Nonprofit PR: Communication and Competition

Public relations and social media. Public relations and sports. Public relations and research. These topics go hand in hand and are used frequently when learning different areas of public relations. But, public relations and nonprofits? This pair isn’t talked about as much. So, what makes nonprofit PR different from the rest?

For starters, nonprofits are what the name says. Not-for-profit. This makes work a lot trickier for PR professionals in the nonprofit field. Nonprofits are restricted in how their income is generated, so PR professionals have to be an advocate for the organization. They must inspire others to donate so that the organization can function. If a PR professional can’t create effective communication with the community, funds will get lower and lower until the nonprofit can’t run anymore.

Aside from having to generate money, nonprofits have many challenges they must deal with. Which leads me to my second point. Competition. Nonprofits are constantly competing with each other. And I mean constantly. Competing for volunteers, competing for funds, and competing for other resources. This constant competition means that the organization must communicate effectively in order to win the competition. Nonprofit PR professionals must be compelling and convince others that their nonprofit is the one that does the most good.

Another challenge many nonprofits face is keeping up with technology. “Many fight for every donated dollar, finding themselves behind the curve in tech trends,” (Stringfellow, 2012, para. 9). Nonprofits may have to cut corners when it comes to web design or graphics because of their tight budgets. And this doesn’t help when it comes to trying to convince others to donate to their cause.

Despite all of these challenges, PR professionals in the nonprofit field CAN make a difference and CAN help move their organization toward its goals. Here are a few tips on how to do that effectively.

Tips for effective PR in nonprofits:

  1. Tell a story. You know the Super Bowl Budweiser commercial that tells the story of a puppy becoming friends with the Clydesdale? 30+ million views. All because they told a story. Stories toy with emotions. And when emotions are tied in with an organization, that person becomes emotionally invested in the cause.
  2. Use LinkedIn. It’s more valuable than you think. NonprofitPR says, “While LinkedIn offers a search function that can query all groups and members, it also allows users to perform searches for multiple purposes, such as researching donors, finding new board members or locating qualified employees,” (Nonprofitpr, 2016, para. 7).
  3. Engage your audience. Don’t just use social media to post information about the nonprofit. Make it a two-way conversation. Studies show that,”publics are more likely to make comments on organizational message strategies that are based on two-way symmetry, such as fostering dialogue, giving recognition to donors for support, using direct messages to publics with or without tags, compared to public information or two-way asymmetry communication,” (Cho, Schweickart, & Haase, 2014, para. 8).
  4. Create an execution plan. Make sure your strategy and tactics for reaching your audience are executed correctly and effectively. This way your message is clear and will reach the target audience.


Cho, M., Schweickart, T., & Haase, A. (2014). Public engagement with nonprofit organizations on facebook. Public Relations Review, 40(3), 565-567. Retrieved from

Nonprofitpr (2016, Sept 29). The value of LinkedIn for nonprofits. Shoestring Creative Group. Retrieved from

Stringfellow, A. (2012, Mar 2). Challenges facing today’s nonprofits.OPEN forum. Retrieved from





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