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Relationship-building: the best tips for nonprofit PR


As a professional in the nonprofit world, you already know a nonprofit’s livelihood revolves around community and financial support. Nonprofit organizations need publicity, promotion, brand awareness and marketing, but oftentimes are challenged in execution due to budget constraints.

For many nonprofits, funding comes from business, corporate and individual sponsorships as well as grant funding. Because of this, nonprofit finance administrators are charged with ensuring sponsor dollars are spent with integrity, care and the mission of the nonprofit in mind.

Although communications departments within nonprofits are proving the importance of a positive public image, they frequently find themselves struggling to get the word out about their organization. My advice for raising awareness on a limited budget is to build positive relationships. Here are five tips to get the best bang for the nonprofit buck.

1. Develop a plan with relationships in mind. 

A good starting point when creating a plan is to look at your organization’s calendar for the upcoming year. Pay attention to events, product sales, community expositions, special donations and any other events that would need publicity. Then, build out a monthly plan including promotion and publicity efforts along with supporter and community outreach. Plug in promotions that utilize social and traditional media. Pinpoint organization representatives who should make networking a priority and provide them with opportunities. In order to ensure your plan is strategic, include long-term goals and tactics that are measurable and time-specific.

2. Networking opens the door to new relationship-building opportunities.

Representatives within your organization should have a presence in the community – specifically your CEO and employees within your communications, fund development and volunteer services departments. Attending Chamber of Commerce networking events and joining a civic club allow you to network with other professionals. These opportunities are gateways to the recruitment of new board members, volunteers and sponsorship dollars. Civic clubs also welcome speakers from organizations to make presentations allowing you to share your message with potential donors and supporters.

From college courses to on-the-job experience, communications professionals understand that networking is crucial. For nonprofit organizations, relationship building can boost your organization’s reach, and ultimately, its success.

3. Positive media relationships boost outreach opportunities.

Reporters and journalists receive hundreds of news leads every single day, therefore it is extremely important that your story stands out in the crowd. Members of the media are more likely to choose your story by doing the following: 

  • Always send media articles in AP Style. This gives you credibility as a professional and also makes the reporter’s job easier by saving them time in the editing process.

  • Make a face-to-face introduction. Remember, networking is an open door for opportunity, so give members of the media the chance to put a face with the name.
  • Show appreciation. Consider it a victory when your nonprofit is included in media outlets, especially if a reporter agrees to write a feature story or you land the front page spot. Send the reporter a quick “Thank You” email or let them know your appreciation when you next see them in person.

4. Relationship-building is giving and taking (not only taking).

Nonprofits can easily fall into the trap of asking for donations too often. This is a difficult hole to climb out of as area businesses and media grow tired – and unable – to give away in-kind donations, financial contributions and advertising space to nonprofits. 

For example, if a restaurant offers to cater a volunteer luncheon at no cost, consider buying food from them the next time your budget has some breathing room. If a local newspaper outlet has attended your events and included your organization in their paper, consider purchasing advertisements to promote your next major announcement or event. Another option is to thank them publicly on social media, on your website or during special events. This shows appreciation for the coverage they have provided you and allows for their business and your relationship to flourish.

This point also applies to both large and small financial contributions. A great way to say “thank you” and fostering positive donor relationships is by clearly communicating where donor dollars will be spent. Some ideas for how you can accomplish this include: sending monthly email newsletters with testimonials featuring people who benefitted from the donation, developing an annual report that details financial allocations or asking your CEO to write personalized thank you cards to donors who gave at a certain level. Being transparent with donors about how your nonprofit is utilizing resources builds trust, credibility and results in a higher likelihood of creating consistent donors.

5. Social media relationships – the time is now!

Take the time to craft a social media plan that offers consistent, engaging and relevant content to your target audience. Simply posting great content is not enough. You must pay attention to the conversations taking place on your social media accounts, groups and networks. When followers check-in or write a review about your organization, make sure you “Like,” reply and thank them on all of your platforms.

 People want to be heard, and social media is the perfect tool to let them do that. This is a free way to recruit and retain supporters. Every interaction on social media is an opportunity to build a better relationship.

Building and maintaining strong supporter relationships takes time. The effort you put in now, however, will allow you to reap the rewards in the future. And remember, a great way to build positive relationships is to say “Thank You.”

Are you looking for creative ways to recruit volunteers and supporters while you focus on fund development? Do you need assistance garnering media coverage to increase brand awareness?

If you need help achieving your organization’s public relations goals, Waterhouse PR is the right firm for you. We have a track record of creating strategic plans with unique tactics to achieve company goals. Contact us to find out how we can help elevate your nonprofit’s vision and maximize your reach in the community.