Harris and Sharon Kreher, principals of teamworks communication management
There’s always been an appropriate tension between what nonprofit agencies spend on their mission and what they spend on administration. And certainly, that’s a ratio one should consider in evaluating the effectiveness and efficiency of a charity. But, the tendency to adhere too rigidly to the “spend as little as you can on admin” often backfires. As any for-profit business understands, sometimes you have to invest dollars in order to generate more funds. That means expenditures in facilities, staff, capacity, advertising, and yes, public relations. While nonprofits don’t think in terms of “profits” per se, they do have to think about generating revenue to support their work.
PR can encompass publicity, messaging, crisis communications, and donor communications. An experienced PR consultant can provide targeted, knowledgeable advice about the market in which a nonprofit operates, especially outside its “headquarters” area. For example, the national Minneapolis-based organization, Feed My Starving Children, has generated 19 television placements this year alone in the Phoenix area where it has a distribution facility because our local PR assistance. Those placements have led directly to an increase in volunteers and added donations that more than cover the PR expenditure. Beyond that work, teamworks develops and produces a donor newsletter for a bi-state food bank in Missouri and Illinois that raises more than four times more donations than it costs, plus frees up the charity’s staff to focus on their day-to-day work.
We’ve all seen the toll an unexpected crisis can take on a charitable operation. A misstep by a member of an organization’s leadership team can sabotage donor confidence in the entire effort. A botched opportunity to get an important message across leaves potential donations on the sidelines. Sound communications planning and execution can directly impact the effectiveness of a capital campaign to expand services. Do you really want an untested novice handling your public relations efforts?
It’s a significant, and perhaps overdue, perspective for nonprofits. Instead of saying they can’t afford to spend money on public relations, they really should be asking themselves if they can afford “not to.” Gone are the days when the only option was a pricey PR firm (which likely would delegate nonprofit projects to an intern). Experienced PR consultants are readily available at hourly and project rates to provide the help you need, when you need it, without adding a lot of overhead. One way to find the experienced pro you need? Touch base with us at teamworks communication management. We work with a network of seasoned PR professionals around the country and will be happy to connect you with someone in your market.