Nonprofit social service organizations provide vital resources to the communities they serve. Individuals living in poverty, those with a physical or mental disability, senior citizens, and families who have fallen on hard times are all treated with respect and dignity by social service providers who dedicate their time to helping people in need.
With these organizations focusing so much of their time, money, and staff to providing direct care, they sometimes lack the bandwidth to highlight their important work.
Recently, we have seen a surge of nonprofit social service providers prioritizing public relations to help get their message out to the public. There are many reasons why a social service organization would want to shape their public profile:
- Increased visibility can lead to increased donations from individuals that support the organization’s mission;
- Promoting an organization’s programs can help raise awareness and allow more people to access those services;
- Positive press will help organizations build positive relationships with government officials, local constituencies, and community partners;
- Social services organizations often work with troubled individuals and can be dragged into upsetting stories from time to time. Generating positive press allows the public to witness – and value - the organization’s mission.
There are many ways a nonprofit organization can use PR to promote their good work. Social media campaigns, press events, community-wide mailings, and targeted ads can help drive attention to an organization’s programs and services.
Each organization is different, what works for one group may not work for another. Before launching into a PR strategy, organizations should create a PR plan to assess their needs and decide what type of approach will work best. Working with a public relations consultant can help groups who have no PR experience decide what strategy will give them the best pay off.
Groups with smaller budgets and staff who may not have the time or money to implement their own PR plan should consider working with an outside firm. Often, partnering with a firm is far cheaper than hiring an experienced communications staffer and the payoff is often better because firms have pre-existing press relationships and skills in the field. Groups who are truly committed to increasing their public appearance can benefit from the expert advice of an outside party.
Whatever public relations strategy an organization chooses, the most important thing is to stick to your plan but be ready to adapt. Media is constantly changing and what works for you today may not work next month. It will take time and consistency to build your public image with a PR plan, so be patient and celebrate any and all success you have.