The success of any nonprofit comes from how visible they are. The more well known a nonprofit is, the more government and community support it will receive.

Public relations practitioners can play a major role in making a nonprofit more successful. It is important for nonprofits to understand how they can utilize public relations to become a more successful organization.

I did some research and found three major areas public relations practitioners can focus on when working for nonprofits. All three of these areas will help increase the overall visibility of a nonprofit organization.

Internal communications

Big Duck--Smart Communications for Nonprofits Logo

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Communication is the number one key to success for any organization. According to Big Duck, a company that works exclusively with nonprofits to help change the way they communicate, it is important to have someone work primarily on communicating your nonprofits mission, both internally and externally.

Before any organization can focus on external communications, it needs to make sure it has strong internal communications. If an organization cannot successfully communicate with employees, then they will not be able to successfully communicate the organizations mission with its publics.

In order to make sure everyone in the organization is aware of what is happening in all departments, public relations practitioners can create an internal newsletter, hold daily meetings and create and communicate a plan that highlights the organizations overall goals and objectives.

Bizmanualz is a great example of strong internal communications. The company utilizes daily meetings to help increase the success of its internal communications.

Bizmanualz Logo

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External communications

Once your company has successfully mastered internal communications, it is time for the public relations practitioner to start focusing on external communications (don’t forget to continue working on internal communications while doing so). External communications is extremely important. This communication will determine what your audience thinks of your organization.

The first important step to successful external communications is to understand your audience and what they are looking for from your organization. By conducting research and speaking to members of the community, you will be able to create communication strategies and tactics that meet the needs of your audience.

It is also important to research and get to know the local media and leaders in the community. Call them on the phone and ask to schedule a meeting with them. The more relationships you create with these people, the more positive stories you will get on your organization.

Make-A-Wish Foundation Logo
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The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a nonprofit that has strong external communications.  The organization utilizes its website, social media and corporate sponsors to reach out to its audience. I recommend taking a look and researching more on its best practices.

Measuring Success

In order to find out if an organization is reaching its goals and objectives for internal and external communications; it must measure its success.

To measure the success of internal communications, go back to your employees. Create surveys employees can fill out and look to see if employees feel the internal communications of the organization is strong or weak.

To measure the success of external communications, go back to your audience and the media. Look to see what type of media was generated about your organization and look to see if there was an increase or decrease in funding

These three areas are only some of the areas that public relations practitioners can focus on and improve when working for a nonprofit. Does anyone work for a nonprofit and focus on something different? Do you have any best practices that have helped your nonprofit succeed?  Leave your thoughts in the comments or contact me on Twitter!


As I write this post I am sitting at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C. I am waiting to head to the airport after an amazing five days at the PRSSA National Conference.

Not only was this experience educational, but also life changing. I got to experience Washington D.C. (last time I was here I was on my 8th grade field trip and we were moved together like cattle), become closer to my PRKent friends and learn more about myself and what I wanted out of a career in Public Relations.

Washington, D.C.

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The past five days were packed with amazing sessions that outstanding professionals prepared for us. I made sure to sit down with the program and map out exactly what sessions I wanted to attend, while also making sure to fit time in to experience life in D.C. I mean come on, what is a trip to D.C. without checking out the city?

When I saw there was a session being offered on Values-Driven Communication that was going to talk about nonprofit public relations, I knew I had to attend. From reading my blog it’s obvious I have an interest in nonprofit public relations, but as I move closer to graduation I start to second-guess myself on what I truly want to do. Is working in nonprofit public relations something I would truly enjoy? I know I enjoy working for a cause, but volunteering can be completely different than a full time career!

Three panelists that shared their experiences in nonprofit public relations held the session.

Although this session gave great tips and insight about a career in nonprofit public relations, it also taught me something much more. It taught me that to be able to enjoy working in nonprofit public relations it takes a special kind of person.

Seventy years ago there were only a few thousand nonprofits, and today there are almost 2 million. All of the millions of people who make those 2 million nonprofits successful are not in a career for the money, benefits or perks. They are in it to make a difference. Those millions of people are so passionate about the cause they are working towards, it makes me want to jump in and help out.

There are also great advantages to working in nonprofit public relations.

  • Your career is something that is important to you
  • Your career links to value
  • You work with great people who all share the same passion for a cause
  • You get experience in all aspects of public relations

Of course there are also disadvantages to working in nonprofit public relations.

  • Small budget
  • Little resources
  • Fundraising
  • Having to wear multiple hats in the workplace

After the session I know that the people who work for a nonprofit deserve a special thanks. Whether that person is working in religion, healthcare or politics, they are the backbone in making this world a better place.

Thanks Washington, D.C. and the PRSSA National Conference for showing me that no matter if I work in corporate PR, agency PR or nonprofit PR, I am lucky to be entering such a great career field filled with amazing professionals.

2010 PRSSA National Conference Logo

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I use to believe social media was just a fad. I thought after everyone had his or her fill, it would fade away. I remember being angry with my public relations professor when I was told to learn as much as I could about social media to help further my career in public relations. I couldn’t figure out how people enjoyed using Twitter and writing blogs for everyone to see.

Well, you guessed it, I am now one of those “people” who use social media multiple times a day to connect with friends, check up on my favorite organizations and learn from the professionals in my field. I now understand that social media is not a fad, but the fastest growing communication platform. Who else knows this? The first and largest nonprofit medical group in the world does.

According to this article, the Mayo Clinic announced its plans to launch an Online Social Media Health Network that will be part of its new Center for Social Media. The announcement came at the Second Annual Social Media Summit hosted on the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, FL.

Mayo Clinic Logo

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What is the Online Social Media Health Network?

According to the Mayo Clinic Social Media Center website, the network is a group dedicated to using social media to help promote health, improve health care and to fight disease. The network will also provide health care practitioners with the resources needed to speed the adoption of social media in the health care field. The website for the network will launch Oct. 25.

Why is the Mayo Clinic implementing this network?

Health care has fallen short in adopting social media tools over other industries. Ed Bennett’s Hospital Social Networking List shows less than 900 of the more than 5,000 hospitals have engaged in social media.

Why should your organization learn from the Mayo Clinic?

Even if your nonprofit organization is not in the healthcare field, it is important to understand how social media is changing the way people communicate. With social media growing at such a fast rate, your organization needs to stay ahead of the game.

The Online Social Media Health Network is a great example of how your company can be a leader and help your industry learn how to incorporate social media externally and internally.

It is important to work together instead of working against each other. The Mayo Clinic is providing hospitals a place to learn and grow with social media. In a world that is rapidly changing, it is important for organizations to help one another. To grow together.

I love what the Mayo Clinic is doing. The largest medical group in the world is lending a helping hand for a communication platform that is still so unfamiliar.

Even if your organization already has the social media stuff figured out—take a stab at another area of interest and help other organizations in your field.

One more thing, if you don’t believe social media is becoming one of the fastest  growing communication platforms– check out this video!

The first “real” sport I played was the wonderful game of soccer. My parents signed my brother and me up at our local YMCA. Within a few weeks of participating in the sport—I quit. I told my parents that soccer was stupid, and all you did was “get dirty and kick a ball.” To this day, I regret quitting the game.

Although I didn’t participate in any other sports at my local YMCA, it was still a large part of my life. My dad has been working out there for over 20 years!

Well Dad, you will be happy to know that the YMCA is giving itself a facelift to what you have been calling it since you walked into the building.

What is the YMCA doing?

The YMCA is one of the largest nonprofits that are giving its organization a new brand and logo to create more public awareness around all of the services it offers—a brilliant idea.

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According to a reported article from Naples Daily News, the most visible change to the brand is the updated Y logo. The article reports that the new logo uses a stylized delta or arrowhead shape plus a triangle to form the letter y (the y is lowercase in the logo). The new logo also comes in five different color variations.

Why is this a brilliant idea?

I think the new brand and logo will help the Y communicate its organization more effectively. For years people have been referring to the YMCA as the Y. I never once thought twice about where my dad was going when he told me he “was stopping at the Y on his way home from work.”

With new brands being introduced in the masses, it is important for nonprofit organizations to keep its brand from becoming to generic. Organizations need to continually research how it is perceived and how to connect with its surrounding communities.

Most, if not all nonprofits rely solely on community and/or government support. The more a nonprofit can connect with its community and let the community appreciate all it does, the more successful it will be.

According to an article from the NonProfit Times, two years of research went into the new brand strategy and will reflect the vibrancy and diversity of the organization. It will also provide a framework that focuses resources on three core areas: youth development, healthy living and social responsibly. The new Y logo defines those three areas.

The Y introduced its brand through a national campaign on September 18, and within the next five years all 2,680 affiliates will transition.

Why is this important for PR professionals?

I think public relation professionals working for nonprofits should take a lesson from the Y. Refocusing your brand strategy will only make your organization stronger and help keep a loyal following. By conducting research every few years, public relation professionals will be able to keep its organizations mission current with the needs and wants of its audience.

I applaud the Y and its new branding strategy, and so will my dad! I am excited to see how its new face will strengthen its organization and its relations within its community.

What do you think?

Do you guys think the Y is making a smart decision in changing its brand and logo? Do you think its new brand and logo represents the organization? Should nonprofits be aware of the wants and needs of its audience when it comes to their brand identity? Leave your thoughts in the comments or send me a reply on Twitter!