Friday, February 20, 2009

PR*ofessional: "Non-profits"

    Nonprofits: there are approximately 1.6 million in the United States, the largest, Lutheran Services in America, being a nearly $7 billion dollar network according to Matthew Sinclair of the Nonprofit Times. This, at one point, placed Lutheran Services ahead of American Online and just behind Rubbermaid on the Fortune 300 list*.
    With thousands of charities registered nationally and flourishing rapidly and successfully, how does one organization make itself known among the masses? Public Relations.
    Noticeably different from it’s counterpart, not-for-profit public relations focuses on “fulfilling an educational or charitable mission” rather than focusing on developing services and products that will “make money for its owners, as a way of financially rewarding them for their investment in the company”**.
    Alumni Sarah Irvin of Irvin Public Relations has had the chance to work with several nonprofit clients over the years.
    “Nonprofit is a lot different from for-profit, given the fundraising that has to be done,” Irvin said, “also, nonprofit organizations rely heavily on volunteers, which can get hard because people have such busy schedules theses days”.
    One of Irvin’s nonprofit clients is the Columbus affiliate of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization, which hosts “Race for the Cure”. Those who do choose to work or volunteer for nonprofit organizations such as this one often have a different goal in mind.
    “People who work and volunteer [for Susan G. Komen for the Cure] are different because they’re so passionate,” Irvin said, “we have a lot of survivors who’ve been at death’s door step and they’re very powered by [the Race] and helping others”.
    Public Relations professionals who are in the nonprofit field do more than simply plan events to make money. Ohio is 4th in the country for mortality due to breast cancer so the Susan G. Komen organization “ works to raise awareness through the year by servicing 23 counties”, according to Irvin.
    “There are so many reasons to get people to care, we just have to find the ways,” Irvin said.
    It is not uncommon in non-profit PR situations to find a “one person department” according to Kelly Nowinsky, Public Relations Manager at COSI, the number one science museum in the country (Parents Magazine).
    Nowinsky handles external communications, which includes strategic communications planning, managing all Institutional Communications, writing press releases and pitching local media, handling social media efforts, writing PR plans for exhibits and films offered by COSI, and assisting the leadership team with media interviews and speeches.
    “Every single day is different, and full of cool new challenges,” Nowinsky said, “Also, the great thing about working with non-profit PR is that you literally get to do every single job; you are exposed to many new things because you are a small department or a one person department.”
    Being single-handedly responsible for one’s own department can prove to have both positive and negative sides.
    “The [other] side is that you are spread very thing and the work has to get done because it’s just you,” Nowinsky said, “but, I highly, highly recommend it”.
    The Chamber Orchestra of Columbus is another nonprofit group that Irvin works with. Irvin deals with researching the audience and figuring out who cares about classical music, organizing programs for children, organizing outreach programs, publicizing events, and finding sponsors and donors.
    “Our main goal right now is to get the younger generation to care about classical music,” Irvin said.
    With most non-profit, the goals and objectives are different and always changing.
    “Non-profit is totally different from public because it’s not a good or service being sold,” Irvin said, “it’s a passion that people have.”

*”The 500 Largest U.S. Corporations,” Fortune, 16 April 2001, p. F11.
**Baskin, Heiman, Lattimore, Toth, & Van Leuven (2004). Public Relations in Nonprofit Organizations. Public Relations: The Profession and the Practice (p322-345). New York, NY.

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