Not-for-profit? Not a Problem.

Stephen Andrews

As many of us return to the Mount’s campus to get back to our studies, a select few return from one of the largest PR sectors; not-for-profit. This industry is arguably one of the most rewarding and to no one’s surprise, one of the most challenging. Unless you are working with a large entity, often the budget can be very low or nonexistent which leads to low staffing, even among volunteer positions. This is not to say that working or volunteering for a not-for-profit is inherently challenging or difficult, but it does have obstacles unique to its field. We, as students and future practitioners, must be especially creative for this reason in order to be successfully work in not-for-profit. An easy and affordable way of doing this is, not surprisingly, getting out from behind your desk.

Ladies and gentlemen, we need to be comfortable with the fact that we need to get out there and make connections. Sometimes, this comes in the form of making face-to-face awareness of yourself and your event. The point is that you need to be ready to walk out there and say, “Hello, my name is insert here and you look like someone interested in insert event title here”. Keep in mind that knowing your demographic before you walk out the door is key. Also that posters are not free, even though you need to give them out like they are. Over the summer, an organization I volunteer at held an event involving fitness, specifically running. Where did I go to promote? The Running Room, Goodlife and cafes.

Another challenge is balance. Volunteer work and public relations, like anything, is something that needs a divine medium. Face-to-face contact with sponsors and other volunteers is a must while maintaining your cyber presence. This can be done by going to events and posting pictures of your team or of milestones at previous events.

Perhaps the best advice for future co-op students going into the not-for-profit field that can be given is simply to make it simple. If you have heard about the software ‘HootSuite’, you are already ahead of the game. HootSuite is an online program, which allows you to link all your social media accounts to one main source. One post can be sent to multiple social media sites and you can monitor them as needed. Not only is it a major aid in making the experience much more seamless to those online, but the main service is free.
Also, be sure to use of the insights data on your organization’s Facebook page. It is one of the most useful tools available for free use. Not only does it measure the presence on your page, but also it contains very important details that help you to narrow down your key publics. Such pieces of information include the majority gender of your viewers, their age and the times they visit your page. For all you and your team may know, a hidden public could be men who enjoy surfing Facebook at midnight. The amount of information is limitless and invaluable, not to mention the weekly e-mails of the page’s growth can be archived as measurements of your hard work.

To wrap all of this information up, working in the not-for-profit field does present clear challenges in terms of funding, manpower, and spreading awareness. There are ways to deal with these issues, and that is simply through taking personal approaches. Go out and talk to the publics who would be interested in your organizations’ events to form a base of interest to draw from. Remember to balance yourself between presence on the Internet and presence in person; give a face to your organization and celebrate volunteers or event participants who truly stand out. Finally, keep it simple with easy-to-use software and websites that give you free feedback and data. Not-for-profit may be one of the most challenging fields to excel in, not to mention get a good handle on, but it truly can be the most rewarding.